JET: Where Are They Now?
With re-contracting season behind us and the Tokyo post-JET Career Fair just around the corner, I cannot be alone in thinking: ‘What do people do after JET?’ So, I decided to get in touch with the Gumanians of JETs past and ask them just that.
Whether you decide to stay in Japan, return to your home country, or are looking for the next great adventure, keep an eye out for what your fellow JETs have been up to since they’ve been gone.
Takasaki City, ALT (2016-2018)
What made you come on JET, Frances?
As a Japanese-American growing up in Maryland, I was always curious about learning about ‘my roots’. To be able to live near my grandparents, practice Japanese, and put my teaching degree into practice was a huge motivation to do JET.
What was your experience like inside and outside of work?
The students and staff were so welcoming (I miss them so much). They gave me so many opportunities to join community events, practice violin, and learn how to play Taiko drums. JOMO Jet was also a highlight of my time on the JET program. We had an incredibly involved team and I had the opportunity to learn new skills such as event planning!
What do you do now?
Now, I work at an American international school in Bangkok as a 3rd grade teacher. I have 23 students, mostly Thai, that speak English as their second language. I teach Math, Science, Social Studies, ELA/Reading, and, of course, a bit of basic Japanese too.
How did you go about looking for this job after JET?
I already had my teaching certification in the USA from grades 1 to 6 before I came on JET so I used an international school recruitment company for certified teachers called ISS Schrole Advantage (https://iss-schrole.com/).
Takasaki City, ALT (2017-2018)
So, Andrew, before you came on JET, you used to teach in South Korea. Is that right?
That’s right. I was on Jeju island teaching kiddos, similar to the work I did on JET. It’s a beautiful island with some chill peeps.
What made you come on JET?
After a short visit to Japan for vacation, I thought it’d be a cool place to live, and JET appeared to be the most reputable way to go there.
Could you tell me a bit about the job you do now?
Actually, after JET, I taught in Toronto for a year but now I’m back in Asia. I work for a company called Wall Street English in Shenzhen where I teach VVIP* clients 1-on-1.
Amazing! Do you have any advice for people looking for jobs after JET?
Talk fondly about your JET experience during interviews. The skills that you acquire during your time of JET can help you in many fields.
* Writer’s Note: VVIP = Very Very Important Persons
Takasaki City, ALT (2011-2014), Maebashi, CIR (2014-2016)
Whereabouts were you placed when you were a JET?
I was originally placed in Takasaki as an ALT for three years, then I worked as the prefectural CIR for two.
What do you do now?
I am a psychotherapist at Tokyo English Lifeline’s clinic in the Minato Ward of Tokyo. I am pre-licensed; I just sat the exam for my license as a clinical psychologist and am awaiting the results!
Wow! How did a life on JET lead you to become a psychotherapist?
Actually, I decided to study psychology in Japan during my time as CIR. I encountered many JETs struggling with cultural adjustment, as well as pre-existing issues, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, etc. So, once I realized this was the path I wanted to pursue, I began researching and, by fate or coincidence, a program existed in Gunma. Moreover, the research of one of the professors was similar to my interest, so after visiting the school once, I decided to go for it. I pursued clinical psychology at Tokyo University of Social Welfare’s graduate school, located in Isesaki, when I finished my role as a CIR.
Do you have any advice for anyone who may be interested in studying at a local Japanese university?
For anyone interested in a similar path, I recommend passing the JLPT N1 exam first to ensure your Japanese language ability. Good luck!
Kuni Village, ALT (2014-2017), Kiryu City (2017-2019)
Tell me a bit about your journey before JET.
Well, I studied abroad in Kyoto. I was living with a host family for a year during my junior year of college and just fell in love with Japan. I couldn’t wait to come back, so I did as soon as I graduated. Actually, my second choice was Gunma – my senpai from college was originally a Takasaki JET!
What do you do now?
I am a sales representative for Xenoma: we make “e-skin” Smart Apparel Technology. We specialize in integrating sensors and devices onto clothing to make comfortable, washable, stretchable “ordinary” clothes with extraordinary functions. Last October, we released our e-skin MEVA Smart Motion Capture System, which uses no cameras or markers. All you have to do is wear the tights, connect to a PC, and you’re ready to go. We boast that it has the world’s fastest calibration time compared to traditional optical motion capture systems.
That’s interesting! How did you find that job?
After applying to dozens of other jobs – and not really finding any that felt like my ‘next right thing’ – I did an internship at a copper alloy company in Saitama that I found at the After-JET Career Fair. It was fun but I knew I wanted a little taste of Tokyo after 5 years in Gunma. I found my current job through Daijob.com.
What made you settle on this job?
I remember the posting being all in Japanese and mentioning ‘work trips abroad!’ in the title. I applied, heard back, had a Skype interview right after school (I was still wearing what I wore to play onigokko with my elementary kids early that day), and they hired me, literally, two days later. I accepted, all without ever actually visiting the company or meeting anyone there in person. I figured they were taking a chance on me so I would take a chance on them as well. I’ve gone to Las Vegas and Germany just in the last month for my job, so they weren’t kidding about the work trips!
Tamamura City, ALT (2016-2019)
How does it feel to be back in America, Devyn?
I actually spent three weeks or so travelling around Japan on a tourist visa once my contract ended (I totally recommend doing this. Take advantage of the JR Rail Pass!) Otherwise, post-JET life has been going pretty well, but the reverse culture shock is real!
Really. So, what have you been up to since you’ve been back?
I spent two months at my parents’ house in NJ, helping my mum recover from surgery. Then, I packed up my car and drove across the country to the Pacific North-West to live with my best friend!
What are you doing there?
Currently, I’m teaching in a Montessori school in a class of very small kiddos (18 months to 4 years old) and tutoring writing on the weekends. Going from teaching at a JHS to preschool-age was a bit jarring, but I feel like I’m getting into the swing of things now. Teaching is my passion, so I’m glad that I was able to find a job so soon after moving out to my new location, as I didn’t have much of a plan besides, ‘Move to Kirkland, WA’. Once I settle in a bit more, I’m planning to get involved in more volunteer projects, like Habitat for Humanity, in my new community.
You’ve been looking into more volunteering?
Yes! I’ve been really lucky to make some connections within the PNWJET Alumni Association, and was recently elected to the committee as Social Representative (along with another former Gunma JET, no less)! JETs really are everywhere, and I’d encourage everyone who is planning to move back to their home country or even a different country to get out to nearby alumni events if possible, especially if you’re relocating to an unfamiliar place. It helps to have a network of people with shared experiences to talk things out with.
Takasaki, ALT (2016-2019)
When did you start your Tokyo job search?
At the beginning of my final year of JET.
Where did you start?
I applied and interviewed for a couple jobs related to CLAIR that I learned about through my involvement in prefectural-level activities. I also went to the Tokyo and Gunma career fairs.
Was it because of the after-JET career fairs that you found your job?
No. Actually, I found my job by reaching out to people from my university who were already working in Tokyo, and was recommended for my current job via them. Utilizing all of my networks was very helpful to my search. I had also passed JLPT N2 the year before, which was perfect as I planned to use Japanese in my career.
What was the job interviewing process like?
After submitting resumes and cover letters to a few jobs I was interested in, I was chosen to interview with my current company via Skype in early spring and in-person in late spring. I had been offered the job by early summer.
So, what is your role, specifically?
I currently work for a small PR consulting firm in Tokyo that’s owned by one of Japan’s biggest marketing/PR firms. We have some pretty big clients – both Japanese and global companies – and it’s great because it keeps me on my toes. We do research, advise clients, write releases, plan events, liaise with media, localize documents, and more in both Japanese and English. I researched a ton of jobs for months trying to find a place that was the best fit for me, which was stressful, but it ultimately led me to my current company where I am very happy–I plan to stay for a while!
Isesaki City, ALT (2017-2019)
What brought you to Japan?
Prior to JET, my only experience in Japan was just six days in Tokyo. I knew there was more to Japan than a bustling metropolis and my decision to move there was based on a desire to learn more about Japanese society. The JET Programme proved to be a great way for me to dive in head-first and experience another part of the world.
What experiences on JET did you take forward to your post-Japan life?
While teaching English was very fulfilling, it was my work outside the classroom which I truly enjoyed. Living in Japan allowed me to harness my passion for creativity and storytelling. Japan’s beautiful aesthetic proved to be the best backdrop for developing a passion for photography; it seemed that even the most mundane streets had a photogenic allure. And I can’t forget to mention my time as GAJET Editor. It gave me the chance to help write and compile articles which highlighted Gunma’s best features!
What do you do now?
Now, back in Canada, I’m working as a Content Developer for a government-funded program. Similar to my role as GAJET Editor, my work consists of writing blog pieces, posting on social media, and developing a variety of online content. I would say it’s all thanks to the skills I developed in Japan that I was able to work in such a creative environment today.
Takasaki City, ALT (2017-2018)
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Jeef Chandra and I am a former Takasaki JET from Toronto, Canada. I am currently a law student at the University of Washington in Seattle.
What made you decide to leave JET after only one year?
After getting an offer to study at UW Law, I had to really think about whether I wanted to continue on JET. Ultimately, I decided to leave for school. My decision was tough: life in Gunma was nothing short of perfect. But, I also wanted to develop my skill set and become someone who could affect systemic change. That is why I chose to go back to school.
That’s amazing. What made you decide to come to Japan in the first place?
Japan had always been a place I wanted to return to after studying abroad in Tokyo during my undergrad; I minored in East Asian Studies with a focus on Japanese history and culture. In my last year of university, my Japanese professor suggested I apply to JET. I didn’t know what to expect when I first landed, but the year went by in a flash. I made some great friends and learned a lot about myself. I miss my students and everyone I left behind. I’ll be back, as soon as I finish law school!
Takasaki City, ALT (2017-2019)
What made you decide to move to Japan, Ollie?
When I was in my 2nd year of uni, I went on a three week trip to Japan during the summer holidays. Despite the constant sweat, I returned to the UK wanting to see so much more of Japan than I did in three weeks. I applied for JET and came back a year later.
How did you go about looking for a job when you left?
A few months before I left Japan, a friend of mine, who was also on JET and left a year earlier, messaged me and told me she was coming back to Japan for work. She’d found a job at a travel company that sent all new employees on a month-long trip around their specialist country! She told me that they were hiring, so I applied from Japan. I had my first video interview, and then organised a real interview for a few days after I’d landed. The next day, I had the job!
How does your new job relate to JET?
The job is essentially a sales job, but selling tailor-made holidays to Japan. I spend my days designing trips around Japan for my clients, which means I get to use all the stuff I learned in my two years there every day: organisation, public speaking skills, and thinking on your feet! There are actually quite a few ex-JETs in my team too. I’d really recommend it as a post-JET job if you haven’t been Japan-ed out by the end of it!
Our time spent on JET not only connects us to Japan, but also connects us to each other. JET has a vast and ever-growing Alumni that spans across the globe – their post-JET journeys can inspire us to take our own next steps into the world. Reach out, as I have, to your fellow ALTs, CIRs, and AJET communities, and ask questions. We, at GAJET, wish you the best of luck on the journey ahead. A massive thank you to our past Gunma ALTs for helping us write this article. For job opportunities available in Japan and abroad, check out the links below:
Cover image credit: Kelsey Knight on Unsplash