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Best route for teaching in Japan given my experience
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tcatsninfan



Joined: 29 Aug 2010
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:41 pm    Post subject: Best route for teaching in Japan given my experience Reply with quote

So I have a bachelor's degree in English and worked in the writing room on campus, but since I graduated in 2007 I've mainly been working as a technical writer in the 'professional' world.

I've had an interest in teaching overseas for awhile now, specifically Japan--I visited for 2 weeks in 2009--but I was married before and teaching overseas wasn't something that was going to work out.

Now, however, I find myself divorced and open to new possibilities. However, I don't have any hands-on teaching experience and finding teaching jobs in the US is a difficult matter right now, what with the economy and all, so it wouldn't be an easy task for me to find a teaching job to gain experience in that field. I live in the southeastern United States and there isn't a decent ESL population anywhere remotely close to where I live, so that option also appears to be off the table for gaining experience.

There's a woman I have been emailing for a few years who came from the television industry. She got a job teaching in Korea--without having any practical teaching experience--and transferred to Japan after a year.

Based on what I've seen from job postings, it seems almost impossible to get a job teaching in Japan without actual teaching experience or additional education.

I guess the main reason I'm posting here is to ask how feasible it would be for me to try and replicate her situation--teach in Korea (or some other country like China) for a year and transfer to Japan.

Also, I had a question about how reputable a particular TEFL program is. My grandparents live in Miami, Florida and I noticed this TEFL course is being offered there:

http://www.oxfordseminars.com/tesol-tesl-tefl-course/course-outline.php

Theoretically, I could stay with my grandparents while I take this TEFL course. However, from what I've read on this board and elsewhere, TEFL courses have different numbers of hours involved and the only one that really 'counts' is the 120 hour course. The only thing I see listed for this course is a 40 hour online component, which means it probably isn't worth getting.

Is that correct? Is this course basically irrelevant?
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timothypfox



Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 379

PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, I'll take a stab at giving you advice. I'm sure others will add. But here are a few thoughts about your questions.

A Bachelor's degree in field would qualify you for work as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) or working at a language school (eikaiwa). There are companies that hire for ALT work from overseas, but of are of variable quality. Eikawas also do some hiring overseas, but by and large better quality work can be found when you are over here and can interview in person. I'm speaking for someone with your qualifications.

Now I won't mince words. You may have read this other places - but Japan is a competitive market place these days. I think if you are serious about it, make those extra steps to make yourself look attractive. A TEFL certificate of 120 hours is sometimes required for certain positions. If you had the time and money, brand name recognition goes a long way and a Cambridge or Trinity Certificate would have the most clout as far as TEFL certificates go.

Do volunteer tutoring at a local campus with foreign students. This is work experience you could later put on your resume.

Take a Japanese class so that you could at least prove on paper a big interest in Japan. If there are no places to take a course, post an add at a community center or college campus for a private tutor or better yet a language exchange (which would be free).

As for US work, you might try building your qualifications by relocating. Any large urban center in the US has a Teaching Fellows or Teach for America program which would basically guarantee a job in public schools and a heavily subsidized master's in tesol degree (among other specialties). I followed this route in NYC and was able to get hired at a private high school in Japan.

About transferring from a country that has easier to get jobs such as China or Korea. There are people asking this same question all the time on the forums. If you consider this route, you will need to save a lot of money when you go to Japan. There are a lot of up front costs to consider. An employer in another country may provide airfare or free housing, but these days are long gone in Japan.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Best route for teaching in Japan given my experience Reply with quote

tcatsninfan wrote:
there isn't a decent ESL population anywhere remotely close to where I live, so that option also appears to be off the table for gaining experience.
Where in the SE? Seems to me there should be a big Cuban population if you are far enough south.

Quote:
Based on what I've seen from job postings, it seems almost impossible to get a job teaching in Japan without actual teaching experience or additional education.
Where have you seen that? Pretty much everyone who applies for entry level jobs here has a degree unrelated to teaching and little to no experience.

Quote:
I guess the main reason I'm posting here is to ask how feasible it would be for me to try and replicate her situation--teach in Korea (or some other country like China) for a year and transfer to Japan.
Talk about Korea on the Korea forum, not here. Forum rules.

As for transferring to Japan, you'll be geographically closer, but you would still have to come here for an interview. Only a scant few places do interviews via Skype. Experience in Asian countries is not always counted by some Japanese employers, too, so heads up on that.

When during the year do you want to be here? Timing is critical.

Quote:
Also, I had a question about how reputable a particular TEFL program is. My grandparents live in Miami, Florida and I noticed this TEFL course is being offered there:

http://www.oxfordseminars.com/tesol-tesl-tefl-course/course-outline.php
I'd suggest asking that on the general forum, but I think I've heard relatively poor reports about that place.
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OneJoelFifty



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Best route for teaching in Japan given my experience Reply with quote

tcatsninfan wrote:
Based on what I've seen from job postings, it seems almost impossible to get a job teaching in Japan without actual teaching experience or additional education.


Not true at all. It's more competitive right now for sure, but you can still get a job as an ALT while you're in America. As someone said, dispatch companies don't have good reputations, but in my opinion working as an ALT is the best foot-in-the-door entry level job to teaching in Japan.

My advice to you is to apply for as many ALT positions as you find, and take whatever's offered, unless it's for a company that has universally bad reviews. For most of them you'll definitely find some disgruntled ex-employees, but there will also be plenty of people that are content with their lot. I say this because a year in Japan is a lot more valuable to future employers, and you'll have time to make contacts and plan ahead when you're here. You're likely to find yourself applying for exactly the same jobs after a year in Korea as you would be now anyway.

The value of TEFL to potential employers is debatable, but it might help you stand out a little. Most of all, it might give you a little knowledge confidence in the event of doing a demonstration lesson as part of an interview.
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tcatsninfan



Joined: 29 Aug 2010
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the valuable input! I'll try to respond to the appropriate parts:

Quote:
If you had the time and money, brand name recognition goes a long way and a Cambridge or Trinity Certificate would have the most clout as far as TEFL certificates go.

I will have to look into this. Are any of the online TEFLs worth it? For example, Cambridge offers a 140-hour online course. The tricky part for me is that the closest place to offer a TEFL course in person is about 3 1/2 hours away and isn't something that's possible for me to do right now while maintaining a job.

Quote:
Do volunteer tutoring at a local campus with foreign students. This is work experience you could later put on your resume.

This is a good one...there aren't a lot of foreign students in the area, but between the 2-3 main colleges nearby there should be at least a handful.

Quote:

Take a Japanese class so that you could at least prove on paper a big interest in Japan.

I forgot to mention that I took a Japanese 101 course awhile back...it's the only thing being offered in the area but it was something.

Quote:
Any large urban center in the US has a Teaching Fellows or Teach for America program which would basically guarantee a job in public schools and a heavily subsidized master's in tesol degree (among other specialties).

I will have to look into those programs...I haven't heard of them before. I've been attempting to relocate based on my work experience but I've suffered a layoff and have had to bounce between industries a bit, so getting hired in a bigger city hasn't worked out so well thus far.
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tcatsninfan



Joined: 29 Aug 2010
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Where in the SE? Seems to me there should be a big Cuban population if you are far enough south.

Not that far south...I'm in South Carolina. About the only foreign population to speak of are the migrant Mexican workers and, well, they tend to keep to themselves.

Quote:
Where have you seen that? Pretty much everyone who applies for entry level jobs here has a degree unrelated to teaching and little to no experience.

I should've been more specific in my response. I've previously applied with a few different schools in addition to Interac and one or two other companies. I also applied for the JET Program 3 years in a row. I'm pretty good with resumes and details and all that, so I just got to the point where I assumed that all these jobs were being taken by people with education degrees or teaching experience.

Quote:

Talk about Korea on the Korea forum, not here. Forum rules.

I thought about this and probably should've said something...I only mentioned Korea because, in this theoretical scenario, it would be a springboard for getting to Japan later. But point well taken.

Quote:
When during the year do you want to be here? Timing is critical.

My understanding is that most of the hiring is done in February and March. Is that correct? I have some things related to my divorce that aren't completed yet and am pretty sure they won't be done until later this year.

As such, I think my best option is to prepare this year (save money, whittle down my possessions, don't buy a new car, etc.) to hit the hiring season next year. This would also give me the opportunity to apply for the JET Program again, for what it's worth.

The trickiest part for me is the idea that most companies/schools don't interview outside of Japan. A plane ticket from Korea would be a lot less expensive than from the US, so that was another reason I considered the Korea thing.

A handful of people have posted on forums (or told me personally) "Just save up $5,000 or $6,000, fly here on a tourist visa, interview with as many people as possible, and hope you get offered a position."

This scenario reminds me of Kevin Smith's response when asked about getting started in filmmaking. He said to get as many credit cards as possible and max them all out with the hope that it works, because that's what he did.

But the question is, how many people fly to Japan on a tourist visa and get offered a position? Are the odds pretty good? It isn't like there's someone out there doing a poll on this.

I literally can't afford to fail. I'd have the money saved but that would be it and I wouldn't have much of anything to come back to in the US...I don't have a large family and the family I have is not well off, so it isn't like my rich parents would say, "Nah it's cool, we'll spot you a few grand until you get a new job and get back on your feet."
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 918

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't come to Japan if you can't afford it. It's just not worth the risk of trying to do it on a tight budget. Register at the K forum and ask there, it will probably be a better starting point for you not so much for the experience, but in terms of having much lower start up costs. A few thousand dollars savings will be a good safety net in K, but barely sufficient to get started in Japan. That way you can save some cash and look at moving to Japan later.

In the meantime read through the info here, especially on other people's experiences of the JET programme application procedure. It's not highly qualified compeititors stopping you finding a position. Regardless of how good you think your resume skills are, it seems likely that you are missing something in your application. Do the research now, and then you'll be better prepared when you are financially ready for Japan.
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kah5217



Joined: 29 Sep 2012
Posts: 268
Location: Ibaraki

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interac hired me and I have zero teaching experience. I work at a convenience store for crying out loud. If I had to guess, I'd say that you aren't answering their application questions with what they want to hear. They don't like "me me me, I did this, I want this for..." as much as "I will do this for the company, for the students, for Japan because..." etc.
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Rooster.



Joined: 13 Mar 2012
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tcatsninfan wrote:

As such, I think my best option is to prepare this year (save money, whittle down my possessions, don't buy a new car, etc.) to hit the hiring season next year. This would also give me the opportunity to apply for the JET Program again, for what it's worth.

The trickiest part for me is the idea that most companies/schools don't interview outside of Japan. A plane ticket from Korea would be a lot less expensive than from the US, so that was another reason I considered the Korea thing.

A handful of people have posted on forums (or told me personally) "Just save up $5,000 or $6,000, fly here on a tourist visa, interview with as many people as possible, and hope you get offered a position."

This scenario reminds me of Kevin Smith's response when asked about getting started in filmmaking. He said to get as many credit cards as possible and max them all out with the hope that it works, because that's what he did.

But the question is, how many people fly to Japan on a tourist visa and get offered a position? Are the odds pretty good? It isn't like there's someone out there doing a poll on this.

I literally can't afford to fail. I'd have the money saved but that would be it and I wouldn't have much of anything to come back to in the US...I don't have a large family and the family I have is not well off, so it isn't like my rich parents would say, "Nah it's cool, we'll spot you a few grand until you get a new job and get back on your feet."


I have not been to Japan once in my life and have had interviews. You can get plenty without looking too hard.

Jet is the only place that I can name off the top of my head that pays for your plane ticket to Japan, although I have seen two recent companies that will pay up to 60,000 and 100,000 yen for your plane ticket and once in a while you will see companies do this.

If you want to go soon, it is standard procedure in Korea to pay for your ticket and provide free housing. You would not need the capital like you do for most jobs in Japan.

You can also look for jobs in rural areas of Japan that will have cheaper housing and cost of living. It's just like living anywhere else in the world.

Look at jobs here, www.gaijinpot.com, and www.ohayosensei.com

Glenski wrote:
Only a scant few places do interviews via Skype.


I can say that all of the places that I have applied to, with the exception of Interac and Aeon/Amity, have had a Skype interview (I did not apply for JET).
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9646
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know nothing about Japan, but I do know something about Oxford seminars and similar courses.

Basically, don't bother. The employers who will hire you with one of these certs are mostly those who would hire you with none at all.

The standard basic cert you can count on pretty much everywhere for entry-level jobs is 120+ hours on site and (key) including supervised teaching practice with actual students (not peer trainees).

The onsite component of Oxford Seminars and similar courses is normally focused primarily on how to get a job and live abroad; not on teaching approaches and methods. Practice teaching on peer trainees does not substitute for working with real students and receiving educated feedback on what you've done well and what you need to improve.
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tcatsninfan



Joined: 29 Aug 2010
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Don't come to Japan if you can't afford it. It's just not worth the risk of trying to do it on a tight budget.

It's not that I can't afford to do it--I wouldn't fly there with $500 US in my pocket--it's that I can't afford to spend $7,000 while on a tourist visa and then have to come back to the United States after I've sold my car, moved out of my apartment, quit my job, etc.

Quote:
Regardless of how good you think your resume skills are, it seems likely that you are missing something in your application.

I don't deny that that's the likely scenario. I'll do more research on applying for these positions and see what might be tripping me up.

Quote:
Interac hired me and I have zero teaching experience. I work at a convenience store for crying out loud.

If I understand this correctly, you're saying Interac hired you to work at a convenience store? What's that about?

Quote:
If you want to go soon, it is standard procedure in Korea to pay for your ticket and provide free housing.

I don't have to go soon...like I said, there are some things related to my divorce that won't be finalized until later this year so my best bet would be to get prepared to do this during next year's hiring season.

Quote:
I know nothing about Japan, but I do know something about Oxford seminars and similar courses.

Basically, don't bother.

That's what I was thinking based on their website, but thanks for the heads up.
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 918

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tcatsninfan wrote:
Quote:
Don't come to Japan if you can't afford it. It's just not worth the risk of trying to do it on a tight budget.


It's not that I can't afford to do it--I wouldn't fly there with $500 US in my pocket--it's that I can't afford to spend $7,000 while on a tourist visa and then have to come back to the United States after I've sold my car, moved out of my apartment, quit my job, etc.



I understand, but the risk is that you WILL spend your savings and not find work. If you arrived at the right time you probably would find work, but you might not, there's no guarantees. If that money is the only safety net you have, it's not worth the risk.

As a general rule, it's unwise to take any ESL job anywhere in the world without having a plan B. That plan should include having enough money to get out of the country and get yourself set-up elsewhere.

Japan isn't going anywhere. There are other options with much cheaper start-up costs. Don't throw all your savings at Japan without having a job arranged in advance. It's a recipe for disaster.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lots of good replies here (thanks, too, to spiral78 for her contribution about the Oxford seminars; I was hoping someone like her would chime in; pay heed to what she said about that because as I wrote, I could only dimly recall it had a negative image).

Yes, most hiring takes place in Feb/March because the academic year and fiscal year begin in April. You will find work year round, but the peak is for that time. ALTs outside of JET might even see ads earlier, perhaps beginning in Nov, but the job itself usually starts in April. I heard that JET has added an early hiring period, so look at their application description again.

I agree with those who have said you must have something seriously wrong or missing from your application materials. kah has pointed out some valid possibilities, too. I've proofread scores of resumes and cover letters for candidates, and that is just the attitude they took a lot of the time (the "what's in it for me?" factor).

And, yes, you were misinformed (or misunderstood) about what caliber of people get hired initially in Japan. Most have degrees unrelated to teaching or English, and most have little to zero experience teaching.

As for interview locations, about a dozen employers recruit from abroad and have offices established there. A few others (number undetermined) are willing to do a Skype interview, but bear in mind the problems at your end in doing that (i.e., what you can't see or know). What ticks me off is a comment like that from Rooster:
Quote:
I have not been to Japan once in my life and have had interviews. You can get plenty without looking too hard...I can say that all of the places that I have applied to, with the exception of Interac and Aeon/Amity, have had a Skype interview
I've been on this forum for about 15 years and see such a remark often. The irritating part is that Rooster and everyone else who makes a similar statement never tell you the names of the companies who are willing to do Skype interviews. I plead and plead to get that info so that posters will benefit (and I collect information like that myself to pass along), but that remains an elusive answer. C'mon, people! Share the news, especially when you say it's so easy to find. (I'm not in the market for entry level work, so I don't go out of my way to search for it. Rather, I depend on forums to supply the info, but it always seems that I read "it's easy", but no names are forthcoming.)
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Rooster.



Joined: 13 Mar 2012
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 3:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski wrote:
As for interview locations, about a dozen employers recruit from abroad and have offices established there. A few others (number undetermined) are willing to do a Skype interview, but bear in mind the problems at your end in doing that (i.e., what you can't see or know). What ticks me off is a comment like that from Rooster:

I've been on this forum for about 15 years and see such a remark often. The irritating part is that Rooster and everyone else who makes a similar statement never tell you the names of the companies who are willing to do Skype interviews. I plead and plead to get that info so that posters will benefit (and I collect information like that myself to pass along), but that remains an elusive answer. C'mon, people! Share the news, especially when you say it's so easy to find. (I'm not in the market for entry level work, so I don't go out of my way to search for it. Rather, I depend on forums to supply the info, but it always seems that I read "it's easy", but no names are forthcoming.)


I don't feel that your commented was not warranted since I was not asked and I have never seen this come up before. I don't appreciate being called out for something that has never happened before.

I have had a Skype interview with or coming up:

NKyoiku
An English Club
WinBe
Owls
RCS

Phone interview with:

MIL
ALS (American Language School)

These schools also have Skype interviews but don't have a good reputation:

Jibun Mirai
Heart
Borderlink
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Rooster.

By the way, RCS has a horrible reputation.
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