Teaching abroad

Q. I am thinking of taking a Tefl (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and teaching on the Continent. What's the best way of finding jobs?

A. Start by having a look at the advice and jobs site Cactus Tefl (www.cactustefl.com), which includes course information, advice and testimonials from teachers working on the ground, an invaluable source of first-hand tips. Cactus advises that before you apply you should think about the sort of environment in which you want to teach – would you be happy to be the only native English teacher in a school or town, or would you rather have others nearby? This will be important if you don't speak the local language. Research on a prospective school will tell you how many teachers are employed there and whether you will be the only native English speaker.

You can search out recruitment agencies – Cactus says that the kind of schools that can afford to pay an agency are likely to be in need of many teachers. How much say you have over where you end up teaching will vary from agency to agency.

If you are already living in or visiting the country where you'd like to work, it might be better to approach schools directly. Employers prefer to meet their teachers face to face, and you will stand out from the many online applications they receive. If you get your CV translated, make sure that potential employers know that it has been done for you and that you can't speak the language.

Currently, jobs in France and Germany (and popular cities such as Barcelona) are much sought-after. There is a steady flow of teachers to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and there are major opportunities in the markets that have opened up in Latvia and Lithuania.

Legal distinctions

Q. I am going to read law next year but am not clear whether to aim to be a solicitor or a barrister. Does this matter right now? How soon do I have to make up my mind?

A. One career is not "better" than the other – you just need to appreciate the differences so that you can be honest about which is the right fit for you, says Jennifer Connell, a careers adviser specialising in law at the University of Liverpool. Connell points out that there are significant differences – a barrister has greater independence and a less well-defined career path; solicitors have greater security. Most barristers are self-employed, solicitors are salaried. Solicitors are office-based, but barristers travel between their chambers and court.

There are differences in the skills required, too. Barristers need highly developed advocacy skills, while solicitors require strong communication skills.

Finally, weigh up the costs and level of difficulty you will face getting into each career. Connell advises talking to solicitors or barristers; meeting people at law fairs; and joining the Bar society or legal society at university. Work experience is the next step. Testing out your ability to speak in public is also important. You could consider a career as a solicitor advocate with a large law firm – this gives you the same rights of audience as barristers. Ask firms whether this is an option if you join. Or if you don't fancy life in chambers, you could think about becoming an employed barrister in government or private-sector organisations. Because some solicitors' firms offer training contracts two years before they start, you do need to start thinking about this at the beginning of the second year of a three-year course.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk