You’ve run out of ideas for warm up activities and you no longer get excited by 24-hour combinis. JTE small talk still isn’t getting any easier and, worryingly, you’re actually starting to like melonpan. Despite Japan feeling like a second home, you’re edging towards the dramatic conclusion that is “Stage 4.” It’s time to awkwardly decline that offer to recontract because, if you’re honest with yourself, you know it’s time to move on. Only one issue remains: what next?
Let’s face it, being an ALT is great. Short working hours, generous pay, and the chance to work with enthusiastic and motivated kids. While a lot of JETs sign up for the chance to live and work in Japan without any real interest in teaching, the job definitely fires up the inner teacher in a lot of us. Is teaching in your home country just as rosy?
Before taking the plunge and becoming a real teacher, remember that, even as a busy ALT, the burden of tasks such as planning, assessment and discipline isn’t yours. Sure, you probably help out, but the responsibility is someone else’s. When you jump on your mamachari at 4:01 each afternoon, your JTE is replacing another ink cartridge in his red pen and wondering why little Chisato still hasn’t figured out plurals.
Teaching is a lot of work. Definitely speak to teachers in your country (as well as your JTEs) when deciding whether it’s for you.
Speaking Japanese is impressive. It’s one of those languages where even knowing how to say “hello” brings about gasps and requests to “say something.” Why not make a living out of “saying something?”
If you’re fluent enough to hold a conversation about something other than how many beers you want, you’ve got a couple of choices. If you’re still in love with Japan but teaching is definitely not for you, try picking up a job without leaving the country. Large companies are increasingly looking for English speaking staff, especially if you’re able to translate accurately.
Even without being fluent, a lot of ex-JETs are employed as recruiters or in other commission-based jobs in the major cities. I think every recruitment company in Tokyo made an appearance at the JET Returners Conference when I was there. They can’t get enough of us.
Still want to go home? Japanese looks fantastic on the CV if you’re applying for a job with a Japanese company, even if the job has nothing to do with language. Flaunt it!
How many times have you heard the word “internationalization” during your time on JET? Perhaps CLAIR is on to something here. The JET staff at embassies are usually made up of former JETs so this can be a great way to get your foot in the door. It can also be a stepping stone into diplomacy or public relations.
If you really can’t leave Japan behind, you don’t have to. A surprising number of enterprising ex-JETs go on to set up businesses with passions picked up in Japan. I’ve just launched an online business selling sushi making kits in Australia. I’d barely eaten sushi before JET and I taught myself web design by putting together this very site.
Other JETs have gone on to work with international exchange students at universities. I know another who developed an app to help Japanese people trying to learn English. Find a connection between Japan and whatever degree or career you had before JET and you’ll be laughing all the way to the interview.
If you’ve made it this far and still don’t have an idea, perhaps it’s time to head back to your supervisor and beg to stay another year. It might not be too late!Guides, JET Life