While having the right connections can help any career in most parts of the world, it is particularly true for anyone who wants to teach English in Italy. And those who don’t pay attention to building social networks and following up leads from acquaintances are truly missing out on the money.
Here’s a perfect example:
Last year, while shopping at the supermarket on a Monday evening, my husband and I ran in to his father’s second cousin’s cousin. (I’m not making it up.)
Well, it happened to be that this man was the principal of a middle school, and he happened to mention that there were teaching positions open for native English speakers. And not just any positions; contracts backed by European funds that offered 80/hour teaching English to public school students one afternoon a week for four months. You do the math. I’ll just say that I walked out of that supermarket with a lot more than the carton of milk and bag of “Stelline”. Even if I had yet to see a penny of the profits, the name and phone number in my pocket promised good things to come.
Among those good things were new contacts. Like the secretary at one of the schools whose daughter and her friend needed to pass an ESL exam to get into an important university. Or the father of a student who needed help translating his websites and print marketing to English. And the list goes on…
Which brings me to the next point. NEVER cut the list. Not even a little. A good contact in Italy is gold, and even if you’ve already “done business” with someone, they can be bridges to your future endeavors or, in the very least, good references to those already accomplished.
So, how do you make good connections if you haven’t got an Italian mentor and/or are just starting to build your reputation as an English teacher? Just remember that everyone you meet will know someone who NEEDS to learn English. So, make sure people know who you are, where you are from and what you do. This shouldn’t be hard as our non-native Italian pronunciations usually give us away and suddenly we are barraged by a ton of questions from the curious (a fundamental character trait among Italians).
And if you really want to successfully teach English in Italy, you have to immerse yourself in the culture and do as much “blending” as possible. Which can sometimes be quite difficult, and so is quite a different topic and a different article.
For now, go ask people you know if they know anybody who is somebody in Italy. Then, you’ll have a foot in the (back)door and a good chance at teaching English in “The Boot”.