I came across an article on Tofugu about the pros and cons of joining the JET program and wanted to complement that with a small outline and guide to the application process.
For those that don’t know, the JET Program is an organization for people to teach English in Japan. The first year I applied, I made it to the interview and ended up on a waiting list, but didn’t get a placement. The second year I applied, passed, and was placed in a high school in Japan where I worked as an ALT for 5 years. I gained valuable experience and wanted to share some tips with people who are considering JET.
There is a lot of paperwork involved when doing the original application. My advice is to start as soon as possible and try to get all the papers you need. The key is to start early and do a little bit each week or whenever you can.
Another thing you need to do is be ORGANIZED. I can tell you right now that many people that apply for the JET program don’t pass the first part of the application process due to not having all their papers sorted correctly. The JET Program application is a monster and requires you to keep track of what papers go together.
Your essay will be a big factor in whether you secure an interview or not, so take your time and really state what abilities and strengths you have that can make you an excellent Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan. Keep in mind that if you pass the interview and are offered a position, your essay is sent to your employer where your supervisor(s) and others can read it, so be careful what you write!
The other factor is your recommendation letters. If you can get a university professor or a top person from an education facility to write you a recommendation letter, that will carry more weight than one from a non-education field. Be sure to also have the person state in their letters what would make you a great candidate to teach English to students in Japan.
If all goes well, you will hear from the JET Program about a scheduled interview. Mine was many hours away, so I ended up having to stay in a hotel the night before so I could wake up and get there on time. The interview consists of you sitting before a panel of three people. Usually, two are Japanese and the other is a former JET member.
APPEARANCE AND BEHAVIOR
Go to the interview dressed professionally. If you’re not sure what is professional, consult a business attire guide. Now is not the time to express yourself by wearing inappropriate attire.
Try to project a friendly and positive image to the people interviewing you. Remember, the panel is evaluating how you will seem to a class of Japanese students (as well as Japanese co-workers).
Note: If you are shy, make more of an effort to smile! Walk over and shake the people’s hands before sitting down, show them that you are comfortable taking the initiative (even if you’re terrified!).
For people that like Japanese entertainment:
Do not make the conversation about your passion for anime, J-Pop, Japanese comics, etc. It’s okay to mention it briefly if you are asked how you became interested in Japan, but don’t talk about it too much. The topic is you and your experiences that can be of use teaching English, not your favorite show, comic, or music.
The panel will ask you questions regarding your experiences and information you put down on your application, so know it well and be ready to elaborate on anything they ask about it.
If someone comments on your lack of teaching experience, be ready to counter that with situations where you have taught people. You can also try to steer the conversation towards what strengths you have that can help you as a teacher.
When answering questions, it will be natural to want to talk to the person that asked you the question. However, there are two other people listening to you too, so don’t forget to look at their faces while you’re answering!
The panel will most likely give you a scenario and ask how you would react in certain environments and situations. For example, if a Japanese English teacher makes a mistake or writes incorrect English on the chalkboard in front of students, what would you do? What if a student keeps talking while you’re teaching a class? Be ready to say what you would do in those situations.
If all goes well, the panel will thank you for your time and you should hear back from the JET Program a few months later whether you got the position or not.
I hope this small guide and overview of the JET Program application process was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!