A continuation of my tips to JET applicants.
Tip 3, You have more international experience than you think: On the application, there’s several sections were you fill in your teaching, international/inter-cultural, and Japanese experience. Do you best to write down something, anything in these sections. You might have a lot of experience in one area, but writing down 10 things in the international experience section isn’t going to make up for writing nothing in teaching or Japanese experience sections.
The first time I applied, I had nothing in the “Teaching” section, but the second time I put down that I volunteered with ESL students (I only did it for a month) and was a lab monitor for three semesters (I determined that talking people through computer and printer trouble every time I monitored qualified as “tutoring”). It might have just been the thing that got me an interview that second time.
For those worried about lack of international experience, you can list pretty much any time you’ve stepped foot outside your country as international experience. If you’ve barely left your home town, try to think of anything cultural you’ve done. Did you host an exchange student? Take part in an international fair at your university or in your town? Attend French club regularly, or even semi-regularly? Write it all down.
Don’t worry if your “international experience” isn’t related to Japan at all. As I wrote in the JET FAQs, international experience is going to show you’re adaptable to different cultures, which is arguably the thing JET wants the most from a participant.
By the way, if you have some related event planned and it’s happening after the app due date but before the interview dates (like an int’l fair in December, or a trip abroad over the holidays) I’d go ahead and write it down since it will be applicable come interview time.
Tip 4, Statement of Purpose; Ask not what JET can do for you: All you really need to do in this 2-page double-spaced essay is talk about your experience and why you’ll make a good JET. Sounds easy in theory, but in practice this is probably the most stressful part of the application. And I did it twice. Here are some quick tips:
– Don’t talk about your love of Japanese pop culture: If you have some nice story about how you meet a Japanese exchange student who liked the same anime as you and that lead to a lasting friendship, put it in. Otherwise it’s best to just avoid mentioning Anime, Manga, Visual Kei, whatever. Some might say that if an anime is what got you genuinely interested in Japan, you can mention it, but the JET app reviewers already know Anime/Manga is most people’s first encounter with Japanese culture.
– Ditch the flowery language: This isn’t an Ivy League Dissertation, it’s an essay for a job where you’ll stand front of 14-year-olds and try to get them to pronounce “month” so it doesn’t sound like “mouse”. Your SoP should show you can communicate well, so keep your writing clear and concise.
– It’s about them, not you: Of course you should talk about your qualifications and what you hope to gain from being on JET, but don’t forget to talk about what you can do for them. When you’re done with your first draft, go through and see if you can’t eliminate a few I/Me/My’s. Also check the “what I’ll gain” verse “What JET will gain” balance. Do you have a whole paragraph about what you want to gain from JET but only one or two sentences about what you’ll do for JET? Try to even that out
– Get someone to proof-read it: This should go without saying (you should get someone to proof-read your whole application, actually). Get a couple opinions; I recommend you ask someone who doesn’t have anything to do with JET or Japan just so you can get an outside perspective. If you get two or more opinions, you’ll probably get conflicting advice, so that’s where your good judgement has to come in.
– (2nd time applicants) Don’t completely scrap last year’s SoP: If this is your 2nd or even 3rd time applying, you’ve already put a lot of work into an SoP, so why start from scratch? Dig out that old SoP and read through it. Cross out the weak parts and circle any passage, sentence or even just phrases you feel are still strong. See if you can’t incorporate that into your new essay. Of course re-reading your old SoP might just reaffirm you want to write a completely new essay, and that’s fine too.
Tip 5, Chillax: Hey, I was there (twice): reading and re-reading my application, revising my essay, triple checking that I had everything in the right order. Really what I needed to do was relax, take a break for a day or two from the app and do other things. You don’t get bonus points for sending in your application early, so take your time. Print out the check list and maybe have a friend go through the papers with you, making sure everything is there.
Once you send it in, it’s out of your hands. Don’t re-read your SoP because you’re likely to find a typo which will just cause you stress. Don’t second-guess your placement requests or the way you worded your international experience. Really, just try to forget about the whole thing until January.
And so ends my tips (for now). As I said before, I don’t mind answering any questions, so please comment.