2022 marks a professional milestone for me: one decade as a contract instructor within Ontario English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs. The last ten years have seen me criss-cross the province undertaking assorted contracts for eight post-secondary institutions. Every college/university I have worked for has had a unique culture and slightly different approach to academic preparation for English language learners. However, some common themes have emerged about how the Ontario EAP market seems to operate.
In a two-part series, I will share insights about navigating a career in EAP that I wish I had realized from the start. I am confident much of what I say can apply to other TESL environments too.
In this first blog of the series, I discuss how people can get their foot in the door.
Getting a foot on the ladder
At the beginning of my career, I looked for EAP teaching jobs in what I thought were the best channels: online job banks (e.g., Indeed), TESL organization webpages (e.g., TESL Ontario), and human resources pages for colleges and universities. Though some EAP job posts are advertised on such platforms, there are more effective paths to learning about openings.
Most of the “foot in the door” teaching roles that come up in EAP are last-minute assignments. A course may open up because of a sudden influx of students or the initial teacher backing out. In many cases, a new instructor will need to be secured in a matter of days so that the course can begin on time.
As a result of the time crunch, job postings on formalized platforms are often not practical for employers. So, employers generally use two other methods to find external candidates. Firstly, they ask current employees if they know of any qualified and available instructors. Secondly, they search the pile of resumes emailed to the dean/director/coordinator for future consideration.
I have observed that qualified contacts of current instructors are interviewed for and often fill many of the “foot in the door” opportunities in EAP. Thus, if you know that a career in EAP interests you, make connections as early as you can with people who teach for the institution(s) you are targeting.
You can build connections in several ways. As a first step, I would recommend examining your current network to see who your contacts know. If you notice that one of your contacts knows people you want to meet, ask if that person can make introductions. Research has shown that utilizing the friends of friends networking approach is very successful (Burkus, 2018).
You can also search the websites of TESL organizations (local and provincial) to see which EAP instructors are involved in professional development activities, such as presenting webinars or writing blogs. These people have publicly stated the institution they work for and have exhibited work so that other TESL professionals will see it. Therefore, these are people who are likely open to making connections with individuals interested in EAP-related issues. You can reach out on a platform like LinkedIn by expressing interest in something the EAP instructor has done (e.g., “I enjoyed reading your blog post about X. I was hoping we could connect to discuss this topic further.”)
Be strategic and efficient in how you approach your EAP job search. If you focus your energy and attention on the correct channels, you will likely see opportunities come your way much quicker.
Check out Part 2 of this blog series to learn strategies for climbing the EAP ladder.
Burkus, D. (2018). Friend of a friend: Understanding the hidden networks that can transform your life and your career.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.