Apparently the US interview notification came out yesterday, and I thought I’d give those of you who didn’t make it past the interview stage this year some words of wisdom or encouragement or at least condolences.
I minored in Japanese and first learned about the JET Program in my sophomore year. I was an art major with no cash and a very strict curriculum, so JET seemed like a great alternative to taking out loans for study abroad and pushing my graduation back at least a semester. Also my Japanese professor expected all of us Japanese minors to apply. Okay, “expected” is a strong word, more like strongly encouraged us to apply, and would purse her lips in slight disappointment if you talked about going to grad school, or even worse, just going straight into a non-Japanese related career.
At the end of November, I sent in my application for the JET Program along with several of my classmates. As I stated in my first post, I thought I was a shoe-in. Well, at least everyone else talked to me like I was a shoe-in. I’m far too critical of myself to assume I’m a shoe-in for anything, which might have been the problem. Anyway, I was reasonably confident that I would easily make it to the interview stage. December and the holidays came and went, and finally it was late January. Several of my classmates received their notifications that they would be interviewed, but my email inbox was empty despite me refreshing the page every 2 minutes.
A couple days later I was sitting at work when an email from JET arrived. Finally, I thought to myself as I clicked to open it. But instead of a “congratulations” I read this sentence:
Unfortunately, we cannot offer you an interview for this year’s program.
Rejection in general sucks, but there was something especially stinging about being rejected for the interview. On the one hand, JET’s just another job, but on the other hand the application is so lengthy and the wait to hear on an interview is so long it’s hard not to get invested emotionally. Plus the fact that I knew several other applicants and that most of them were granted interviews made me feel even more dejected. And what’s perhaps the worst thing of all is JET doesn’t tell the rejected applicants what exactly they did wrong, so I was left wonder what exactly it was that earned me a “no interview” stamp.
So to those of you rejected for an interview: I was there, and I know it sucks. I was bummed out for a while and nothing made me feel better about it. Since I can’t magically change your results, I probably can’t make you feel better, but here are a few of the “upsides” of being rejected for an interview.
1. No more waiting: Hey, at least it’s over and done for you. People granted interviews have another 2 months+ of waiting, and if they’re unfortunate enough to get “alternate” status, they have to wait even longer. If you’re in school, you have plenty of time to get your post-graduation plans lined up.
2. JET’s interview selection is random as hell: I’m pretty sure monkeys and those little balls they use for Bingo are involved. But seriously, part of that “JET Mystique” to keep the guidelines vague and pretty much keep mum about the selection process. Supposedly there’s a points system, but that doesn’t explain how every year licensed TESL teachers are turned down in favor of people who have never taught before and don’t know 2 words of Japanese. What I’m trying to say is don’t take it personally, they didn’t reject you, just a piece of paper.
3. You can focus on a real job/career: JET’s not a career, and while some JET’s have many responsibilities, a lot of them are pretty much human tape recorders and spend a good portion of their day at their desks trying not to pass out in front of kocho-sensei. I’m enjoying myself here, but I’m not sure how I’m going to handle eventually going home and trying to break back into the field I studied in school.
4. You don’t have to deal with the roulette wheel that is JET: JET’s unofficial motto is “ESID” (every situation is different); you might get subsidized housing, or you might be paying a couple grand in key money when you arrive. You might get a nice, understanding supervisor, or you might get someone who watches and scrutinizes your every move. You might be based at one or two schools and have the opportunity to get to know your students and fellow teachers, or you might have so many schools that you barely get to know anyone’s name. When you’re out there focusing on a real career (as per #3) you can be grateful that you have a little more control over your situation, not locked in a year long commitment thousands of miles from home.
5. JETs not the only way to get to Japan: You’ll probably have to pay your own way to Japan, but there are several companies out there that hire overseas and pay you a salary comparable to JET. Usually the application process for these companies is much shorter, and if the Japanese inaka (countryside) doesn’t really appeal to you, these companies are more likely to give you a position in an urban setting.
6. There’s always next year: If you decided to apply again in the fall, you have a leg up since you’ve already been through this. Try to get some tutoring and cultural experience to add to your application in the mean time, and make sure to tick the box that asks if you’ve ever applied for the JET Program before. It supposedly shows you are persistent and are serious about the program (hey, worked for me!).