JET Program Primer

First, here’s a handy list of the JET related posts on this blog:
Tips for the JET App, Part 1: Getting it together and Placement Requests
Tips for the JET App, Part 2: Int’l Experience, Statement of Purpose, and Relaxing
Brushing Up That Statement of Purpose
My Interview Experience
A word to those rejected after the application stage
Some quick advice for those who get into JET
Being an alternate for JET
Tips for packing to go to Japan for a year (or more)
Things to Know About JET and Japan what the handbook leaves out
Getting ready to leave the JET Program

*Please feel free to ask questions on the above posts

How did you get involved in JET:
In college, I took Japanese, which is where I first learned about the JET program. Like many applicants, I sent all my carefully collected forms and letters the fall of my senior year, and waited to learn when my interview would be.

One problem, I didn’t get an interview. I reacted like any grown adult would: I cried and bitched and proceeded to form an extremely bitter view of the JET Program. But when the next year’s application came online, I got over the bitterness and applied again. I made it to the interview round…

Then I was made an alternate. The depression and bitterness set in again and my friends and family could probably attest to me not being a pleasant person to be around for about 10 weeks. Finally in mid-June, I got the call that I was upgraded and would be going to Japan at the end of July. This later became August, but either way, I finally made it.

So how was JET?
Well, it’s said “good things come to those who wait” and I really don’t know how my placement could have been any better. My town, my BOE, my schools, my fellow ALTs, they were all great.

But now JET is harder to get into
It’s true, more people are applying, more JETs are staying longer, and many placements are going to ALTs from private companies (including my placement). There has been some talk of cutting JET altogether. That’s kind of a radical idea and so it probably won’t happen, but JET is possibly facing big changes in the next few years.

So what’s your advice for getting into JET?
JET selection is a mystery. I applied twice, and then came to Japan and met dozens, maybe even hundreds of JETs, and I still can’t really put my finger on what exactly JET looks for in a participant.

On the app, they ask for teaching, international, and Japan-related studies. I would say of these three, “international experience” is the most important to have. This shows you’re open-minded and adaptable (in other words, you’re low risk for flipping out and disappearing at Christmas). Japanese experience is probably a close second. Teaching experience certainly doesn’t hurt, but it really isn’t vital (I met very few JETs that were licensed teachers back home).

I want to do JET but only if I’m placed in [Dokodoko]
I did a very scientific poll at ITIL one time, and the good news was nearly 25% said they were in their first choice placement, and altogether most people were placed in or near one of their 3 choices. Bad news was 15% said they were nowhere near any of their choices.

I could ramble on and list a bunch of tips on how you might be able to get your first choice placement, but in the end all I know is you might get your first choice, or you might be on the opposite side of the country from any of your choices, that’s just a risk you take. And you might just love that placement that’s so far from your choices (or hate the placement that in your first choice).

Remember, JET is all about the whole “grassroots internationalization” thing, so most placements are going to be semi urban and rural. Some big cities use JETs (Kobe is one) but the bigger the city the more likely they use a private ALT company.

I’m thinking about going with a private company, thoughts?
Some private companies are on the up-and-up, a lot of them are not. The ones that are not definitely take advantage of young people who just really want to come to Japan. They do a lot of questionable things to save money, like keep people on 6 month contracts (to avoid having to enroll them in the National Health Care) or reduce ALT pay in August and sometimes December or March (even though the school is probably paying the company the same amount) or deduct a whole day from an ALT’s salary if that ALT left an hour early due to illness.

Now I’m not trying to deter you from going with a private company. Plenty of people come over with private companies and have no problems at all. Just be aware of the problems that are out there, know your rights, and when interviewing if you get a weird vibe from a company, you probably shouldn’t go with them.

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