The future of business English trainers

I’m thinking about professional development, where the next years will take me. At the moment there is a lot of work to prepare for a few compact seminars, and more translation work for a client, so I’m not exactly unemployed. Still, having gone through the Trinity DipTESOL (still have to write up two papers, but apart from that I’m done!) and seeing my teacher colleagues working at schools makes me wonder: Should I go back to fulltime teaching? Try to become a DOS (director of studies)? Keep up my current motley collection of jobs? Or am I better at other things that I need to focus on to develop?

Transferable skills are what everyone talks about in job qualifications. So what transferable skills has an English trainer like me acquired in 13-14 years of experience? I can teach, I can write (in two languages), I can translate. But many newcomers compete for those very same jobs. I’d love nothing more than to work in a close-knit team, and am still hoping that I will find one that will have me.

One USP is my ability to put it all together for specific clients, e.g. for one group, designing a syllabus, preparing and writing materials, correcting and coaching written work, providing coaching before presentations, even setting up connected tech support. Or, for another client: translating presentations, knowing what language level to pitch the translation at so my client can actually give the presentation, understanding intercultural issues as a trainer to modulate the language, and then coaching in preparation for the meetings and presentations. The key (at least for me) is to develop those good client relationships and to give them more and more sophisticated services, rather than expanding my client base just for the sake of expansion. In fact, what I do has turned more and more into language consulting.

Scouting around, thinking about what might be around the next corner, I just watched James Schofield’s interview at last year’s BESIG. He’s one of the most inspiring trainers out there, a prolific writer (and a really good one), a teacher trainer who has held many sessions at BESIG and also at MELTA in Munich, and here he talks about a typical skill, namely the ability to manage groups and facilitate meetings. This seems to be an area that he has been developing, and it sounds very interesting indeed.

Are you thinking about your own professional development? How do you answer this question: “Where do your see yourself in 5 years?”

James Schofield
Summertown Readers: Ekaterina, Peril in Venice, Room Service, Double Trouble
Business Spotlight short stories (ongoing)
Course: Double Dealing (with Evan Frendo, Summertown, 2004-2006)
Course: Compass Langenscheidt (with others)
Course: Collins English for Business. Speaking (with Anna Osborn 2011); coming in 2012: Workplace English 1&2

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Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

7 thoughts on “The future of business English trainers”

  1. Hiya Anne,

    Yeah, this is something I’m thinking about as I enter my 5 year of teaching. I’d hope that in another 5 I’ll be a better teacher (however you might define that) and more confident in myself (something I still struggle with from time to time). I’d like to be teaching in a different context, at least partly, but I don’t know what. BizEng kind of appeals, but I’m not sure how to start with that. I might need to find a very different place to teach. One thing I worry about, especially when moving abroad again crosses my mind, is not being as valued for my experience as I might or should be. Could it be that I go abroad and find myself a few rungs down the teaching ladder? I still don’t feel like a senior teacher or some other similar post.

    Another tract is, post-delta (should I pass ok – though had a horrible mini dream about it and haven’t even started yet!) might be teacher training, but again not sure how to go about this…

    Then there is materials writing, making the jump from blog to something more tangible (books, e or traditional, articles, etc.) which is another area to try?

    So, lots of possibilities, but not 100% sure about any of them!

  2. Hi Mike,
    I really enjoyed listening to your interview with Chiew, and congratulations on starting on a Delta! I’m sure when you come out at the other end of that you’ll feel a lot more like a senior teacher 😉 And more writing has definitely got to be on your agenda, right? I’ve really enjoyed your lesson plans.

    You’re based in England, and so I see your point: Business English really seems to go hand in hand with teaching abroad. Local companies need English, and often enough they find it hard to get a trainer who understands what they need, and so we have real opportunities, and end up “winging it” by being very good listeners, mostly, and dragging in likely materials and books that are all readily available. That’s certainly how most freelance trainers I know got into it initially. I only went and got BE training after having taught for several years, and am certainly no exception. And yet still, every time I have a new company to teach, I have to start all over again, getting to know their business and needs. That’s what makes the field so interesting. — But I definitely also loved teaching general English again recently during the diploma. And I’m gearing up to teach academic skills in the coming weeks.
    It’s a wide field we plough here 😉

  3. Hi Anne,

    I’ve just changed jobs and country and now teach BE in companies for a small English training company. When I arrived with some experience and decent qualifications I thought it would but me up the ladder as in the UK but nobody and I mean NOBODY has ever heard of DELTA and most don’t even know the CELTA. The more I travel and the more I meet people with short course certificates or even no EFL background at all and these people frequently have decent jobs. this makes a real problem when you work for them as they don’t think the same as us TEFLers.

    For those of us who take our job/career seriously it can be shocking when a lot of countries just see ‘being English’ as enough to teach. This raises the issue of ‘what now’? If I had stayed in a language school there would only have been the Senior teacher-ADOS-DOS route which is more admin/managerial or trying to get into a decent uni but most of those posts now demand a PhD. I think I may be like many people, just floating round making ends meet and moving from one contract to the next.

    Are there permanent positions for people like us?
    Also, what effect do you think all this moving and adapting has on us? I feel more at ease abroad than I do in England but being abroad makes me strengthen my Britishness more as it’s a reference point for who I am.

  4. The “5 years” question is a classic, but always good to answer and then return to when those 5 years are up.

    This for me weighs on my mind, as I have to at the beginning of next year make some hard choices. Stepping out of some enjoyable but not necessarily lucrative projects to put more energy into facilitating the development of the trans-lingo team.

    As for professional development I hope to hone my presenting and general business communication skills in English and German. After all how can we have integrity training business English if we are not on the front line using those skills in our everyday life.

    The question of where do I see myself in 5 years. If all goes well developing three crucial areas.

    Continuing inducting and mentoring new University of Applied Science English teachers in the Uni systems and philosophy of the English department.

    Picking up more lucrative one-offs and intensives to free up my time for my other projects. Especially the funded courses, as the ESF money for Germany will have dried up by then.

    Providing “settling” services to new trainers, as well train the Business skills trainer/University teacher workshops.

    But who knows if this works as planned. My career path takes me to new places every three years, thank crikey,

    As for the close knit team you desire Anne, I would simply say join one or build put your own together.
    Trust me it is an adventure and coincidentally 5 years into this it has been in equal parts a struggle and beyond my expectations. In that he has assisted me in reaching the potential I knew was hidden somewhere.

  5. Hi Phil.

    Not wanting to hog the show Anne, but wanted to add my tuppence.

    Acceptance of qualis is a real weird fish. I get little recognition for my CELTA/LCCI CerTEB in certain academic institutions. And remember a long time ago dreaming of moving to Prague only to get blown out of the water twice during the application process because the companies did not know CELTA. More than flabbergasted I was, as it is after all a Cambridge certificate. But I have learned that does not mean everything.

    As for the permanent positions, I have been tempted at times. But always fall back on

    a) you can no longer pick and choose the enjoyable or lucrative projects

    b) you never know if you will regret getting into bed with a devil you do not know

    I do have a kinda “permanent” position, but at 12 units a week/46 weeks a year this is ideal for me.

    These permanent positions are out there, saw one today for “target”
    But the question is remuneration, and also freedom/ time to pursue other projects. For me anyway.

    I hope you soon find something you deserve and are satisfied with.

    And that goes for Anne as well.

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