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Relocating - and getting a Teaching Job

Posted: 03-12-2012

"If we have referred you to this article because you have indicated that you wish to relocate please read the article in full, including our suggested strategy. We will only assist people who wish to relocate if they work with the strategy set out in the article. I get a dozen e mail's every week saying "Please make an exception for ME!" Please don't ask - work with us and we will do everything we can to help you."

We often get calls from teachers who are relocating, either within South Africa, or  returning from a teaching job overseas. Generally, they are reluctant to move until they are sure they have a job in the new location - and this is where the problem comes in.

Our first question used to be,
"Will you come to Gauteng for interviews?" to which the applicant invariably said "Yes, of course!" But after they had come to four unfruitful interviews they didn't want to come again - and who can blame them?  Of course, the Schools blamed Placements in Education when the candidate we told them was keen refused to come to them for the interview.

The same applies to teachers overseas. In the past we have gone out of our way to circulate CVs from South Africans who told us they "definitely" wanted to come home, only to find at the last minute that they felt the salaries they were being offered were not sufficient, and they stayed wherever they were, overseas.

Over the years Placements in Education has tried to help teachers who wanted to relocate to find a job wherever it was they wanted to go. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told,
"I'm definitely going to relocate!" and then at the last minute the teacher is offered a job in her old location - and stays. I think the worst case was the lady who was relocating to Johannesburg from Durban, and had signed a contract with a school in Randburg. During the holidays she bumped into her new head in a shopping Mall in Durban, and said,
"Oh, I'm so glad to meet you here! I need to tell you that I have changed my mind, I'm staying in Durban after all!" Thanks SOOO much!!

It's hardly surprising that Schools have become nervous about people who say they are relocating. Even when they do start work in the new location, things can go wrong.  All is well in January - but then winter comes ... people from KZN suddenly discover the meaning of the word "cold" - and vanish back to KZN in a cloud of dust.  Or a relative becomes ill ... or they are offered a job "back home", or they simply hate the Gauteng lifestyle and long for Table Mountain, the beach, the sea, or even the bush.  Who can blame them? The problem is, Principals who have been left in the lurch, often at really short notice, don't seem to be very forgiving about the situation.

Bush Schools who are outside the major centres are more flexible. They have serious difficulty getting quality staff, and will interview by phone and Skype, and make offers to people who they have not seen in person. But in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town if you want a job the school wants a face to face interview.

We have had to turn down quite a number of good CVs from people who want to relocate or return from overseas, because they are not "here". We have developed a strategy which will help people who relocate - but it does require them to do the relocating before they have a job.

First - go to the head of the school you are currently teaching at, and explain that you want to relocate. By all means give your reasons - no principal wants to believe that a good member of staff is leaving because they dont like the Principal or the school - be tactful and generous in your praise!

Once the Principal understands that you want to go, ask what notice they will accept. Although contracts often have quite lengthy notice, you may find that when you ask politely they will be prepared to shorten the notice period considerably, or negotiate a convenient date on which you can leave.

Next - write out your resignation, stating the period of notice you are giving and the date of your last working day at the school.  You may want to read the article on "Resignation Letters - Dos and Donts" to help you stay out of trouble.

Working out your notice is a pain - but remember, once you have given in notice everything you do will be under the spotlight, so do it well. A week or so into your notice, ask the Principal for a written reference.  Perhaps ask some other supervisors as well. The written reference needs to speak in detail about with what you did at the school, how well you did it, punctuality, absenteeism and your general conduct. It should say that you have resigned of your own accord, and that you gave the notice asked for by the school.  It should be on a school letterhead, and dated. Keep it safe - you are going to need it!

Spend some time on your CV. Ask a few people to read through it and crit it. Check the spelling, phone numbers and all the rest. We received a CV this month which said "I enjoy sinning"  She meant that she enjoyed singing, but I'm not sure I would want her teaching English in my school!  Make sure that you take digital copies of the CV and the references and preferably store them "in the Cloud" somewhere - dont take the risk that they might be lost in the move.

And then move. Get an address in the place where you want to work, put it on your CV, indicate if you are prepared to move within the area where you are living or not, and send your CV plus the written testimonials to Placements in Education. As long as we have the written testimonials we can send your CV out for any posts that are available - at once.

How long will it take to find a post? That depends

  • on the time of year - there are plenty of immediate start posts available at the beginning of Terms 1, 2 and 3 - but not much in Term 4
  • on the weather - believe it or not, when it is too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry - employers don't appoint anyone!
  • on your location - there are fewer jobs in some areas than others; on the whole that is economic, the poorer the area the fewer jobs there are - but you need to take that into account before you move
  • on your interview - if you dont interview well, if you are picky about what you are prepared to do, or ask for a ridiculous salary - then it will take longer to find a job!

The rule of thumb is -

  • Provided your are fully qualified;
  • Provided your References are good and prepared to confirm by phone that you are everything they said in writing;
  • provided your CV shows you to be a stable worker, you don't bounce around from one job to another

- then you should be employed in under 30 days in Johannesburg. But it will take longer in Pretoria, Durban or Cape Town.

At the moment there are plenty of teachers looking for jobs in the cities.

Relocating is not a quick or easy decision. To move for purely financial reasons is almost certainly going to result in regrets.  It's a good idea to go to the place you intend to move to for a holiday before you finally decide; meet the locals, see if you think you could fit in. Then make some plans. But, regrettably, you are not likely to be employed before you arrive in the new location. Qualified and experienced teachers are always in demand, so if your CV shows that you stay with an employer for a reasonable period and do a good job the chances are good the wait is going to be short.

Let us know when you arrive!

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