This blog is going to be slightly different to my usual style of writing; while there will be some bits of tips and advice scattered throughout, it is going to be more of a storytelling type of blog to simply share my story about how I got my teaching job and Dubai and some of the mistakes I made along the way.
To give some context as to how the teaching job market works here, I've just been given a 'Letter of Intent', and that is for me to give an early indication of whether I would like to extend my contract for another year, whether I am definitely leaving, or whether I am still undecided and would like to discuss my options with a member of senior leadership. This is common across most schools in the UAE. From here, schools will look at those early indications to plan for positions that will need to be advertised, while also beginning to consider if any additional or new roles need to be created. This is then the start of the recruitment process, explaining why it is completely normal to see so many jobs advertised so early (up to 12 months advance of the contract starting), in comparison to the UK (usually around the end of the Spring term), and eqaully, so late (all the way through to August).
So, in terms of applying for jobs, I actually went for three and I want to talk to you about the process of each different application that I went through.
Now, if you're a bit like what I was when considering the big move, and you're looking for information on how to get a job here in the UAE, you’re probably feeling quite overwhelmed as there is so much to learn and think about. While the internet is flooded with information about applying for jobs and moving abroad, I found the content was often contradictory and repetitive, so I felt very confused about how to approach the whole situation and where to start. With that in mind, I have since created a guide that you can purchase here that takes you through each step of the application and interview processes in a clear but detailed manner. It was a long (and at times difficult) process to try and culminate a range of different ideas, research, tips and examples, but it has been useful to many people already (as you can see in the testimonials below) and hopefully, it will be helpful to you too!
As I have already mentioned, I applied for three different jobs. Now, the first one didn't go so well. I was part-way through my NQT/ECT year (first year of teaching for readers outside of the UK), and I started wondering what it would be like to teach abroad. Off the back of this, I started doing bits of research and ‘Googling’ different teaching positions available in the UAE and I came across a school that I liked the look of. Unfortunately, social media marketing wasn’t as prominent as it is now (this makes me sound old!) so there weren’t actually a lot of pictures and information available on social media. This meant most of my research involved trawling through the internet, trying to filter out what I felt was irrelevant, and searching through individual school websites. Anyway, I eventually found myself on the website of a particular school and was blown away by the facilities. I was also really blown away by the accommodation facilities this school offered.
When I looked at the application, it did say that you needed two years of experience, which obviously as an NQT, I didn't have, but me being partly arrogant and partly naive I decided now would be fine and applied anyway. So, I typed out this long application, made sure that my CV was updated and then I sent it off.
Unsurprisingly (in hindsight), I didn't hear anything back and there was no notification of why I didn't receive the job or even an interview. There was nothing. However, upon reflection, I can now see that there were several reasons that this happened (or didn’t!). First and foremost, I didn't have enough experience. A lot of people ask me nowadays if NQTs/ECTs can get jobs over in the UAE and the answer is yes, they can, in very specific schools (all of this information can be found in the guides).
So, let's talk about the more successful applications. To make it easier to follow, I will refer to them as School A and School B. A year after my first attempts, I now knew that I was ready to move to Dubai. Now that for me was one of the biggest differentiators of my mindset. I had already looked at all of the different pros and cons. I knew that I had no ties in the UK. I knew what the different advantages are living in the UAE were and that they outweighed the disadvantages. This is something, as I discuss in this blog post, that I recommend everyone does before even looking at job openings. So, because I knew that I was ready, I was a lot more focused and ensured that my research was comprehensive to avoid the disappointment I had previously experienced.
At the time, I was in my RQT (recently qualified teacher) year and I needed to focus on this application process, making sure that my CV was polished up, making sure that it looked professional. Having looked through my CV and application from the year before, I found that there were some little errors and I thought, Hmm, this is another reason why you've slipped up there in that previous attempt to get that job. So, I looked through and made sure that I was dedicated to the application process, researching schools, researching how I was going to be suitable for that school and how I could benefit that school, making sure that the school was right for me at the same time. There was no way I was going to fall at the first hurdle again because of (a) lack of research and attention to details provided on school websites, or (b) making grammatical errors on my CV or application form.
In the months leading up to my big move, I had visited Dubai on holiday and used some of this time to visit School B because I’m not ashamed to say, I knew someone who worked there. I must say, I was blown away by the facilities and just the general atmosphere and feeling I got as I was toured around the school. Looking back, I found that this tour helped me as I had a much better understanding of the school and could then link my qualifications, skills and personal attributes to the school, and showcase the strengths that I had to offer them.
A lot of people have previously asked me if I think it is easier to get a job if you know somebody out here already, and whilst I would say having the connection helped me personally as it was somebody I could go to with lots of questions about the school and teaching in Dubai, it comes down to your ability to showcase your strengths and convince schools that you are the right fit for each other. I know plenty of people out here who have received job offers on the basis that they know someone or have been recommended, but I know equal numbers of teachers who received multiple job offers despite having no connections to anybody out here. So, my message is if you have connections, use them, but if you don’t, don’t panic – you’ve got this! Knowing (or not knowing) somebody is not a guarantee!
At this point, it’s also worth being aware that there is a whole range of different ways that you can get a job. I applied for the two I am going to continue talking about through TES?
However, as I share in the first guide here, this is not the only place to apply, so don’t limit yourself to looking at only TES.
I mentioned earlier that my CV and application documents had let me down during my first round of applications so I made sure that they were all-singing and all-dancing this time around. I firstly ensured that my CV was grammatically and structurally correct, containing only experiences and points that were relevant to the role I was applying for. I created a whole new cover letter that had some similarities and links to my CV but elaborated on the key points and experiences from my CV that I felt were best at highlighting my strengths and what I had to offer them. Most importantly, my cover letter was personalised to the schools I was applying for and their priorities. I have a whole section with tips and examples within this first guide, explaining the main differences between CVs, cover letters, personal statements and application forms, as I found it all quite overwhelming.
Anyway, moving on, after applying to numerous schools, I received an interview offer for School A, but that interview was, quite interestingly, a phone interview. I remember getting up early (around 4:30 AM) to get onto the phone for 5 AM in the UK (or 9 AM in the UAE). I spent plenty of time preparing and reading notes I had already made about the school, and it did help to have those things available. Although it was a telephone interview, rather than a Skype call, I still wore a shirt and tie because I find it helps me to focus my mindset into a more ‘professional’ one…. Dress smart, think smart. The interview I had went well and I received an offer with a contract that I was able to flip through and start getting really, really excited about.
However, I had also applied for a position at School B, where I already knew somebody, and to my amazement, I was invited for an interview with this school through Skype, just three days after my first interview. Now, one big mistake I made with this interview, was not being prepared. I hadn’t made sure that everything was connected so when the interview was meant to have started, I was still panicking trying to figure out whether it was the WiFi, the VPN, or just the laptop, in general, that was glitching and letting me down. I eventually ended up having the Skype interview through my phone and some earbuds, so I got connected but it was not ideal!
During the two interviews, I was asked a range of questions; some of which I expected as they were quite generic, others were unexpected and more specific to teaching in the UAE and specific to the school. I have put together some information about questions you may be asked within the first guide, which you can check out here, and I have also created this video to support with interview questions and techniques.
Anyway, back to the job situation. So, I had already interviewed and received a job offer and proposed contract from School A, and I had interviewed for School B, feeling like it had gone well. Although it was exciting, it also felt quite nerve-wracking because I had to delay responding to School A until I heard back from School B to see whether I had even been successful at the interview, and if so, to see what the proposed contract looked like (i.e. working hours, pay, accommodation plans, etc.) When I discovered that I had been offered a position at School B, I suddenly felt very overwhelmed because I was blown away by its facilities and loved that I already knew somebody who worked there and enjoyed it, but it didn’t come with staff accommodation. Instead, it provided an accommodation allowance which meant I would have set EVERYTHING up myself, which is quite a daunting thought!
In the end, after a LOT of consideration, and conversations with people around me, I went for School B, where I still currently work. Although I was daunted by the prospect of moving to a new country and not having accommodation arranged beforehand, upon looking at and comparing the terms of both of the contracts, I felt that School B offered a better remuneration package overall and also, was more aligned with my pedagogical beliefs and practises as a teacher.
At this point, it is worth me stressing the importance of checking through contracts thoroughly before accepting and signing. While School A offered more money in terms of a take-home basic salary each month, the overall package I was offered with School B suited my needs better, as it came with a better health insurance policy and flight allowance to my home country. Make sure you always review the contract, make sure you review the medical insurance and what it covers, especially if you've got family you’ll be moving with.
I hope that sharing these experiences with you provides reassurance and motivates you to keep going until you find your dream job abroad.
If you want to learn more about applying for teaching jobs in the UAE, please feel free to check out and buy my guide here.
Don't forget to check out this playlist on YouTube, all about teaching and life in Dubai