*The writer, who chooses to remain anonymous, is a Filipino business owner and part-time teacher in Thailand earning as much as 10,000 or more per lecture.
I’m writing this hopefully to be of help to other Pinoys in Thailand, many of whom are either struggling or just getting by; often in the teaching profession. Be warned though: to some, especially the crab mentality types, this piece may rub you as “mayabang” (although I don’t know how I can benefit from any “yabang” since I choose to be anonymous) or harsh, insensitive, and/or politically incorrect (admit it guys, we Pinoys love to self-praise and hear only good things about us from others… and quickly go on the attack against those who say anything, even if true, that “rubs us the wrong” way). Let me say that I am doing this only to help; but if you don’t believe me or even get angry at me, no worries. As far as I’m concerned, I’m doing my part; and it’s up to the reader to accept or reject my advice.
So let’s get down to it. How to earn a lot by teaching in Thailand?
I summarize it into (1) dropping the racial bitterness against “farang” teachers and their usually-higher-than-pinoy salaries, (2) the right way to market yourself as a good (individual) teacher, and (3) building the “pinoy brand” (overall) as good teachers. Details below:
Drop the racial bitterness and envy of “farang” teachers’ salaries
Imagine you walk into a store and there are two types of cola for sale in a grocery store. One is a well-known brand “Coke,” and the other is another unknown or weak brand PN cola (which is possibly much better than Coke, but you don’t know that). You end up buying the brand you know (Coke) since you’re unaware that PN brand tastes much better. As a result of this, Coke sells more and therefore, the grocery store is willing to pay more for Coke. The saleslady of PN Cola then acts bitter, with the justification that the grocery store should buy more PN Cola and pay more for it than Coke, because PN Cola is better quality and tastes better. Do you think the grocery owner will continue to buy PN Cola? Even if he does, do you think he’ll increase his purchase price of PN Cola? The grocery store will probably stop buying/distributing PN Cola.
I’m sure you already get where I’m going. Whether we want to accept it or not, the “customers” prefer Caucasians to be their teachers and school (business) owners are not “bad” for giving the market what it’s demanding. A businessman opens a “business” to earn money, not a charity organization whose objective is to provide livelihood.
Being or acting bitter *really shows* in your personality, and this further depresses your value to a business; and in this case the business is the school. I know you want to say “but we’re not products, we’re people!” May be so; you’re a person but your service (teaching) is a product… and whether you like it or not, YOU are the “packaging.” Since you cannot win on “packaging” strategy against the already-established “farang packaging,” you must strengthen your “non-packaging” marketing strategy for your product, which I talk about next.
Marketing Yourself as a Valuable Applicant
Building a Good Image
When aiming to get hired at a good salary, it is important to have a good image. Now, I’m not simply talking about “dressing well.” I’m talking about much more than that. Tell me, if you were considering an applicant to fill a position and you knew he was desperate for the job and badly needed it, would you offer him a high salary? Of course not! You’ll probably offer him the lowest salary he’ll accept… and that’s *if* you offer him the job. Human nature is that we run away from something chasing us… and in this case, it’s the guy chasing the job. In fact, just the fact that he’s an “applicant” and “applying” already cheapens him. Much better than “applying” for a job is to “get invited” to it.
So now… how to have a good, valuable (even expensive) image and then get invited to teach? That’s exactly what happened to me when I was offered more than 10k per lecture to teach part-time at a local school’s international program. At that time, I had just registered (just on paper!) my new Thai company which wasn’t profitable yet… but who cares? I already had a business card which showed me as “CEO.” Moreover, I had previously lost another job; but to avoid looking “jobless,” I volunteered to be the editor in chief of a Thai glossy magazine… for free! No salary, but it did get me perks like free dinners at expensive restaurants; but again, who cares? I had a business card which said “editor in chief.”
So tell me, if you are offering a job to a “CEO and editor in chief,” will you make him “barat?” No way! So they offered me the salary level not just of local “farangs,” but of international “fly-in” farangs who come in for special semesters. (And remember, my company wasn’t even profitable yet at that time and I was receiving no salary for the editor-in-chief gig… but so what? Perception is everything.)
Getting Invited Instead of Applying
This is where your networking skills are put to good use. As soon as you arrived, did you start building a solid Thai network? I did. You think friendship “connections” are important in the Philippines? They’re even more important (and helpful!) in Thailand and with the local culture. From my experience, they really (and I mean REALLY) love to work with, hire, and/or recommend their friends.
I often ask people in Pinoy groups here how many of them have Thai friends. Almost all will raise their hand. Then I ask these Pinoys how many of them watched a movie in the last month. Again, all will raise their hands. Then I ask how many of them watched with Thai friends… less than 20%. They watched with other Pinoys. What am I missing here? You think Thais don’t like movies? They LOVE it. Just look at how many theaters there are here. So why aren’t these Pinoys watching with their Thai “friends?” Real answer: They don’t have Thai friends, only Thai acquaintances; and they just stick to Pinoy groups the whole time (Nothing wrong having Pinoy friends… it’s great! But why only Pinoy?). I’m talking about REAL Thai friends. If you find it hard to make friends with them and blame it on them, I’m guessing your real friends here are all Pinoy; in which case, no wonder you have hardly any Thai friends… if you act like a closed group of Pinoys to others, then others will also act like a closed group to you. I think it’s GREAT that you have Pinoy friends here… but they don’t have to be your ONLY friends. I recommend that at least 50% of your REAL friends in any foreign country should be from that country.
Next step in getting invited to teach (since just having friends isn’t enough), is to position yourself as an expert in the field you wanna teach. How do you do that? It’s simpler than it seems. Look around for events, activities, conferences, talks, etc. which are related to your expertise (Ex. economic forum if you wanna teach economics) and JOIN those and participate in the question and answer. Wala kang kasama? Perfect! GO ALONE so that you’re forced to NETWORK with people, and some of them that you get along with will later become your friends. Later on, when these friends from that field are the ones organizing their own events, you VOLUNTEER to GIVE YOUR OWN TALK on a topic within the event. As you do this, you’ll slowly start being known as an EXPERT in your niche in that field. If you’re truly good, you’re already on your way to getting INVITED to teach in that field.
Do you realize how far we’ve already gone from the poor, desperate, unemployed job teaching applicant? Do you now see how to package yourself as a valuable asset that they want? Do you now see how to get discovered instead of applying (and looking desperate) for a job? I dunno about you, but this kicks ass compared to tons of Pinoys bombarding all the schools with their resumes (yes, Pinoys are known for this, and it gives us all a cheap name).
Additional Tip: Related to my point above… I mentioned “in your field.” In other words, it does not always have to be about being an “English language teacher.” In fact, I think it’s advantageous to teach something other than English if you wanna get a job with a good salary. Why? Two reasons: (1) Schools (businesses) inevitably prefer “farang” for English teaching because the English language is psychologically associated with the West by their customers, and (2) because there are already just sooooo many people offering to teach English, both Pinoy and farang. So why would they hire YOU, and even if they did, why would they pay you 10,000 per lecture? I have nothing against teaching English… I’ve been through that too (THB 500/hour English tutoring on the side) some time ago when I needed money; and I also know some successful Pinoy English teachers here (and I’m happy for them). But you get my point… you improve your chances of both getting a job and getting higher pay if you’re not competing against other Pinoys and farangs in crowded field.
Final Advice: Improving the Pinoy Brand as a Whole
Another way ALL of us can get jobs more easily and be offered a higher price is to build the Pinoy brand as a whole.
A most fundamental part of building a brand is QUALITY CONTROL.
How many times have you recommended and/or referred a fellow Pinoy for a job out of “pakisama?” That’s all well and good… but let me ask, did you first check the teaching quality of that Pinoy? Did you ask him/her for a teaching demo? Or, did you just assume he/she was qualified the same way you believe that (all) “Pinoys are better teachers than farang.” I’m sorry, but being in the academe here for a while, I’ve seen both good quality Pinoys and bad quality Pinoys, as well as good quality farang and bad quality farang. The funny thing is… most of the teaching Pinoys I’ve talked to here seem to believe that we “all” are good and they farang teachers are mostly low quality. And then to prove their point, they conveniently pick a good Pinoy teacher and compare him/her to a conveniently picked low quality farang teacher. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there are LOTS of low quality Pinoy teachers here too… and if you carelessly recommend them without checking, then you deserve to be branded as a low quality Pinoy teacher.
Another important part of brand building is pricing. You must decide if your product will be mass produced and sold cheap or more exclusive and therefore more expensive.
Since we’re talking about individual salaries here, I assume that you’d prefer to be “expensive” (and have a higher salary). One of the most important things in increasing prices is “scarcity,” or the perception that a product has limited supply.
Is this how Pinoy teachers here are perceived to be? In limited supply? Obviously not. It’s the opposite… there’s a big oversupply here. Why’s there an oversupply here? I can name you one good reason. “Yabang.” When a Pinoy in Thailand is lucky enough to get a job (whether high pay or low pay), how does he or she try to make “yabang” to those at home? He/she can’t simply say “Hey everyone! I have a high paying job! It’s easy for me because I’m intelligent!”
So he or she instead tries to indirectly imply it by saying “Madali lang kumuha ng job sa Thailand! Malaki suweldo” (Translation: “I got a job in Thailand and I have a big salary, so please look up to me.”). Those who have been here for a while know this is not true… so it’s best we all stop it. It just brings more oversupply based on a lie. In the end… less can find a job, and salaries go down.
That’s it for my advice. Whether it angers you or not, I hope it helps.