July this year, I began a new life adventure. I took on a challenge to explore a new career in the educational sector. Not only that, but I also moved to a place where I have always wanted to live in. It was a really scary experience for me because I had been in my previous job for over 5 years. I definitely learnt and travelled a lot for my job; however, there was nothing for me in that job (nor in Oz if I am being honest) unfortunately and I needed a change. So, I applied for the JET Programme 2015. Literally killing two birds with one stone if you ask me!
As I am writing this post, I am sitting in my apartment in Saitama, Japan where I have been assigned to for me a placement. The process of getting into the programme was a crazy nightmare with a rainbow at the end. I say crazy nightmare because the application involved you putting together a fair bit of details about yourself such as your academic history, employment history, requesting reference letters, medical history with some specific tests needed to be made, a police check and also an essay for the statement of purpose. Because you are gathering so much information for one single application, you may find that you become rather paranoid and perform at least 2 checks each time you look at the application to ensure you truly have everything. I know I found myself opening and closing the envelope multiple times before officially sending it off to the consulate as I was scared I had left something out. No one will tell you that you have missed anything. It also clearly statements on the application that should you fail to provide any material requested, your application will, by default, be no longer considered. No joke!
Having gone through the process recently, I wanted to sit down and share my experience of getting into the JET programme. I will not write much about the statement purpose in this entry and will share more in another entry as it was a whole experience on its own. For those who are interested in doing so in the future, this may be helpful or simply an overload of information given so many other folks have written about their experiences in their blogs as well. But I do want to emphasize that everyone’s situation is different (ESID). I am not writing this to scare anyone off at all. Here goes!
For me, the JET programme application process went well over 6 months. To be more exact, it started from September 2014 to June 2015. Here is a general outline based on my experience.
August – September Downloaded the application, started to figure out what I needed such as
my statement of purpose, applying for a police check and making doctors
appointments for varies checks required for the application.
October Had a draft for my statement of purpose and reviewed it millions of
November Submitting my application late November to Canberra.
December Went on a holiday – I simply could not handy the stress of waiting plus I needed
a break from work
January Returned from my holiday on January 5th and got a letter about getting passed to
the interview stage. WOHOOO!
February Had my interview on the 13th.
March Received notification by email on the 30th that I was short-listed to get considered for placement on the JET programme. OMG!!
April – May During this time, I had a number of forms to fill out and return it back to the consulate. There were a few correspondence emails about certain dinners which were great. A Facebook page was created from another successful JET which was great to connect with everyone else.
July Had a number of workshops at the Brisbane consulate that covered the important Q&A session, Lesson planning, Japanese Language and Japanese Culture. We also had a reception two days before the Brisbane JETs flew out to Tokyo for our new adventure. Landed in Tokyo on July 26th.
I was one of the many members of the Brisbane JETs who got through for 2015 and we were also group A. Having said that, there was a group B JETs who arrived a week or so after us. I cannot say anything about the alternative folks as its still early in the year. But godspeed to anyone who gets selected as an alternative. My impression is its pretty much a waiting game until you get notified.
The interview was a nerve-wracking experience for me. It had been a while since I had an interview and was very out of practice. Hence, as part of my research, I looked for any blogs that talked about the interview experience and potentially what questions were asked. Indeed I found blogs. Some of them helpful and others not so much. However, having now done the interview, one advise I want to give future applicants is you should not read too much into the questions that other people had been asked about. You may find yourself trying to prepare for way too much than you need and overkilling it. That was my case. So, tip 1: Do not overkill yourself by trying to cover as many questions as possible.
I was lucky where I spoke to two previous JETs or JET alumni. One folk I spoke to has been on the programme for 5 years and the other 3. Both very unique and amazing at so many levels. Speaking to them made me keener on the programme as I was approaching the date to apply. I asked them individually about what questions they got asked during the interview (which is typically normal). Their answers were not only different from each other but also different from what I had read from the various blogs I found. Hence tip 2: Do not expect the same interview experience to what others have described to you.
Having a starting point or base questions will definitely help you prepare your mindset. What you want to achieve is to be able to present or deliver your message clearly and effectively to the interview panel. Oh yes, the interview is conducted in panel form. I had three members on the panel – two ex-JETs and one Japanese male who I believe worked at the consulate. I had been working with a career counsellor at the time so I asked her for advice on what questions I should focus on.
Here were some of the questions she put together:
- Tell me about yourself (motivation/skills)
- Tell me about a situation where you experience cultural shock (conflict)
- Tell me about a situation where you had experienced conflict at your workplace (conflict)
- What can you bring to the JET programme? (motivation/skills)
- Why do you want to join the JET programme? (motivation)
Aside from her coaching, I also took the initiative to study some questions such as the following:
- How do you think you can contribute to the JET program
- You mentioned in your statement of purpose you are intrigued by Japanese culture. What sort of culture do you know and like about Japan?
- If you were not placed at your requested placement location, how would you feel about that?
- Why did you choose the following places for your placement?
- Why do you want to apply for the program now and did not do so earlier?(More Behavourial Questions)
- If your teacher had a grammar mistake on the board, what would you do?
- The Japanese education system has a set curriculum which you cannot deviate from, how do you feel about that?
- You may just become a ‘human dictaphone’ in class, so you won’t have an opportunity to change things, how do you feel about that?
- You may be sent to a rural placement – how do you feel you would cope/how would you deal with that?
- Please put together a short 5-minute lesson plan using the materials in this room for a class of 20, 8-10 year old wanting to learn English on the topic of your favourite snack.
- If you were asked to serve tea by your male colleagues how would you feel about this? OR What would you do if you were expected to serve men tea during the morning meeting?
- We are 4th graders. Teach us one of your hobbies.
- What would you contribute to international understanding?
- Why don’t you teach English in China, Taiwan or Mexico?
- What kind of negative experiences do you anticipate having and how would you deal with them?
- If you were at a work-sponsored drinking party and a fellow teacher tried to grope you, how would you handle it? What if it was the principal?
- What if your principal won’t allow you to wear pants?
- How would you feel if you were asked to work at a JET at Fukushima (where the radiation blast happened due to the tsunami incident in the year 2010)
As mentioned, I did overkill it. I found if I simply worked on the based questions that focused on me talking about my goal to be on the programme, motivation, skill sets and also have real examples to address the behavioural questions, I found I was pretty much square. Of course, I did not realise this after the interview. So tip 3 – Try to focus on the core reasons and skills that you can bring to the programme. Know yourself and answer concisely, yet, effectively. Always remember to breathe. There is indeed a time limit to the interview, and I was informed that I moment I sat down. Literally, one of the three interviewers said to me “You have 25 minutes starting now”.
On the day of the interview, I turned up at the consulate office building about 20 minutes early. I did not go up to the office level yet, but waited at the ground floor and sat at the sofas available. I was not alone. I could tell a few folks were there for the same reason because of the atmosphere and the way how some of them were still studying their notes prior to the interview. When it approached about 10 minutes before my interview time, I took the elevator up. I had to go through security and then make my way to the interview waiting room. I was greeted by the Brisbane consulate JET co-ordinator and another lady who worked in the same office. We made small talk while I was waiting for my interview. Here is where I will say to you, tip 4 – make conversation the moment you get to the interview venue if it feels right. You are indeed getting assessed the moment you arrive and present yourself.
Overall, my interview experience was good. I had a nice panel where we had a nice conversation going for the 25 minutes (which actually turned into 35). I did have a Japanese test during the interview to which my brain froze and (I felt) failed drastically. Nonetheless, I walked out of there feeling positive. Of course, after a few days, I started to feel not so positive, because as humans, we tend to analysis situations by magnifying certain episodes and replaying things in our head. I basically felt very negative a few days after my interview and the only thing I could do was to make myself stop thinking about it. After all, what’s done is done. So tip 5 – Try your hardest before and during the interview. But remember to relax after.
I found out about my result on the very last day of March. Before the time I had my interview and receiving the result, I had already made the decision to leave my job at the time and was making new plans. Literally, on the day, I received my result for the interview, I was doing an informational interview of someone about their job. I was completed stoked and overwhelmed when I heard I had been accepted in the JET programme.
As you can tell, the process is pretty long-winded. I am only into my second week of living in Japan and loving it. Over the past week, I have met some of the teachers at my school and am really looking forward to working with them. It is rather humid and hot here, given it is summer. I am surviving nonetheless!!
[reference – post feature image is the JET programme logo]