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Alumni Storytime

Here we have 6 different stories of Alumnis' experience and journey in coming back to New Zealand.

Alumni in a room listening to a presentation
Alumni event showcasing their story

Looking for information on finding a job after JET can be a mixed bag. Published resources may be too general for what you are looking for, or alternatively, much too specific. Online forum posts can be outdated, leaving you to wonder at their relevance, especially in the current COVID economy.

As a network of alumni, there is one thing that we have an abundance of – our people and our individual experiences. Here, a few of our alumni share some brief words on their experiences and backgrounds which have led to their finding jobs after JET. We are happy to share our stories – if you’d like to know more, contact us via our email or social media, or come see us in person at our events.

Every situation is indeed different, but perhaps there will be something here to inspire you on your journey.


Anna Education: Bachelor of Science and Cert TESOL JET Placement: Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture 2017 – 2019 Current Occupation: Accounts and Administration

My career path has involved many side steps over time. Even though I studied science, once it finally came to job hunting, it was near impossible.

I was lucky enough to work on planning a government roading project, which diverted to Accounting and Office Management in IT, to then having the urge to travel and work which led me to ESOL. I studied full time, and then had an interesting job running summer English programmes for students from Hong Kong. Whilst waiting for JET, I worked as an Office Manager again. I felt as though the skills of becoming adaptable over time were useful for JET, and JET furthered those skills.

My advice is to keep in contact with previous workplaces if possible. This is because once I returned from Japan, I applied for so many different jobs. My goal was to work in international student support, which proved difficult. Whilst job hunting, I touched base with an old workplace and was lucky enough to be re-employed. JET helped further my skills of working independently which I think helped with my recent promotion in a new division.

Returning from Japan I did struggle with missing my friends, but what I have learnt is to remember to keep in contact with everyone. I’ve also learned that even though job titles may change, nothing is ever wasted. The skills that you gain from JET whether it be gaining the confidence to travel on your own, is useful for a range of jobs.


Angela Education: BA in Linguistics & Language Teaching, and Japanese JET Placement: Yuasa-cho, Wakayama-ken 2014-2017 Current Occupation: Government Administration, Regulatory Compliance

To be honest, I was quite unsure of what I wanted to do when I came back from Japan. I knew I didn’t want to go back to my previous industry before JET (insurance), and I wasn’t too keen on teaching, which was my initial plan – to study a Graduate Diploma in Secondary teaching and teach Japanese/ESoL at high school level. (That was my back up plan if I was unable to find a job).

I job hunted as soon as I got back to NZ – looking everywhere and applying for everything I seemed fairly qualified to do. Most of these were entry level jobs. Considering I didn’t want to go into the field that I studied for, my options were to start off with entry level/on the job training roles, or return to study a different degree. The latter didn’t seem like a good option for me because well, I was still lost on what I wanted to do! After reviewing possibly way too many job advertisements, I figured out an industry where I could leverage my soft skills developed through JET, as well as further my career gradually: Government.

I worked two short gigs at two different companies (which were more for the sake of having some income) before finding full time employment at my previous role in a different government agency. I made sure to perfect my CV and spend extra time writing cover letters. Once I landed the interview, I made sure I was well-prepared ahead of time. The skills I developed on JET proved to be very valuable, allowing me to step foot in an industry where I can see myself working in the long term. I’ve since developed into a regulatory role which challenges me everyday, in a diverse environment which I enjoy.

I felt very lost after returning from Japan – especially compared to my friends in NZ who had worked for a few years and furthered their careers since graduating university. My advice would be to do your research and be prepared. Tailor your CV and cover letters to the role you are applying for. Have your friends and family critique your CVs and cover letters for you – you can’t get a job without landing an interview first!


Kathryn Education: Bachelor of Fine Art Hons, GradipTeaching (Secondary) JET Placement: Yamaguchi Prefecture, Shimonoseki 2016-2019 Current Occupation: Youth worker & full-time student

Before leaving Japan I decided I wanted to study and become an Art Teacher in NZ. I applied in Japan and asked my JTEs to be my referees. When I arrived, I signed up to WINZ on an unemployment benefit. This happened two weeks after I arrived. When I arrived last year, I struggled to find a job but was lucky to visit Ōtāhuhu College for my observation school (before the university interview). They offered me a job as a teacher aide.

I had no work during the school holidays, so I jumped into youth work. My sister was working for an NGO, I applied for this job in June 2019 and didn’t hear back from them until October.

I applied for every job under the sun – call centres, insurance, office jobs but I had ZERO experience. Before Japan I graduated from Elam then killed lambs as a butcher/labourer. I didn’t want to return to factory/labour work.

I am currently working part time and studying. I am applying for teaching jobs now. It has been a difficult year, but I am very thankful to be home. I have been supported by family and friends and also JETAA. Currently I am a youth worker with Oranga Tamariki and will be a baby Art teacher once my studies are complete at the end of November!


Horace Education: BSc, BSc(Hons), PhD JET Placement: Tochigi Prefecture, Otawara 2016 – 2017 Current Occupation: I.T. Consultant (Data Warehousing)

My tertiary education was based entirely in the sciences, but going into JET, I was already considering alternative career paths. I reached out to friends and contacts both before and after returning home to let them know I was looking for opportunities, and to see if they had any leads or could point me in any direction for jobs or for study/training.

Immediately after getting back I started teaching myself the basics of programming. There are many excellent resources out there for this field, and having no other commitments gave me time to focus on learning the ropes. I also looked into potential study options if it came to it.

Eventually, I managed to get an interview through a friend, which resulted in my current job. I made sure to link my background and skills to what I knew of the job. Writing skills, communication, and being quick to adapt – all these were skills that I demonstrated before and during my time on the JET programme, and which have been of immense value in my job.

My advice to new returnees is to keep your options open. Talk to friends and contacts, look into study options if you want to retrain. If you’re not sure about what kind of job you want to get into, talk to people or do some research to get a view of what might meet your wants and needs. Dig deeper if you need to. There are ways to talk to people in the kind of jobs you are interested in. Test it out. Look for ways you can get some experience with tasks related to a job and see if it’s right for you.


Kimberley Education: (before) BA (Japanese), (after) BA (Hons) (Japanese), MA (Applied Linguistics) JET Placement: Fukushima Prefecture, Tohoku 2010 – 2014 Current occupation: Graduate Teaching Assistant (English Writing, Academic English)

When I returned from JET I struggled for a couple of months not knowing what to do job-wise. After a couple of months I decided to apply for a post-grad degree, and just see what came of it. When I applied, the lecturer for honours Japanese asked me if I’d be interested in tutoring for the undergrad Japanese courses. Since I really enjoy teaching, I said yes. JET really helped here, because not only did I have 4 years’ full time teaching under my belt but also speaking Japanese all day every day with the HRTs and other school staff had really improved my Japanese as well. A chance conversation with someone I remembered from way back in 2007, in my first lecture at university sparked a research interest in Japanese language acquisition. However, the honours year was very tough, and I was burnt out by the end of it and needed a break from study.

Aside from teaching, my only other job experience was in hospitality, an industry I was desperate to get out of due to the lack of respect and low pay. So after finishing my studies for the year, I got a job as a junior administrator, to give me some extra skills and a boost to my CV. When I started my Master’s degree, I was able to transfer that to temp roles at the university to save me from a double commute while working and studying part time.

Having had that initial foot in the door for tutoring work for the university during my honours year, I was able to land other tutoring roles during and after completing my Master’s degree. This has led on to more tutoring work for two courses while I complete my PhD, also in Applied Linguistics, and still researching Japanese language acquisition.

My advice for returnees is that it’s ok to not be sure of what you want to do when you come back from JET. If you can, do take a bit of time off and assess what you want out of life, instead of feeling like you have to dive straight back in full speed. Often, it’s the chance encounters in quiet moments that make you realise what you really want to do, so take note of them when they happen, and hopefully you’ll be able to work towards being in the position you want to be in in the future!


Kendra Education: BA (Japanese & English Language Acquisition), CELTA, PostGrad Cert (Education) JET Placement: Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture 2015 – 2017 Current Occupation: Full-time private tutor

I’ve been working as a private tutor throughout my university years. The plan was to get my Bachelor’s degree and go to Japan because I wanted to experience living and working in Japan. I figured being an English teacher was the easiest and fastest way and the JET Programme provided the opportunity. I completed a one-month intensive CELTA course after finishing my Bachelor’s to increase my chances of being accepted into JET.

Teaching in Japan allowed me to practise and fine tune my skills as a language teacher. I learnt to be adaptable, flexible and team teach in two languages which I later find valuable upon my return to New Zealand.

Making the transition in Japan was easier than coming back. Yes, reverse culture shock was real. JETAA provided immense support and made the transition back to life in New Zealand smoother. Rebuilding my reputation as a competent and effective tutor was challenging as I was away from the market for two years. However, I was able to use the skills I acquired in Japan when tutoring English learners in New Zealand. I had the opportunity to teach as an English lecturer for a month in China. It was then that I realised there is still so much to learn. I decided to return to study while working full-time to improve my credentials. Going back to study while working during the pandemic proved challenging and stressful.

Being on JET makes you grow a lot as a person. Make use of the skills that you have and have gained, and reach out to acquaintances and friends. You never know what you may chance upon.



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