Thursday, February 24, 2011

Conference for Returning JETs, 2011: Information you can use!

There really was a wealth of information disseminated at the Conference. Although it was geared towards soon-to-be JET alumns, there was a lot of information that is just generally useful to anyone seeking a job or applying for graduate school, especially for those who have lived or worked abroad. I may follow up this post in the future with more tips, but for now I'm just going to share some notes and takeaways.


It may be a dirty word in some circles, but it's the reality of things. If you're a former JET, you may already have used some connections to strengthen your application. I know I did. While JET has a great network of alumni, there are also many other sources to be tapped. If you went to a prominent high school, there's one source. If you're interest in a job at X Corp, call up your school's office of Alumni Affairs and inquire if there are any grads working at X Corp. You can also try asking your university for alumni-related connections if you're a college grad.

If you're interested in Japan, there are usually Japan-related societies and organizations in metropolitan areas. Live near D.C.? Check out the Japan-America Society of Washing D.C. If you're interested in a specific industry, consider joining a chamber of commerce. There are a lot of organizations out there that hold periodic professional or social events that can be used to meet people and network.

Cast a wide net

Don't just apply for one thing at a time. For one thing, having more than one offer puts you in a good position when it comes time to discuss salary and benefits. There are tons of Japanese firms out there that may be willing to hire you if you've got ambition and interest. Some places to look for opportunities: JETRO, government agencies like the State Department, and Japanese trading companies like Marubeni, Mitsubishi, Sojitz, and Mitsui. I learned that trading companies aren't what they sound like. They engage in a broad range of business and research, from importing and exporting to investment to technological development. I'm framing this in the context of Japan-related employment/study, but it can apply to just about any field of interest. And if you're unsure if you want to work or study some more, apply to companies and to grad schools. It's a lot off work, but you're unemployed, so you have the time. Plus you can honestly tell potential employers about your job search, which will show you're active and ambitious.

Do something

Whether it be volunteering, working part time, taking classes, or running a small business on Ebay, do something productive that you can talk about in a positive way. Improve yourself and build your personal brand equity, to borrow a  phrase.

Positivity and selling yourself

Don't confuse "selling yourself" with "selling your body." That doesn't play so well on resumes. One simple fact is that people with confidence can inspire others to have confidence in them. Now I'm not talking about arrogance or empty, meaningless cockiness. But know your own value and the value of your experiences. Many people don't realize that potential employers are often looking for traits that many people can demonstrate if they have the wit to realize what they possess. For example, some JETs may wonder "How do I justify to employers that I want to work as an engineer, but I spent the last 3 years in Japan teaching English?"

Well, you adapted to a foreign culture (adaptability). Perhaps you learned some Japanese (ability to learn). Probably being the only foreigner at your school, you worked in a challenging and potentially stressful work environment (perseverance). You taught (communication, ability to speak in front of groups)!

Working as an ALT is just one example. Really think about what you've done and try to pick out how you've developed your skills and what you've learned.


Beyond that, do your best to be positive and patient. If you're just returning from living in another country, you'll probably have to readapt to life at home and may deal with reverse culture shock (an actual thing). While you may want to take some time to process, also keep in mind that keeping busy can relieve stress to some degree and make you feel more productive.

No comments:

Post a Comment