5 Tips for Transitioning from English Teaching to a Business Job in Taiwan

By and large, the single biggest sector for professional foreigners in Taiwan is English teaching. Naturally, many people are attracted to the above-average pay ($600-$800 NTD an hour starting off) and might not be aware that English teaching is a very challenging job and it’s not for everyone.

This article isn’t about putting down teaching English in Taiwan. There are many people that teach English professionally and they should be appreciated. However, it is important to recognize that not everyone is suited towards teaching English.

I’ve put together this list of tips through my experience from job hunting in Taiwan. I’m not going to sugarcoat the process because it isn’t something you should do without first thinking about the time, effort, money, and stress that you will be putting yourself through. If you have savings, motivation, time, and a reason to stay in Taiwan, here are 5 tips that will help you go from Teaching English to another professional job.

Tip #1 Accept that you’ll be getting paid less

When you first start off, you won’t be making bank. Think about it, would you expect an entry-level job in the US or Europe to be paying you a lot? Nope.

English teaching rates vs.  local and other foreign professional rates

English teachers start off at between 1.5x to 2x the regular rate as other foreign professionals that are working in businesses. It boils down to the supply and demand. Taiwan needs English teachers, and the supply isn’t there. So, that’s why you have wages for English teachers being 4x higher than the minimum wage.

It isn’t because they are foreign, it’s because that’s the minimum wage that someone will upend their life to come to Taiwan to teach English for. Even then, it’s not a competitive rate compared to other countries in Asia according to many of my English teaching friends.

“Though they do agree that Taiwan is a far better place to live and settle down in compared to China and that wages aren’t everything, but are still important.”

So, think about it, you are working in the business world (more than likely) and what about you stands out? Maybe you have a degree, but everyone else does. Maybe you have some work experience, but so does everyone else. Maybe your biggest way to stand out isn’t your education or work experience, but your native tongue; English.

You aren’t going to get paid like an English teacher at the beginning. You will probably have an entry-level job for an organization that might not truly see the value of paying a little bit extra – compared to a local – for someone with an international mindset.

Either way, you will need to put time and effort into your professional career to get anything out of it. Think long-term.

The good news is, if you put in the time and effort, you will see your salary increasing above many English teachers over time, and even if it doesn’t, you are still working in an industry you’d enjoy more anyway. As well as that, you do have security for the future, in that, you can return to Europe or North America with experience and skillsets that will be in demand.

Sooner or later, many people think about returning to their home countries, and without the right experience, that might not be a reality for some English teachers.

Tip #2 Expect your job hunting to take longer than you’re imagining

Job hunting always takes more time than you expect. I was very lucky with my own job search because I had a job lined up for after I graduated. For some of my classmates, they found jobs relatively quickly in the first 3 months.

Just like I said earlier, unless you are on a gold card, or have a skill that is in demand in Taiwan that cannot be wholly supplied by the local workforce, you will be spending a fair bit of time looking for a job.

How long will it take?

In the US, a good rule of thumb for knowing how long your job hunt will be is to roughly add one month to your search for every $10,000 you expect to earn on your salary. Now, this is already a very rough guess, and it is not totally relevant to Taiwan.

If I had to estimate the time needed to find a job in Taiwan outside of English teaching I will be honest, I have no idea.

It is different for everyone and every industry you want to break into is different. My only piece of advice is to job hunt straight after the Lunar New Year because a lot of people tend to quit right after they get their bonuses, leaving a lot of openings.

Again, remember, it will take some time, so be prepared to have a bit of money saved, and maybe take some part-time English teaching on the side to ensure you have enough money to live off while you job hunt.

Job hunting anywhere isn’t easy, and Taiwan is no different. The only added barrier for you is going to be finding a job that will need you, not finding a job that you need. Jobs for foreign professionals are still somewhat limited in Taiwan, but if you search, network, and put in the time, you will find a job that you will give you new skills, and help you work towards your long-term career goals.

“You just have to be aware of the process to find that job is going to be longer than you expect. Opportunities exist, but it just takes persistence and a bit of luck.”

Tip #3 Network, network, and network

You know what’s going to get you a job pretty much anywhere? Knowing people. In Taiwan, that is only made vastly more important considering you will probably not know many people if you’re just arriving, or if you’ve kept to a small group of foreigners.

Get out there, meet people of a like mind and for god sake, go to meetups, conferences, and functions. I already have a full-time job in business, but I still go out of my way to try and make it to meetups and conferences. Why? Because it doesn’t hurt to mingle with people that can offer you insights into the Taiwanese market, give you tips, and most of all, they could even know about a job that would be a good fit for you.

“I’ve made a lot of friends through these types of functions and a lot more when I’m having drinks. I’m not forward about it at all. I enjoy talking shop with people, and I always find it interesting to hear about someone’s industry.”

Network, network, and network some more. You will be surprised by how much people will go out of their way to help you, as long as you are a decent enough person.

Likewise, if you ever see someone that needs help, just remember you were or will be in that position again someday, so help each other out!

Tip #4 Know where to look 

jobs taiwan

I am so used to using LinkedIn, Monster, and Indeed to find jobs. Sure, LinkedIn is still useful, but from what friends tell me, and my own experience, Facebook groups can be great places to find work. I should know, that’s where I found my job. You should check out the following Facebook groups for your job hunting:

  1. Working in Taiwan
  2. Non-Teaching Jobs in Taiwan

Likewise, the biggest site for job hunting – 104人力銀行 – is a great resource, but you might be limited if you don’t have Mandarin reading abilities, or if you aren’t patient with Google translate. I would really recommend using the Mandarin Perapera plugin for your browser to help you. This is an in-browser translator that can help you translate and learn Mandarin, and could be more useful than a basic Google translate.

You should check out All Hands Taiwan for the entire set of resources they offer for where to job hunt. I’m focusing on Facebook groups and 104 because I really do think a good bit of your job hunting success is going to boil down to luck and timing.

Tip 5# Sometimes it can be down to luck

Sheer dumb luck job hunting

Okay, this isn’t helpful, but hear me out!

You can put all the effort you want into your job hunt, and not get anywhere fast. You might also notice your friend getting a job like it was nothing. Well, chances are, they were in the right place at the right time. That’s how I got my job. I was on Facebook and someone messaged me that a company needed a proofreader. I went over to Working in Taiwan and I emailed the guy that posted the job.

“Two weeks later, I was proofreading and I wasn’t a hungry student anymore! I had literally been down to my last $2,000 NTD in my savings for coming to Taiwan when I got the job. To this day, I am still thankful to the guy that hired me and gave me a chance.”

I know, it’s not helpful, but just remember, it can be down to luck and perseverance. The more effort you make, the more likely you are to be lucky. That’s how I see it. You can still put little effort, and be lucky, but you’ll be more likely to be lucky if you put in a good bit of work for it.

Network a lot, keep searching on job boards, and be realistic, and you might be lucky.

Closing thoughts

I remember being depressed from the whole process, both in Ireland and Taiwan. At the beginning, it is just so overwhelming and in many ways. I always hated having to put a value on my experience, skills, and background.

I’ve never enjoyed placing a monetary value on myself, but sooner or later, you have to come to terms that when you’re job hunting, you do need to prove why you matter, and why the company needs you, not explain why you need the job.

Making any transition in life is hard, and job hunting is no different. There are many negative emotions you are going to go through, but equally, there are so many lessons that will help you in the future to deal with future job hunts. Do your best to see the positive of job hunting, namely, you’re learning the industry, the people in it, and how you fit in it. This will be essential in your future for when you want to start moving up the ladder and you find yourself stuck with a glass ceiling in your organization.

All Hands Taiwan — Taiwan’s Guide to Working Professionally

All hands taiwan

I also want to give a quick shoutout to All Hands Taiwan. This is a great place for resources, and if you’re looking for more information on where to find jobs, conferences, meetups, and more, make sure to give All Hands a like on Facebook!

 

Tomás 孫柯

4 thoughts on “5 Tips for Transitioning from English Teaching to a Business Job in Taiwan

  1. “As well as that, you do have security for the future, in that, you can return to Europe or North America with experience skillsets that will be in demand.”

    This isn’t always true. It really depends on where you go. Unless you work for a major multinational company, you might find that you are starting from the bottom again.

    Like

      1. I never said working for a multinational company was the be all end all. It is just easier for hiring companies when they have heard of the company you worked for.

        From my experience moving back to Canada after living in Taiwan for a decade most companies weren’t very interested in my skills and experiences because the companies I worked for aren’t known in Calgary, Canada and the industries I worked in Taiwan aren’t as prevalent in Calgary, Canada.

        This made finding a job difficult when I was competing with people who had local contacts, local references, and local experience. I had to start almost from scratch (and lower expectations) after almost 100 resumes sent. I did find a company that would hire me, I did quite well and moved up quickly using the skills and experiences I had.

        I am happy to hear that you didn’t face any of those challenges when you returned home. How long did it take you to get a job? What did the local hiring agencies think of your skills and experiences? What was your experience? I am curious. I love hearing success stories of people who seamlessly transitioned from life/work in Taiwan back to their home country. That wasn’t the case for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ireland is different because our workforce is quite international. Your skills and experience go further and it’s true that local contacts matter a Lott. With that said, Dublin is competitive but if you have a marketing background with some solid experience and you are updating your skill set, you will find a job. 5 years ago, it would’ve been impossible for me because I was a graduate and with the recession came heavy competition from people that were made redundant who had gone back to college or updated their skills. Now, I can show my experience with dealing with the US market because my company sells their service to that market (I’m not B2B or sell to Taiwanese companies or consumers). As Ireland’s largest market, the US, Id have more experience now than a lot of Irish people. If your experience is B2B, that might be problematic, but you’ll still be far more likely to land a job than someone with TEFL and 5+ years teaching.

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