[I’m not on the hiring or interview committee for JET. The following is just conjecture from my experience and what I’ve observed and the people I’ve met on the JET Program.]
You don’t need much experience for JET. Many hires are right out of college and have no more experience than their degree. Many have no prior teaching experience nor any intention to continue teaching when finished with JET.
But you still need something. Some kind of experience to make you stand out from all the other candidates.
After listing mostly technical requirements, the 2016 JET Program Application Guidelines for U.S. Citizens also includes the following:
. . . ALT applicants must:
(15) Be interested in the Japanese education system, particularly foreign language education in Japan.
(16) Be interested in working with children.
(17) Be qualified as a language teacher or be strongly motivated to take part in the teaching of foreign languages.
* The following are not part of the Eligibility Criteria, however, additional consideration will be given to applicants who:
Have language teaching experience or qualifications.
Have teaching experience or qualifications.
Have a high level of Japanese language ability
So there is no strict experience requirement, just requirements of interest and motivation (which can be demonstrated without experience). Experience is just a bonus. But having no exp. points whatsoever is not going to make you stand out from the competition.
If you do have teaching experience – for any age group – that’s a big plus. But it can also just be experience working with children or youth. Or maybe you’re an English major. (That, at least, shows you know the language you’ll be teaching.)
Maybe you don’t have any teaching, but you have prior interest or experience with Japan. You know some Japanese, you studied abroad here, or you’ve worked with Japanese organizations in your community.
It doesn’t even have to be Japan. Maybe you have a lot of experience traveling or living abroad, or working with other cultures.
Your experience doesn’t need to be any one of these things. Maybe your unique experience and background doesn’t fit any of these categories at all. On the other hand you might have all these experiences and still not be selected.
The interview and hiring committee are not so much interested in the experience you already have as the experiences you have the potential to have while in Japan. They’re looking for character traits:
Are you adaptable, responsible, capable of representing your culture well, and capable of learning from Japanese culture? They want to see evidence for this in your past experience, whatever that may be.
You just need to tailor your application and interview to show how your experience demonstrates dedicated interest and potential. A year is a long time, and a lot of resources go into hiring JETs. They realize they’re not, on the whole, hiring experienced teachers. But they do want to see evidence that you will be a good investment and a positive contribution to the program.
You don’t need much experience for JET, but you do need something.
James likes adventure, obscure films, and craft beer. He lives deep in the mountains of Yamanashi.