Are you applying for a new teacher position?

This is the time of the year when many teachers apply for a new job. This might be the result of moving to a new city, feeling demotivated about their current position, being dismissed from their last job, or just the desire to try new ways in the career. However, this might be an opportunity to rethink about their career and to take a step that will enable the beginning of a long-term plan of professional success instead of just a change in the resumé. In other words, this might be an opportunity to establish a career strategic plan.

A career strategic plan for ELT professionals is an important instrument for development and growth. I will suggest here a simple three-step model allows teachers to take control of their professional path, instead of just hopping from job to job and “playing their career by ear”.

The first step is creating a SWOT matrix. This matrix helps teachers identify their professional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses relate to teacher types of knowledge – practical, content, contextual, pedagogical, personal, and reflective (see Richards, 2001). The degree to which teachers master these types of knowledge developed reveal their strengths and weaknesses as ELT practitioners. Unlike the individual perspective sought by strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats relate to the external context where teachers find themselves in. Opportunities relate to market trends that might bring teachers potential employment and growth, such as the growing number of bilingual education and scholarships for international study experience. Threats relate to outside factors that can potentially compete with teachers and/or doom their endeavors. Examples of professional threats are the increasing number of online courses with native speaking tutors and low salaries offered by several language institutes.

Once teachers have completed their SWOT matrix, they are ready to choose what opportunities to target, which threats to avoid and use their strengths to establish professional goals. In other words, the second step is to plan where they want to be in a short, medium and long-term. Examples of short-term goals are pursuing CELTA or choosing to teach young learners in the following term to have better experience with that age range. An example of a medium-term goal could be pursuing an MA in TESOL and a long-term goal could be owning a language institute.

After teachers have set out their professional goals, it is time plan actual actions that will enable them to reach goals within a pre-determined time frame. The 5W’s 2H’s model can help teachers set up a career plan and begin the third step to success. This model is a table where columns ask What is to be done, Where, Why, Who will perform the action, and When each action will be accomplished (5W’s). The two H’s stand for How actions will be performed and How much will be spent to complete each one.

Although this seems a little too much work, teachers can benefit greatly from having a career plan that will direct them to search for new jobs or participate in professional events/courses. Planning out professional steps and endeavors definitely pays off. This article attempted to trigger teachers’ thoughts about career planning by suggesting a simple three-step model. However, this model can be enriched and extended to the use of other instruments that can provide even more support for teachers to reach their well-deserved professional success!


Richards, J. C. (2001). Curriculum development in language teaching. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

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Anderson Maia

Anderson Maia is currently the dean of a campus at Universidade Federal do Pará and a PhD in TESOL candidate at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. He was the academic manager at Centro Cultural Brasil Estados Unidos for 6 years, an adjunct TESOL professor at private colleges for several years, and has been an English language educator for 15 years in both Brazil and North Carolina, USA. He holds a degree in English and an MA in TESOL from Greensboro College, USA.

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