How to work in Japan by applying to the JET programme.

Jet programme sign from DanceL99's flickr blogger

The JET programme is a way to work as a teacher in Japan. You need a degree – it doesn’t matter in what, it also doesn’t matter what level. I know a person currently teaching on the programme who has a third in computer science. It’s also quite common if you’re applying to the JET program from University to apply before your degree is actually confirmed.

That’s all - you don’t to speak Japanese, you don’t need to know anything about teaching. You do need to be reasonably young. You may not be allowed on the program if you’re over 40. You can however come on the program with dependants such as a children or a husband / wife. You will be given an extremely liveable salary and assigned to one or more schools. Working hours tend to be from 8:30 to 4:15 and you may also have days off during the week (if you’re extremely lucky).

That’s enough on the details of the program, let’s get to the main points – how to apply for the Jet program, how to get on the JET program. Applying is pretty easy go to this webpage, download and fill in the form, then send it off at the correct time.

Japanese grave marker - I think from ark's flickr stream
Next you need to know what they’re looking for in a candidate. They don’t just want an English teacher – they’re also looking for some one to represent their country in Japan. Japan is quite a closed country – the people who live here tend to be Japanese and Japanese only. It’s quite unusual for a Japanese person to see a person who isn’t Japanese in the flesh. If you have dark brown skin it’s even more exciting for them. They want people who seem extroverted and enthusiastic. They want Japan to be introduced to foreign cultures. At the same time they don’t want to invite over some who is going to cause trouble – criminals for instance. Japan’s laws on marijuana are very strict. Each year some JET’s go to jail – these are the JETs they’d prefer to stop hiring.

Street picture from  Gabu-chan's stream
My nearest neighbour on the JET program, when he arrived in Japan his predecessor was in jail. He had been growing marijuana in his room! Don’t do this. If you feel you can’t go a year with out weed you’re probably best not applying. Getting caught with this drug in japan – at the very least - you’ll be banned at worst you’ll spend some time in a foreign jail. Of course harder drugs will cause you even more grief.

If you’ve studied Japanese at a university level then you are a shoe in for the JET programme. Provided in the interview you don’t tell them how you like to kill people – you’ll be accepted. Optionally you could apply for a CIR position – here you would work in a Japanese office, this requires a very high level of Japanese though, so be warned.

They’re also looking for diversity. I believe they’d rather not send a 100 anime-loving otaku types to Japan. If you live in America and once worked as a cowboy – they will probably love you. Try to think what you have to offer that’s unique and useful when representing your country abroad. Did you study history if so that’s excellent- make sure you stress how useful it will be.

On the teaching side – teaching experience is good but by no means necessary. Try and give concrete examples of how you have worked with kids and teenagers in the past. The most important thing is enthusiasm and that you seem to be outgoing. You should try not to seem cold, reserved or prudish – they’re after a sense of fun.
A traditional style Japanese style building. From MShades flickr stream.

Now you have a generally idea of what type of person they’re looking for. The next step is to pass the various steps.

There are two main steps once you are eligible. The first is a written essay that you must send in. The second is an interview and test at your nearest Japanese embassy.

How to write a good JET essay
How to pass the JET test and interview

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