There’s been lots of talk about how recent grads have been thrown into one of the shoddiest economies since the Great Depression; many plummeting into unemployment before their shiny new diplomas have had ample time to collect dust. But instead of crying into their beers, many recent graduates have taken the road further traveled, shipping out their skills to overseas employers.
One of the easiest ways to find work abroad is to take a teaching position with an international ESL programs designed to hire new graduates to teach English as a second language in elementary schools, secondary schools, and universities. By jumping on these overseas positions, many young adults hope they can ride out the current wave of unemployment and return later to a better job market.
According to a 2009 NACE Student Survey, only 19.7% of 2009 graduates have secured jobs, compared to 51% in 2007 and 26% in 2008. With employers planning to hire 22% fewer new grads this year*, signing up with an ESL program provides an appealing opportunity. In addition to a paycheck, ESL offers a peek into a new culture, real world work experience, and the opportunity to make lifelong connections. It’s like studying abroad without the high tuition bill. Given the dismal outlook, international ESL programs have seen a steady rise since 2007, with more and more young adults applying for overseas positions.
After spending tens of thousands on a premier education working in the retail or service industries can be downright disheartening. However, working abroad can bring real employment experience that’s more directly tailored to a burgeoning career.
Christine Rochelle, a 2008 graduate of Marist College, will be packing up and heading to Can Tho, Vietnam in late summer for a five month teaching stint with Teachers for Vietnam. Rochelle agrees that the economy was a major factor in taking her expertise overseas. "It was definitely a product of today’s economy. I knew that I was going to be laid off and felt that the smart thing to do was to think of a better back-up plan instead of spending my days searching Media Bistro."
While other young adults are taking service industry jobs to get by, Christine feels that her teaching experience will put her ahead of other applicants once she returns to the U.S. "I will be adding an unique experience to my resume, while hopefully coming back to a better job market,” she said. "I could follow the masses to graduate school, but I think this is the better option for me, especially as a writer."
With poor economic outlooks still on the horizon, international ESL programs seem like a win/win scenario. It’s a great way to see the world, gain a new cultural perspective and cover your living expenses—all without having to move back home. And with economists stating that graduates of 2009 are not only facing unemployment, but lower starting salaries that could put them behind on comparable salaries for the next fifteen years of their career**, it’s no wonder why some young people are choosing this route over the local job hunt. It just might be the catalyst that propels them ahead of their peers, in both title and salary, once the economy recovers.
*Statistic taken from NACE Job Outlook 2009 Spring Update
**Statistic taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
Lauren Fairbanks is a Brooklyn-based writer hailing originally from that far away land known as the Deep South. She is the Founder and Editor of LifeStyler, a NYC-centric budget living site, and has covered lifestyle, small business and personal finance topics for various online publications including Gen X Finance, Gowanus Lounge and Good Plum. Prior to her writing career, she worked in nonprofit management.