I’ve read from Facebook statuses and tweets on Twitter that callbacks for 2011 JET Interviews have started. So far I’ve seen more people talking about rejection than being accepted, and then complaints from people who didn’t make the cut.
Now I’m not part of the JET selection committee, but I think there might be a few misconceptions of how they choose people. Someone who didn’t make it probably wouldn’t want to hear anything from someone who DID make it and is in Japan right now, so if you happen to be one of those people and are easily offended or not in a good mood, don’t continue reading this.
First off, I don’t know the exact criteria for choosing people who get interviews, and then people who get in from there. This is only my opinion, based on who I’ve seen not accepted and my own experience going through the interview process.
1. I’ve heard of people who have lots of teaching experience (especially foreign language teaching experience), certified in some level of the JLPT, and have lived in Japan for X number of months/years who have gotten rejected. It’s possible that those people are overqualified. Before coming here, I had zero teaching experience, no JLPT certification, and lived in Tokyo for 11 months. In my opinion, JET isn’t looking for English teachers–they’re looking for people to teach English. In middle school and high school, English teachers (called “Japanese Teachers of English,” or JTE) already exist, and they’re looking for a non-Japanese person to enrich the learning process. Not to say that people who don’t get in aren’t capable of enrichment. If you’re overqualified, chances are you are capable of getting a job other than with JET. Also, if you stated in your application that you have applied to other jobs, that might be another contributing factor. At the time that I applied for JET–just like with college applications–I only had one. I was going to wait until I got rejected to start looking at other jobs, especially because I was still in school at the time so I knew I’d have a few more months to keep looking.
2. It’s not true that JET only hires weeaboos and otaku and J-Pop fangirls. I’ll be the first to admit that I DO watch anime from time to time and my library consists mostly of Japanese music, but I am FAR from the aforementioned categories. There are people who are interested in other Japanese things, and then there are people who don’t know much about Japan at all and are looking for something new. Personally I wouldn’t want to hire one of those foreigners who know ZERO Japanese, knows NOTHING about Japan, and just applied “‘cuz they felt like it.” I don’t know if anyone like that has been hired, but I’m sure somewhere in the crowd of ALTs there is someone like that.
3. Maybe you weren’t what they were looking for–literally. JET is no beauty contest of course, but I think they’re looking for what they believe is the image of an ALT, not only as an instructor, but as a representative from overseas, a mentor, a neighbor, and a member of the community. One of the things that most people know about JET is that ALTs and CIRs end up doing things unrelated to their job, such as joining clubs, teaching extra classes in the community, and writing short columns in the community newsletter. I don’t know how they determine who best fits that mold, gets an interview, and then nominated, but JET involves more than just teaching. I will say that looks are definitely not everything, as I once saw a REALLY tall and significantly heavy dude (sweat was visible in more places on his body than I wanted to see at Tokyo Orientation) who was nominated to be a high school ALT…I imagined Japanese kids snickering behind his back about his looks but maybe that’s not actually the case.
4. Simply put, you might have done something wrong on your application, or it may have gotten there too late. JET says that any incomplete or late applications will not be considered, and that’s that. With three copies pof the application and all the official documents in the world (okay, it’s really like three or something like that), if you’re not careful you may end up missing something that’s supposed to be in that envelope to the Embassy. If I remember correctly, they aren’t going to tell you that you’re missing something, so you may not know for sure whether that really was the case. As for me, I checked millions of times (okay, maybe like ten times) to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Luckily, since I lived in the D.C. area, all I needed to do was take a train into Washington and hand deliver my application to the Embassy the day it was due. If you’re not so lucky, I would suggest getting the necessary documents well in advance. The JET Program website always posts the list of required documents well before they post the actual application, to make sure you have a fair amount of time.
So that’s what I can say about JET. The key point in my statement included with my application was that being a JET in Japan was not simply about teaching language, but about sharing culture with Japanese people. It is not just about you being the giver and the students being receivers; it’s about cultural exchange. Living in Tokyo for about a year, I didn’t think there was really much else for me to learn about living in Japan. And yet here I am, six months and a week after I got on the plane from Reagan National Airport, and I’ve learned so much already, from everyday life, from teachers, and even from my own students.
I’m sure not getting making it through the JET process is a learning experience as well. People whine and complain about getting in, and it’s some of those same people who say things like, “Well I don’t really like kids anyway,” and, “But I ended up getting hired by [some other company].” JET is NOT the only way to go, so if you don’t make it, it’s not the end of the world, and if you were going to give up that easily, maybe your lack of perseverance was just another reason for you not to be chosen. On the opposite end of the spectrum, just because you didn’t get into JET does not make JET “retarded” or “stupid.” It’s okay to be disappointed, but ego inflation is just making yourself look like a conceited jerk.