Aug 22

Happy time in a happi coat. (Rashaad Jorden)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-2010) for JQ magazine. Rashaad worked at four elementary schools and three junior high schools on JET, and taught a weekly conversion class in Haguro (his village) to adults. He completed the Tokyo Marathon in 2010, and was also a member of a taiko group in Haguro.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Those two sentences are a lot more than the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities. The former could best describe my time in the JET Program (with a couple of exceptions), while the latter is an accurate description of my post-JET time.

I was disappointed and sad to leave Yamagata Prefecture last year, but the old saying “when one door closes, another one opens” came to my mind. As much as I enjoyed Japan, I was eager to launch my new life in the U.S.

Since I had talked myself out of grad school for the time being, I figured I ought to put something worthwhile on my resume before commencing the serious job hunt. As my resume included mostly teaching English abroad (France and Japan), I figured I might as well do something related to what I eventually want to do: something editorial related.

Currently, I am seeking an editorial assistant/copy editor/proofreading position. But I would also open to working for cultural exchange programs and in positions that utilize French ability (I am fluent in the language due to having and worked in France).

So I quickly obtained an internship at Friends Journal, a magazine devoted to the Quaker community. Best case scenario: the internship launches me towards a dream editorial/copy editing/proofreader position. Or if nothing else, employers will like the fact I’ve been keeping active.

Thus, in January this year, I figured I’d start banging out job applications. Seemingly, there is no shortage of jobs I’m qualified for. All I have to do is go to the right websites, find the appropriate positions, send out resumes/cover letters, receive e-mails and phone calls asking if I can come in for an interview, wow the interviewer(s) and…voila! I have a job.

Except that the phone calls and interviews haven’t really been coming in. I didn’t land my first interview until late April at an employment agency in New York. I thought the interview went as well as it could have, but I didn’t get the job I interviewed for (a legal assistant position).

Although that job interview was unsuccessful, it may have marked a turning point in my job hunt. Up until that point, I had no luck even landing job interviews. Being called in for a job interview gives me confidence that it’ll finally be the day. I believe that good things often happen in bunches, and on one of those days all the starts might align.

The good news I’m hoping for obviously hasn’t happened yet. It’s frustrating that my time in JET hasn’t helped land more interviews because the skills I learned in Japan would serve me well in numerous capacities. As a teacher, I definitely learned how to handle people on my own (which would be useful in any position that requires supervising) and communicate with them effectively in spite of language barriers. I also would be able to instruct employees (and others) on how to accomplish numerous tasks. And I have obviously have experience in working with diverse groups of people.

I am definitely tempted to work for Japanese companies/non-profits/schools, etc. I have great memories of the country, so it would be amazing to work for a Japanese company. Unfortunately, I can’t say my Japanese ability is the greatest—which hurts me in trying to get a job with a Japanese company. (When I decide to take the JLPT, I’ll be shooting for Level 4.)

The longer-than-expected job hunt has been an educational process. I have always been the type that if I can do something myself, I’ll do it myself. While that may be a positive trait to have, it might not be conducive to changing unsuccessful paths. I thought landing the right job would be one of those things I could easily do by myself. Perhaps forgetting that to even participate in the JET Program in the first place, I needed letters of recommendation from two different people.

It’s taken me a lot longer to realize this than I should haven, but people who succeed don’t do it all by themselves. There are always people helping others who are willing to help themselves (and others). It’s just up to us to find those willing to help us. With that in mind, I’m trying to do a much better job of networking. The large number of JET alumni are one big family, and they are always willing to help those in need—especially since all JETs have needed help in order to thrive in Japan.

Even if there isn’t one former JET who can help turn me towards my dream/ideal job, I have realized that the JET Program can help in the littlest ways. I remember picking up a piece of paper with a list of employment agencies in the New York area. So I’m in the process of registering with as many as possible (which I should’ve done earlier).

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my job hunt is that there are limits to what people can do by themselves. Sure there are people who have told me that they have landed their jobs by looking online, filling out some forms, and clicking “Send.” But certainly, that’s not the easy of way of doing it. When facing difficult tasks (such as job hunting), it’s best to utilize friends and family. I didn’t greatly enjoy my JET Program experience by just doing things solo. I should’ve realized that when kicking off job hunting.

The “best of times” feeling about my JET Program time has definitely motivated me to keep searching for something fulfilling because I know it exists, and I know how wonderful it feels to be in a position that seems to fit perfectly. Finding it is a challenge and frustrating because it’s taken that it should have fun. But actually, it took me quite a while to land a position in the JET Program (long story), so it was definitely rewarding when it happened. Likewise, I’m motivated to keep job hunting because I will feel so happy when I get the good news.

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6 comments so far...

  • Asifa Akbar Said on August 26th, 2011 at 7:01 pm:

    Dear Rashaad, I was touched by reading your note above. I was on JET almost 10 years ago & since then have obtained an MA as well as a law degree….but…I am still looking for a suitable job in my field or any other suitable job….while working my way through the lawyer -licesning process. I would like to offer you a few of pieces of advice/wisdom, if I may:
    1. It’s good that you are keeping busy with internships etc.
    2. Try posting ads for tutoring/editing/proof-reading etc. (with permission) at local colleges/universities; or online on your local Kijiji listings. The new school term is about to begin right? You write well and your services might be of great use to many struggling students. Negotiate your fees with each prospective client.
    3. Keep your positive outlook and also keep your options open. i.e. Don’t limit yourself to simply teaching, tutoring, language-& writing-related jobs. Is there something else that you really enjoy doing? If so, you might do well to start your own business around that – even if it something like selling something you make from your home…who knows…put your thining cap on! ;)
    4. Again, don’t get discouraged. Know that you are not alone – much of this unemployment is due to the U.S. & current global recession. (It’s the same in Canada where I live). It is not anything to do with what you are or are not doing to get a job. Jobs are scarce right now & so there is a great deal of competition for all kinds of jobs, & also there’s a lot of discrimination (racial & other) that often come into play in the labour market when jobs are scarce.
    5. I admire your perseverance & persistance. Good luck! (Once you are on your feet again – & by no means am I suggesting right away – grad school is always fortifying whether it leads to a job or not!)

  • Rashaad Said on August 29th, 2011 at 9:22 am:

    Thanks, Akbar.

    2) I actually hadn’t heard of Kijiji. But it’s certainly an option and I’ll look more into it.

    3) I’m not trying to limit myself into writing/editing jobs. Since most of my most work experience has been spent in education, I have strongly considered working in international education. Recently, I have given thought to working as a study abroad advisor. I’ve been told I have the qualifications. I’ve applied for some study abroad positions and other positions at universities.

  • Owen Rojek Said on September 14th, 2011 at 2:03 pm:

    Rashaad I hope you are still pressing on with your search. I just returned to the States at the end of last month after 3 years as an ALT in Oita-ken. I am starting my own job search now. I think it is important to surround yourself with people who will support your search both emotionally and through networking/connections. Good luck in your search and maybe I will see you at a JETAA meeting in NYC sometime. Cheers!

  • Rashaad Said on September 22nd, 2011 at 8:19 pm:

    Owen, thanks for your message. I just noticed it now. How is your job hunt going? Hopefully, it’s going well. I had one job interview recently that went well, not great. I may get good news soon. Or I may be disappointed. That’s life. But anyway, best of luck!

  • Marie Said on September 25th, 2011 at 11:41 pm:

    Rashaad, How is your job search going? I was just thinking you might want to look on the AFS (American Field Service) website to see if they have any job postings. I also belong to the Linkedin AFS group and there are often job postings. Yamagata is a wonderful and beautiful place. I had the opportunity to go there on a mid-year conference. Good luck on your search

  • Rashaad Said on September 27th, 2011 at 1:29 pm:

    Marie, thanks for your message. I’m back to square one now. On Friday, I got word I didn’t get the job I interviewed for (I learned about it via JETwit). So I’m spending more and more on LinkedIn. I just joined the AFS group on LinkedIn. How did you get your job? Best of luck in everything!

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