Siren Song of Thailand Beckons Ex-Music Executive to New Life


It’s a common fantasy: quitting work, leaving America and starting anew in an exotic land.

Most people only daydream about such a radical change. But Sean Carasov, 40, is taking steps to make it happen. The London-born former music industry executive said that, after 22 years in his profession, he’s grown weary of the grind of Los Angeles. He’s seeking a simpler, more spiritual existence.

“The perspective of my life has changed,” he said.

It’s not that Carasov woke up one day with a new mandate. In 1996, after leaving his job as vice president of A&R; for Atlantic Records, he began doing freelance music supervision for films and documentaries. Though he earned $70,000 last year from various projects, he worries about his new career’s long-term potential.


“This is a highly competitive field, and I go from job to job not knowing if I’m going to work again,” Carasov said. “Realistically, I have to look at doing something else. I have tried to go back to working for a record company in my former capacity as a talent scout, but I’ve been away too long and have had no luck.”

The Hollywood resident hunted for other career options. He considered working as a journalist, providing Web content or moving to Pacific Grove to become a Big Sur-area park ranger. He took classes in computer programming. But none of these paths seemed right.

A trip to Southeast Asia helped him realize what might make him happiest: moving to Thailand to teach, write or start a business. “That’s where I want to be,” said Carasov, who’s now taking classes in conversational Thai. “From the first time I was there, I felt really at home.”

How can he make the transition overseas successfully? For help, he contacted Career Make-Over and discussed career alternatives with Virginia-based consultant Ron Krannich, an expert on international jobs who lived in Thailand for five years and visits the country annually.


Krannich was optimistic about Carasov’s prospects. He suggested that Carasov consider three options: teaching English or taking an administrative position at a Thailand-based school, or working as a journalist for one of the English-language Thai newspapers, such as the Bangkok Post or the Nation.

He put Carasov in touch with the president of Yonok College (, a 3,000-student private university in Lampang, Thailand. The president encouraged Carasov to visit his campus. In just a few days, after a vacation stop in Vietnam, Carasov will be traveling there for an interview.

During the trip, Carasov also may want to visit several Bangkok-based schools that employ large teaching staffs, including the English and Computer College, Siam Computer and Language Institute and the American University Language Centre.

He also can check Web sites

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for open teaching positions in Thailand.

Native English-speaking teachers are needed by schools outside of Bangkok, particularly in areas such as Hat Yai and Chiang Mai to the north and Songkla to the south, wrote Susan Griffith in “Work Abroad: The Complete Guide to Finding a Job Overseas” (Transitions Abroad Publishing, 2001).

Should Carasov decide to teach English in Thailand, he probably will want to obtain appropriate certification, which is required in more than 80% of overseas schools. The certification courses typically take four weeks to complete. With certification, he’d have more teaching options available and could command higher wages.


The most prestigious, challenging and widely accepted credential is the Royal Society of Arts/Cambridge CELTA (Certificate Course in English Language Teaching to Adults), offered by a few U.S.-based organizations. Formal certification also is available in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

If Carasov wishes to get certified while he’s in Thailand, he can contact New World Teachers, which offers a TEFL training program at Prince of Songkla University in Phuket, at (800) 644-5424; or TEFL International Teacher Training, which has an office in Rayong.

Once he has obtained his credentials, he can run classified advertisements about his qualifications in the English-language Bangkok Post ( to attract possible employers.

Many overseas schools hire American teachers through U.S.-based placement services. However, Thai schools prefer that American teachers visit their campuses, go through interviews, take grammar tests and submit to a references and credentials check.


And though a majority of schools abroad require bachelor’s degrees, formal certification and at least two years of teaching experience of their new hires, Thai schools are often more flexible in their requirements.

“In short, anyone who is determined to teach in Thailand and prepared to go there to look for work is virtually guaranteed to find opportunities,” Griffith wrote.

The downside to this is that the less discriminating schools usually pay their teaching staffs low wages, about $6 an hour. The best-paying teaching jobs in Asia (which can offer annual salaries of up to $80,000 along with health insurance and perks) are found in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. However, their requirements are far more rigorous.

The U.S. departments of State and Defense also operate schools overseas that offer wages comparable to what U.S.-based schools pay, noted Krannich in International Jobs Directory. But Carasov may encounter difficulty landing jobs at these schools, as he lacks a college degree.


Once in Thailand, Carasov may want to consider doing some freelance tutoring, which often fetches higher rates than school-based teaching. Many wealthy Thai parents want their children to attend universities abroad that administer English language entrance exams and are often willing to hire tutors to help their children master the language.

To publicize his availability, Carasov can post notices at schools, universities and markets.

International career experts recommend that Americans such as Carasov secure overseas jobs prior to relocating. But this has become more difficult in recent years as multinational firms are cutting back on their overseas transfers to save money. Instead, they’re opting to hire trained locals.

Expatriate relocation packages, which may include transportation, air fare, housing, maid service, orientation, schooling and perks, can sometimes cost these firms more than $500,000 per employee when the employee must relocate with family, said Zareen Karani Lam de Arao, president of Managing Across Cultures in Winchester, Mass. An alternative for Americans seeking work overseas is to register with established international placement firms. For a fee, these companies circulate resumes and, in some cases, introduce clients to potential international employers at job fairs. Many have excellent reputations, but a few that advertise in newspapers and magazines conduct less-than-scrupulous operations.


Before signing up with a placement firm, Carasov and others should conduct thorough research. He can contact the Better Business Bureau in the firm’s state or consult international employment guidebooks, many of which list long-established, respectable placement firms. Some good news about working overseas: the Internal Revenue Service permits U.S. citizens meeting its foreign-residency requirements to earn up to $76,000 abroad in nontaxable income. However, depending on the country, local income taxes may be required.

Carasov should be aware that many expatriates go through a “honeymoon phase” (lasting up to six months) with their new country of residence, which is followed by a “disenchantment phase” that frequently ends in a hasty return to America. Most expatriate workers return to the U.S. within five years, with the majority staying overseas from one to three years, said Clay Hubbs, editor and publisher of Transitions Abroad Magazine.

Carasov should bear in mind that in Thailand, American values like independence, freedom and privacy aren’t highly prized, whereas obedience and group decision making are, Lam de Arao said.

Also, some criminal penalties in Thailand are comparatively harsh. For example, defamatory remarks about the king of Thailand can result in a jail sentence of three to 15 years.



Time for a Change

Name: Sean Carasov

Occupation: Freelance music supervisor


Desired occupation: Job in Thailand

Quote: “I recently spent some time in Thailand and fell in love with the people, their culture and their land. I feel a strong pull and so I’ve been putting some serious thought to moving to Bangkok of late. I . . . have no qualms whatsoever about leaving everything behind and everyone behind for a fresh start.”

Meet the coach: Ron Krannich is a Virginia-based career consultant, speaker, writer and the founder of Impact Publications, which specializes in career and travel titles. With his wife, Caryl, he is the author of 27 career books and 11 travel books.



Opportunities Abroad

Thinking about working abroad but not sure what to expect? Considering a teaching career overseas but uncertain about the credentials you’ll need? Here are some resources to help you. Note that many are geared toward educators.

Placement Services for Teachers

* International Educators Cooperative Inc., Falmouth, Mass. (508) 540-8173


* International Schools Services, Princeton, N.J. Places more than 500 teachers and administrators in schools throughout the world. Also offers the ISS Directory of Overseas Schools. (609) 452-0990.

* Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Alexandria, Va. Has 23,000 members. (703) 836-0774

* University of Northern Iowa Overseas Placement Service for Educators, Cedar Falls, Iowa. Holds annual job fair attended by representatives from more than 140 overseas schools. (319) 273-2311.

Teacher Training Organizations


* International House--Teacher Training USA, Santa Monica. Associated with International House in London. (310) 394-8618

* St. Giles Language Teaching Center, San Francisco. Offers four-week Royal Society of Arts/University of Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) course. (415) 788-3552.