How did you get the job?

We’ve been asked this a hundred times if we’ve been asked this once. After the initial shock wears off and people realize we aren’t joking when we say we’re moving to Kuwait, they always want to know how we got the job. Well, here’s a (rather lengthy) excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a former co-worker that’s also interested in doing what we’re doing.

Lissa and I used a 3rd party service called  Search Associates that specializes in matching International school openings with credible candidates. We had a fantastic experience and would recommend them to anybody interested in going abroad. You sign up individually and that gives you access to their database and also grants you entry to one job fair. You set up a profile that is pretty specific and every day Search Associates will alert you to any new jobs that have been posted in your field. Additionally, schools that have signed up through Search Associates will be able to see your profile and resume so they could potentially contact you without a job being open. I can’t remember if you pay by the year or not (as opposed to a 1-time fee), but the longer ahead of time you sign up the more you’ll get for your money.
Lissa and I signed up in late November-ish. In retrospect, that was pretty late. Based on our late entry into the game, we were limited in which job fair we could go to. We quickly decided on San Francisco (which took place in February) because the only other option was Toronto. If given the choice between SF and Toronto in February, it’s a no brainer 🙂 Once we had decided that, we spent our time combing through the jobs that came to us via the daily emails. With 2 weeks before the job fair, the American International School of Morocco contacted me and eventually offered me a job before the fair even started. Had we not bought tickets already, we’d be headed to Africa this August instead of the Middle East. This goes to show that you don’t NEED to go to a job fair to get a job, though I would say that our situation was not normal.
We went to San Francisco with little idea what to expect and were pretty surprised. Having never done it, I would compare it to speed dating. The job fair takes place over 3 days (fri-sun). You show up Friday morning and sign in. You go through some “training” in how the fair will run, etiquette, rules and some other housekeeping type stuff. In one of the conference rooms there are jobs posted all over the walls with butcher paper. It will have the country name, school name and the opening. You can go in that room whenever you want and check to see what’s open, what’s been filled, etc. The rest of the day Friday is spent going to 30 minute presentations on schools you’re interested in. It’s nice to have two of you because you can split up and cover more info. Friday night you go to a giant ballroom and sign up for interviews on Saturday/Sunday with the individual schools. It’s pretty intense, but hopefully by that time you have an idea on who you want to talk to so you can go straight to them. While all of this is going on, you have a “mailbox,” as does each school. Schools can contact you via your mailbox and ask to interview with them. You can reply to them via mailbox and also send them thank you’s after you interview. It’s oldschool but I can’t begin to explain the excitement when you open up your mailbox and see a letter waiting for you 🙂
Saturday you start your interviews. If you don’t have any you can spend your time researching schools, writing thank you’s, checking your mailbox, networking, etc. If you get a job offer, you have 24-48hrs to respond. It’s a very pressured situation and will require you to have your stuff figured out beforehand. If you’re lucky enough to get multiple job offers, it’s even harder. Saturday night you have a social. There is food, drinks and lots of networking opportuinities. People get job offers at the social. Don’t miss it.
A few insights and tips:
– Any IB experience will help you immensely. LOTS of PYP and MYP coordinator positions were open when we went.
– Kids can be hit or miss. Some really enjoy the family atmosphere. Others see it as an unneccessary expense.
– Work on your resumes. We re-designed ours so they would stand out and had multiple people identify us as “that couple with the resumes.” I’m positive it gave us a leg up on getting noticed.
– Do your research, do your research, do your research. It will prove to be invaluable.

In a nutshell, that’s what we went through while we were there. It was a maddening but worthwhile time, one I will gladly go through again should the need arise. I’ve probably left a good bit out that I can’t remember off-hand, so if you’ve got questions, please let us know 🙂

Our Journey

We leave in 10 days!! Even though we knew it would…it’s gone by SO fast! I just wanted to write a little about the process it took for us to get to the point where we’re ready to get on a plane and move to another country 🙂

Our desire to live abroad together was sparked by several things: I studied abroad in 2006 and went back to France to work during the 2007-08 school year, then Jeff came to travel with me and proposed in Florence. Since then, we dreamed of going abroad together, but in the fall of last year we actually started to DO something about it. We had been in Columbia longer than expected and I would (surprisingly) have my full teaching certificate in the summer of 2012. We started asking friends & family for tips on how to get teaching jobs abroad. After talking to several people, we signed up with Search Associates.

We decided to attend a job fair in San Francisco during our week-long winter break in February. Going into the fair, we had already been offered jobs in Morocco but we wanted to go for the experience anyway. We were completely open to going anywhere that gave us a good opportunity. In the end, we chose AIS in Kuwait over Qatar and Morocco. It was one of the most emotional (and FAST) decisions of my life! I was kind of a mess 😉 But Kuwait offered us the best opportunity professionally. Plus, a friend of a friend who works for the government said that Morocco was actually the least safe of the 3 countries!

In order to get our work visas started, we had to send copies of our resumes, college diplomas, teaching certificates, and passports. We have to take the originals of all of these with us when we leave. The next step to receiving our visas was to get full medical exams. We have to prove to the government that we’re healthy enough to work & live there…no shots required! We had to obtain copies of the results plus a letter from our doctor stating we were healthy. Next we had to go to the local police department to get a police clearance of no criminal record. This then had to be authenticated by the Michigan government and then the US State Department.

We were finally able to send our paperwork to the Embassy of the State of Kuwait – our REAL passports, a passport picture, our entry work permit (from our school), a visa application form, the doctor’s letter & lab reports, a money order and a self-addressed envelope so they could mail our passports back to us. Although it seemed like preparing all of the paperwork took forever, we received our passports back with our visas within two weeks!

Our school takes care of getting us to and from Kuwait in the summer. After telling them our ‘home’ airport, we received e-tickets in June 🙂 If we want to come home (which we hope to!) for Christmas, we are responsible for funding our flights. When we get to Kuwait on the 24th, someone will be there to pick us up. The first week is full of orientations and trips to the store to get the finishing touches for our furnished 2-bedroom apartment that the school provides. We will be living in complexes (NOT compounds) with other school employees and families.

We’ve been asking questions on a blog to current teachers/staff at the school which has been quite helpful. But the best document we’ve received is our New Faculty Handbook. We’re really excited to start our adventure and immerse ourselves in another culture! In 10 days, we’ll start on our 21 hour journey to Kuwait…and then it all begins!