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What I Do For a Living And Why Nobody Understands It

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Most of my family and friends have no idea what I do for a living. I’ve explained it to each of them numerous times, and yet whenever I return home after being gone for a while, I get the same questions:

  • So what are you going to do with your life now?
  • When are you going to get a real job?
  • Oh right. So what do you do again?

Despite having been solely self-employed for 18 months (to be precise, and proud) it’s as if they think I’ve somehow managed to be unemployed for so long. Somehow I’ve managed to travel to Cuba, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico and Thailand in those same 18 months…quite a feat for an unemployed single woman!

I wish I were unemployed in the retired sense, but the truth is I’m not quite there.

Three and a half years ago I started a TEFL agency where I help people teach English abroad. In this calendar year alone, I’ve helped over 35 teachers achieve their dreams of teaching English overseas, including in Thailand, Nicaragua, and Colombia.

Medellin Colombia

A view of Medellin, Colombia

I do this through Teach English: ESL, where I am an authorized reseller for internationally accredited TEFL/TESOL certification courses in Chicago, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Online; where I’m the North American Recruitment Specialist for TEFL courses with job placement in Thailand; where I’m recruiting paid volunteers to teach with the Ministry of Education in Colombia, South America and more.

In short, I get to talk about teaching and travel every day with people who are where I was five years ago, just starting out with their goals of teaching English abroad and feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities. I aim to help them choose the best program for them based on what they hope to gain from the experience, and to make the process seamless so all the fear and frustrations can be replaced with excitement and eagerness. (You can read my mission statement about blurring the lines of the globe here.)

If I’m being honest, though, I’m probably part of the reason that people don’t understand what I do. I’ve struggled to explain it to those who don’t understand the industry. And I’ve doubted myself, at times.

I’ve questioned whether I could actually rely on my business alone, if I had the business know-how and sales and marketing skills it takes to be successful. But if there’s any proof to the power of positive thinking, it’s this: When my own teaching abroad endeavors lead me to teaching English and studying for my master’s in creative nonfiction at Colorado State University, I had been putting about three hours per week into Teach English: ESL and gaining about as much as one might expect from giving so little.

Me on a hike in the Olympic Mountains of Washington

Me on a hike in the Olympic Mountains of Washington

So when I graduated and decided to try to make Teach English: ESL my full-time job, it was purely a leap of faith. Crunching the numbers in no way would have given me the confidence to do such a thing, but I set out with a goal of making it for a full 12 months and then re-evaluating. When that first full year was up in May, I knew I still had a long way to go to get where I wanted to be, but that I wasn’t ready to give up.

Life has thrown me a few curveballs. Turning 30 caused me to question, well, everything. I started to wonder if I even knew who I was, what I wanted in life, if my current entrepreneurial endeavor was the right path for me, if I wanted to give up writing…

I did some soul searching, and discovered the way I’ve been living is the way I want to continue living – a societally defined “normal” life will never be for me, though I do not mean to offend anyone who chooses that path, and though I know only a few people who fully understand what I mean when I say that – and that I only need to get better at doing it.

I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I know I will get there. I’m perhaps a bit early, but I’ve already written down my New Year’s goals. The include things like retire by age 40, invest more in myself, grow my business, grow this blog…and more.

But not a single one of them includes getting a “real” job.

teaching english abroad

Teaching English Abroad to Teach Abroad TEFL Agent

Written by:Jessica J. Hill




  1. A says:

    I’m very proud of you Jessica, It takes some guts to go against the stream and live the way you live. I think people looking for a “real” job {probably like me in some part, I’m something in between (I quit permanent job 3 times by now), I want to understand life and hopefully I can work in many different countries} we are chickens close to you that’s for sure.
    Jessica, do never forget you are extremely rich in your knowledge and the way you see/understand the world with all your traveling and all the reading/writing you have done. Keep feeding your passion ( , will take you very far, You unique special woman.
    Keep traveling and writing with passion (makes you happy), dedication (takes time) and perseverance (sometimes we fall down, we are shattered or just doesn’t works at the first time).
    Saludos muchos.
    Un admirador tuyo.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Gracias por tus palabras, Armando. Estas haciendo cosas asombrosas, y tu puedes trabajar y explorar al mismo tiempo con tu trabajo. Gracias por me apoyas siempre. Eres especial. Abrazos.

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