It is October again and that means the JET applications for next year are being released in various countries. Arguably the best company for recruiting individuals to teach English in Japan, the JET Programme application is notorious for its intensity and attention to detail (even down to having it stapled or paperclipped BECAUSE IT MATTERS). With that, here is a handy dandy guide on the entire process.
Before I even start the application process, allow me to drop a bit of information on what positions you could apply for. There are two major positions that JET offers: ALT and CIR. ALT stands for Assistant Language Teacher and that is exactly what it sounds like. You are the English language representative and you bring in your cultural background and expertise in the English language (just being a native speaker makes you an expert) to Japanese classrooms. ALTs vary in responsibilities (ranging from a worksheet factory to a full blown teacher) so it really depends on the schools. You do not need to know Japanese to apply for this position. The other position is a CIR. CIR stands for Coordinator for International Relations. In this position, you need to be relatively fluent in Japanese (about an N3 level on the JLPT). This job ranges from translating documents to interpreting for visitors in your prefecture. CIRs rarely set foot in a classroom, let alone teach in it. They are more the connection between Japan and other countries and help bridge that gap.
Long story short: if you like teaching or working with students or kids, apply as an ALT. If you would rather not and your Japanese ability is decent enough, apply as a CIR. It is possible to change from an ALT to a CIR if a position opens up in your prefecture (there are a limited amount of spots for CIRs as opposed to ALTs). Also, if you apply for the CIR position, there is an option on the application to tick if you would also like to be considered for an ALT position. Lucky you!
Step one: the paper application. Now, the paper application is a billion pages long so expect to slaughter a few trees to make this thing. Because there are a lot of things to worry about, stay organized and on top of things. The application will ask you things like school transcripts, letters of recommendation, self-assessment medical form, FBI criminal history, statement of purpose, etc. Make a list of things you need to do, even the little things like making copies of documents or buying an envelope. You’d be surprised how many little things you forget and when the deadline comes up, you don’t want to be left running around trying to get what you need. With that, do them ASAP. The process of retrieving some of this information may take a lot longer than you think. Do not wait until the last minute to get some of these documents because there is nothing worse than waiting on someone else for something you have a deadline for.
Some pieces of advice:
- Start early in gathering your transcripts, especially if you transferred or attended a different university for a bit. It may take a while for your transcripts to get to you if you went to multiple schools like I did (one of which being on the other side of the state). I was panicking a little bit last minute because of what transcript to get and what information it had to have on it, especially if you studied abroad. This will ease your mind in the long run and again, it is really general advice on life to start early on things and don’t procrastinate.
- Be prepared to spend some money on this application. That includes printing costs and transcript costs. Small prices to pay for a chance at being accepted. But save those receipts. You might be able to claim it as work related expenses.
- When filling out your preferences, keep in mind the most popular places. People often put Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, or Nagoya as a preference, but these places are highly populated with foreigners to begin with so the chances of getting placed there are slim. It can happen, but don’t give your hopes up. Instead, I would suggest somewhere relatively close by so you could just take a train to those places.
The paper application will also call for a Statement of Purpose. If you have never written one before, this is basically two pieces of paper that describes why you would be a great candidate for the JET Programme. Present yourself with confidence but not narcissism. Talk about what experiences you have or skills you possess that would make you a great ALT or CIR. If you have past teaching experience, talk about that. If you have been to Japan before or even studied there, talk about that experience. Japanese culture is different from other non-English speaking countries so pinpointing why Japan will help (because trust me, this will come up A LOT in conversation and in the interview too). Once you have it written, I would suggest showing it to a teacher or professional, someone who knows what a purpose statement is supposed to look like for advice and tips. You want it to be as perfect as possible. This is you in a document.
The JET Programme (and Japan in general) is very particular with their paperwork and getting it in on time, so if you are late, you can kiss that interview goodbye. Send all your things early and get tracking information for them. It needs to be on the desk of wherever you need to send it by the deadline, NOT postmarked and sent on that date (at least that was how it was in the states). The idea is you could have done it sooner, you could have sent it sooner, and you knew the deadline. So there really is no excuse why the application should be late and that is a fact. Yes, it will cost you a fair bit of money printing and sending things, but if you are serious about getting this gig, you gotta do what you gotta do. The deadlines vary from country to country so check your home country’s deadline for the application. It is usually around late November to early December.
Once you send in the application, you wait a little bit and soon you will receive a piece of paper in the mail with your name and your application ID number. Remember this number for it will tell you if you got an interview or not. Then all you can do now…is wait. You will not know if you got an interview until around January, so that is about one to two months of waiting. Luckily it is around the holidays so you will be plenty busy. Try not to think about it too much and always have a backup plan.
Almost anyone could apply for the JET Programme, regardless of background or experiences. For frequently asked questions regarding qualifications, check out the Am I Qualified to be a JET? article.
Lucy found herself in the 47th most desired prefecture in Japan (out of 47) with nothing but a desire for adventure and a pocket full of dreams. Now, she prepares for the next phase in her life while soaking in as much of Japan as possible, armed with an empty SD card and an even emptier stomach.