Enough time has passed for me to want to go back and relive unquestionably the most stressful period of my life (no joke!). I want to share my experiences because when I applied, there was no UK specific advice on the web that I could find. I’d like to give you an insight into what a more UK-centric journey is like, throughout the different application stages. May I note that I’m speaking purely from my experience and that yours undoubtedly will differ. With that all said and done, let’s crack on!
I applied for the role of Assistant Language Teacher or ALT. There’s more information about the role on the JET UK website.
Stage one: Paper application
I don’t want to repeat the sort of basic information you can find in other places, so what I’d like to share with you are my top tips for getting through to the interview stage.
1. Be organised
Throughout the whole JET Programme application process, they will to ask you to jump through many bureaucratic hoops and the initial paper application is no different.
- Know your deadlines: The application period for the UK normally runs from October to November each year. Check the JET UK website for the specific dates, and make sure you work towards the submission deadline. Many of the documents you need to gather can take a long time to prepare and often rely on other people who might be busy, or simply forget!
- References: I would prepare your references well in advance, as your work and academic referees are most likely extremely busy people. I had my references sorted by August, months before applications opened, just to be safe. Make sure your referees know what they are expected to do (letter is addressed to the JET Programme, they use your full name, mention how long they’ve known you, that your referee signs over the seal of the envelope, etc.).
- Statement of Physician: Doctors are excruciatingly busy and depending on how good your GP is it might take a long time to get an appointment. They might also charge for this service – mine was a saddening £80!
- Transcripts: If you’re required to provide an academic transcript, make sure you contact your university in good time so they can get it to you before the deadline. Again, depending on your university you might have to pay for it.
- Final words: Punctuality and timeliness are emphasised all the time in Japan and missing deadlines is not tolerated. Make sure you know your submission dates and prepare ahead of time!
2. Write a bangin’ Statement of Purpose
Definitely the most time-consuming part of the whole application. The Statement of Purpose for JET UK is in three parts and the questions normally stay the same year on year. I found answering the Statement of Purpose to be a bit of a road of discovery. Putting my reasoning into words helped solidify why I wanted to participate on the JET Programme and made me more determined than ever to take part!
- Use your experiences: This is your time to shine! Demonstrate what makes you special and brag about the relevant experiences you’ve had which make you an excellent candidate. I was very fortunate in that I had had a lot of experiences to draw from to build my essay. Dig deep and think about what you can talk about to demonstrate your capability for the role. Things you might want to talk about… Why do you want to live and work in Japan, how you would cope with living in a foreign country, how you would mitigate the language barrier, why you want to be a teacher, how you will apply any teaching experience you have had (formal/informal). They are looking for candidates which are willing to commit (at least) a whole year of their life to a completely different culture, so go for it!
- PEE all over it: Of course, I mean Point, Example, Effect! This needs to be the most persuasive essay of all time and the technique I always use is PEE. Point is a statement you make about yourself, like a skill or quality. Example is a time when you demonstrated this skill or quality. Finally, Effect is the reason why this makes you an excellent candidate for the JET Programme. Using this technique makes your argument crystal clear, easy to follow and very persuasive.
- Get many people to read it: Get your family, your friends, your neighbour’s cat to read your Statement of Purpose. If you’re still at University, employ the help of your careers office who can give you advice on how to improve it. It goes without saying, make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are spot on.
- Example Statement of Purpose: So this is a link to my Statement of Purpose. I used this to apply for the JET Programme in Winter 2015. Don’t copy it! But please feel free to take note of how I’ve answered the questions. Remember, there’s more than one way to go about this task and your final statement might not look anything like this which is fine! I didn’t have any formal teaching experience, so my response to question three is smaller than my responses to one and two. Your answers might be weighted differently depending on how you’re using your word count to emphasise the areas you want to showcase.
- Final words: Your statement should be engaging and chock full of reasons why you are the most passionate, most dedicated, most capable person for the job! I wouldn’t shy away from being emotive - use words that demonstrate your passion and hunger for this role.
3. Double, no, triple check your application packs
The JET Programme requires you prepare four application packs with differing contents. I put each pack in a separate envelope and labelled each piece of paper with a slim Post It note down the side, like a directory. Not only did help me see my documents at a glance, it also probably made a good first impression and demonstrated my organisational skills without having to even mention it in my Statement of Purpose.
- Final words: Make sure you have the right documents in the right pack. Don’t let your application down by forgetting something!
4. Meet the deadline
I know this has already been mentioned, but I cannot stress how much importance the JET Program (and Japan) place on being early/on time. Send your application Signed For or Next Day Delivery at the Post Office and keep a note of your tracking number. I sent mine Royal Mail Next Day Delivery. It was about £8 but for total peace of mind it's worth every penny. You can also deliver it in person to the Embassy if you’re really pushed for time!
- Final words: Plan ahead and get that envelope to arrive on the JET Programme Desk before the deadline.
5. Include a Stamped Addressed Envelope
This is a good way of knowing that your application has physically been opened at the embassy and processing has begun. I received mine about a week after sending it. For me, it meant many months of preparation were over!
- Final words: A cheap way of knowing for sure that your application has been recieved by the JET Desk. They stamp it too so it makes for quite a cute momento.
Once your application has been sent, sit back and relax! You won’t hear back until January or February by post, so enjoy the Christmas period in the knowledge that you’ve given yourself the best chance of success.
Statement of Purpose