By Mark Flanigan, Nagasaki (2000-04)
As a JET alumnus, I look back fondly on the four years I spent living and teaching in Nagasaki Prefecture. Serving on JET was, quite literally, one of those “life-changing” experiences, as it confirmed my career path in the direction of public service and global education. In the 15 years or so since my time in Nagasaki, I have been lucky to have had international roles in the U.S. government, in higher education, and at a private, Japan-focused non-profit foundation. I was even fortunate enough to return to Japan a second time, to earn my MA in Peace Studies in 2012 through the Rotary Peace Center at International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo. Later, I served in a variety of roles in Manhattan with JETAANY between 2012-16.
My most recent career stage brought me back into the classroom, albeit in a different role and a new part of Asia for me. I am currently serving as a WorldTeach Fellow volunteer in Chittagong, Bangladesh, at the Asian University for Women (AUW). It has been both a challenging and rewarding transition back into teaching, as I felt a bit rusty in the beginning and took a bit of time to get back in the groove. Also, my main experiences with Asia had been almost entirely focused on Japan, China, and Korea. For me, South Asian history and culture was something I knew very little about up until a couple of years ago. Being here, I realized how comparatively little I knew about the diverse cultures of the Indian subcontinent of Asia. Nonetheless, it has proven to be an extremely rewarding transition, personally as well as professionally.
Me with some of my Pathways students in Bangladesh
Through a friend in New York City, I had first learned about AUW back in 2015. She had been a WorldTeach Fellow here a few years before, volunteering and having a really significant educational and cultural experience. The more I heard about her time in Bangladesh, the more I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to get back in the classroom while making a positive contribution to education for women at a significant institution like AUW. While I definitely enjoyed my four years in Manhattan, working as a Program Director with the Japan ICU Foundation (日本国際基督教大学財団), I also felt ready to take on a new challenge. I applied and was happily accepted as a new volunteer with WorldTeach, and assigned to AUW for the 2016-17 academic year.
AUW was founded in 2008 as a regional hub to help educate underprivileged women throughout different regions of Asia and the Middle East. With a liberal arts curriculum that promotes critical thinking and women’s empowerment, it is a truly encouraging place for young women who have faced numerous challenges in life due to poverty, gender bias, and sectarian conflict. With 600 students (and over 400 alumnae) from 15 different countries, including Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, and others, AUW is an amazingly diverse place. The dynamic environment, small class sizes, and daily interaction of people with many different ideas, perspectives, and cultures makes it an esteemed center of higher education in South Asia.
However, I almost missed my chance to be here. Less than one month before I was due to arrive at AUW, we heard the news of the terrible attack in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. All I knew was that international residents of the city (and their local friends and colleagues) had been targeted specifically in a vicious terror strike. The attackers, while a definite minority in terms of the general population, were sending a very clear and deadly message. Although the attack did not take place in Chittagong, it was great cause for concern among both WorldTeach and AUW staff, as well as present and future volunteers. At that time, it was not clear whether we would still be able to serve in Bangladesh, or how the program might proceed. Many safety protocols would need to be analyzed and revised before a final decision could be made. In the end we were still given the option to come, which I was definitely happy to hear.
I have now been here for seven months, teaching two different groups of students over the autumn and now spring terms. My classes are part of the Pathways for Promise Program at AUW, which is the recently developed entry point for women who have not had as much formal preparation to succeed in higher education. Many of them have come as former workers from the garment factories of Bangladesh, while others are daughters of Grameen Bank loan recipients, refugees from the persecuted Rohingya community, as well as indigenous minorities from the Chittagong Hill tracts region. In addition to Bangladeshis, Pathways students have come from Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Myanmar. They will take classes for approximately one year in Reading and Writing as well as Listening and Speaking, and also study Math and IT while participating in Community Time and Social Mentoring workshops and events.
A lovely display of Bengali cuisine
If they complete the Pathways Program successfully and meet all the exam requirements, they will advance to the one-year Access Academy and then an additional three years of undergraduate study at AUW. In all, the successful ones will graduate in five years with their bachelor’s degree in hand. Against all odds, this is their big chance to earn their college degree. Without the encouragement and funding support to match their own amazing dedication, it would most likely be impossible. It will not be easy for them. Many are far away from home and spend almost all of their time on the small but secure campus. They live in dormitories with 2-5 students per room, eat in the dining hall, and take all their classes together, so there is very little time for privacy or quiet reflection. Nonetheless, they are very eager to learn and make the most of this unique opportunity they have been granted.
It goes without saying that my students inspire me each and every day. Teaching them is really one of the biggest joys of my life here, and in many ways takes me back to my first experience teaching overseas in Japan. Although those two times are separated by about 15 years and many more miles, there are also some interesting parallels between them. Of the many things I have discovered over my time here thus far at AUW, one of the most interesting has been the surprising number of existing connections here between Bangladesh and Japan. As a former JET who later studied at ICU and worked to promote increased U.S.-Japan ties, it’s been a really pleasant surprise to find out about and help to build on these great bilateral bonds of friendship.
The first one, I discovered quite by accident. In the early part of the autumn semester, I was walking in the hallway outside of my office when I heard the distinct counts of “ICHI, NI, SAN, SHIIII!!” emanating from the level above. Intrigued, I climbed the staircase up to the next floor and was surprised to discover the gymnasium filled with perfect rows of students. They were in straight lines, balanced in strict stances, with fists alternately chambered by their side and then thrust forward in a crisp motion I instantly recognized. My mind wandered back to our small dojo in Hirado City, Nagasaki, where I spent countless hours drilling in those very same “kihon” movements. I was curious to find out more, so I made arrangements to return and observe a longer class in session.
It was then that I met Ms. Maria Chakraboty, their instructor, a remarkable woman from Bangladesh who has achieved her 5-Dan rank in Shotokan Karate. Maria serves as a real inspiration to her students, as AUW’s Associate Director of Physical Education and Karate instructor. Maria grew up in Chittagong, the same city where AUW is based, and faced hardships of her own due to people judging her negatively by her gender. She was strongly discouraged by others in her pursuit of Karate, but through the encouragement of her instructors, she has achieved a remarkable number of accomplishments. For her students, Maria is a living, breathing example of a successful adult woman, who has faced down discrimination and has continued her own personal growth through embracing the Japanese art of Karate. She has been able to impart her wisdom and experience to hundreds of young students through the years. Such is the wonderful environment of a cross-cultural, liberal arts university like AUW.
Maria (Center) training with some of her AUW students
In addition to Karate, there are other tangible bonds of kizuna between AUW and Japan. Attending the University’s Club Fair this past autumn, I was happy to learn that AUW students are involved in all kinds of social and academic club activities. Similar to Japan, students here balance their time between formal classes and organized clubs, like Model UN, Animal Welfare, a variety of sports, and other pursuits. Most interestingly to me, I discovered that there is a very active group of students on campus who are involved in the AUW Japan Circle Club! They are extremely genki and know an amazing amount of things regarding Japanese culture. They study Japanese on their own (as it is not taught here), read manga, watch anime, and even make their own kimono and other clothing by hand! Upon meeting them, I shared my experience as a JET alumnus and former ICU graduate student. They asked me to serve as their faculty advisor, to which I most happily agreed!
With some of the AUW Japan Circle Club students (and their hand-made clothing)!
I have been very happy to be working with them on various projects here this term. Most specifically, we have planned and organized a Japanese book drive among some of my colleagues and friends in Japan and Hong Kong. Through their kind and generous help, we have now received about seven boxes full of manga, books, magazines, language textbooks, and Japanese-English dictionaries from abroad! All of these were donated to the AUW library, so students can access them freely anytime. As none of our students have been able to visit Japan as of yet, they really love the chance to see any kind of “hon mono” firsthand. One Tokyo friend in particular also sent a variety of delicious Japanese candies, which were a big hit with the students! We are still interested in receiving any other items from Japan, if anyone would like to donate. Additionally, the students performed a number of Japanese songs (in Japanese) and dances for our recent Lunar New Year Festival. We hope to develop exchange partnerships with AUW and universities in Japan, in order to offer study abroad opportunities in both directions. Interestingly, at least one AUW alumna is now studying in Japan, earning her Master’s degree at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo!
Lastly, there is a very robust level of support for AUW in Tokyo. As part of the global support network for AUW students, a number of highly-accomplished and very influential donors make up the “Friends of AUW Japan” organization. Among them is Ms. Kathy Matsui,Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan,who has a long and deep connection to AUW. In 2007, she was chosen by the Wall Street Journal newspaper as one of the “10 Women to Watch in Asia” for her work on the “Womenomics” theme, and serves as a board member of the AUW Support Foundation. Ms. Matsui and her husband, Mr. Jesper Koll, have been major donors to AUW since its inception, and they continue to look for ways to promote exchange between AUW and Japanese universities and companies. In addition, First Lady Akie Abe serves as an official Patron of AUW and has been actively involved with a number of fundraising efforts on behalf of the university in Tokyo over the past few years. Lastly, AUW has enjoyed very generous support through the past several years from a number of Japanese companies like HITACHI, MITSUI & CO., TOSHIBA CORPORATION, and UNIQLO.
First Lady Akie Abe (center) and Ms. Kathy Matsui (second from right)
In conclusion, I would say my time here in Bangladesh has been a wonderful journey thus far. In many ways, it’s a completely new (and sometimes bumpy) experience for me, living in South Asia and in a developing, Muslim-majority country for the first time. Culturally, it’s much different than what I was used to, but that’s been a good opportunity to broaden my own horizons and question my preconceived notions about life as well. My students in the Pathways for Promise Program specifically, and AUW students in general, have taught me so much and really inspired me through their own energy, resilience, and desire to learn. As a nice coincidence, this latest chapter in my career also brings me back to teaching and to Japan in many ways. I am happy to have so many “natsukashii” moments here, to help teach these remarkable young women, and also to be in a position to try and advance the relationships between people in Bangladesh and Japan. In some ways, it’s the most unexpected yet personally satisfying addition to my time here at AUW. I’m happy to make the most of all these fortuitous connections during my time here in Bangladesh and beyond.
Mark Flanigan is currently a WorldTeach Fellow volunteer in Chittagong, Bangladesh, at the Asian University for Women (AUW). Mark served as an ALT in Nagasaki Prefecture from 2000-4, and later studied for his MA in Peace Studies as a Rotary Peace Fellow at the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo from 2010-12. After graduating from ICU in 2012, he spent four years working for the Japan ICU Foundation in NYC. He has also held leadership roles in the JET Alumni Associations of both New York and Washington, DC. He can be reached at markinmitaka(at)gmail.com
Positions: Event/General Volunteers
Posted by: Tokyo JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching)
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo JALT is seeking 1-2+ event/general volunteers. Candidates do not need to be a current member of JALT. This would be a perfect position for a current ALT, JET, or an eikaiwa or corporate employee. Japanese-speaking volunteers are especially encouraged to apply.
The volunteers will be responsible for assisting the Officer of their choosing, and working as event coordinators, guest speaker and venue liaisons, and/or performing other administrative work. Duties are flexible and fees for JALT events are waived for volunteers; transportation and expenses will be paid. Volunteers will be requested to work at least 2 events per year.
This position will provide an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience and increase knowledge of event planning and educational practices in a fast-paced volunteer setting. As a volunteer for the largest JALT Chapter, the position will also provide opportunities for CV building, networking, and further advancement. Please contact Tokyo.JALT@gmail.com to express your interest.
Positions: Chapter Coordinator
Posted by: Tokyo JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching)
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo JALT is seeking 1-2 volunteers for the newly established position of Chapter Coordinator. The Coordinator(s) will report directly to the Secretary of the Chapter and work closely with the Officer in their area of interest: External Outreach, Membership, Programs, Publications, Publicity, Research. Candidates do not need to be a current member of JALT. This would be a perfect position for a current ALT, JET, or an eikaiwa or corporate employee. Japanese-speaking volunteers are especially encouraged to apply.
Responsibilities: Assisting the Officer in their area of interest, and may occasionally act as a deputy officer. Duties are flexible, but candidates should be willing and able to commit an average of 2-5 hours per month (or every other month) as event coordinators, guest speaker and venue liaisons, and/or performing other administrative work according to their abilities and interests (such as translation, interpretation, or copywriting).
This position will provide an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience and increase knowledge of event planning and educational practices in a fast-paced volunteer setting. As a coordinator for the largest JALT Chapter, the position will also provide professional references, and opportunities for CV building, networking, and further advancement. Please contact Tokyo.JALT@gmail.com by the deadline of June 15, 2016 with a short (~150 word) statement of your experience and interest.
Positions: External Outreach Coordinator
Posted by: Tokyo JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching)
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo JALT is seeking 1-2 volunteers for the newly established position of External Outreach Coordinator.
The External Outreach Coordinator(s) will report directly to the President of the Chapter and work closely with the Publicity and Programs Officers. Candidates do not need to be a current member of JALT. This would be a perfect position for a current ALT, JET, or an eikaiwa or corporate employee. Former ALTs, JETs, and Japanese-speaking volunteers are especially encouraged to apply.
- Developing a publicity program and acting as a liaison with external (non-JALT) organizations both domestically and internationally.
- Willing and able to contact educational and professional organizations in order to foster and further strong connections (particularly with ALTs and JETs).
- Additional responsibilities may include writing for local publications or speaking at local events.
This position will provide an excellent opportunity to increase knowledge of educational practices and communities in a fast-paced volunteer setting. As a coordinator in the largest JALT Chapter, the position will also provide opportunities for CV building, networking, and further advancement. Please contact Tokyo.JALT@gmail.com by the deadline of June 15, 2016 with a short (~150 word) statement of your experience and interest.
Donate to help disaster victims in Hiroshima!
The death toll from mudslides in the city of Hiroshima jumped to 71 recently, with at least 15 people still missing. Nearly 1,000 people out of about 1,300 evacuees are sheltered in nine local elementary schools:
Hiroshima Kenjin Kai of Southern California has formally joined the efforts of Hiroshima Prefecture and various Hiroshima-based NGOs and NPOs in the effort to raise funds in support of the victims of the disaster that befell the local community and residents of northern Hiroshima.
Anyone interested in joining in this effort, please send donations to:
Hiroshima Kenjin Kai of Southern California
(payable to “Hiroshima Kenjin Kai of SC”; write “JET Program Alumni – Hiroshima Relief” in memo)
Attention: Mr. Takami Igawa – HKSC President
712 East First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
This fundraising drive will be carried through the end of September (September 30, 2014).
All funds collected in this drive will be sent to Japan Red Cross Hiroshima Office for distribution to the disaster victims.
For any inquiry, please contact Dr. Charles Igawa, HKSC Secretary via email at <email@example.com> or via (562) 818-7857.
Originally posted on the JETAA USA website:
Following Ambassador Kennedy’s donation last November of 110 books to the Taylor Anderson Reading Corner at Mangokuura Elementary School in Ishinomaki, the volunteer group that reads to the students there, Soyokaze no Ohanashi (The Gentle Breeze Talks), joined together with the Miyagi International Association (MIA) and current JETs in the prefecture to translate nine of these books into Japanese. The books chosen cover various topics such as the lives of children in the US and other countries around the world, science, and wildlife, and are simple enough to be accessible to younger students.
Ms. Kyoko Sasaki, from Soyokaze, reportedly first reached out to Mr. Andre Perez to ask for his support for the project. Andre, who is currently a Coordinator for International Relations with Miyagi Prefecture and MIA, took on the planning of the event, coordinating details between MIA and Ms. Sasaki. Once these were settled, he reached out to Miyagi JETs through his position as a Prefecture Advisor and tapped into the Miyagi AJET(MAJET) network through Ms. Tanya Zolotareva, another CIR and a MAJET officer. The various groups collaborated, with each taking responsibility for different steps of the process of selecting books, translating them, and affixing the translations. The whole undertaking reportedly went quite smoothly, thanks to MIA’s previous experience with translating books, the eight JETs and roughly 10 other people who volunteered their time and talent, and Mr. Perez’s connections to both MAJET and MIA.
The project was also profiled on Miyagi Prefecture’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/visitmiyagi) and in the Asahi Shimbun and Kahoku Shimbun.
The books will now be available to students at Mangokuura E.S. to look at any time and they will be able to work on their understanding of the English texts by referring to the new Japanese translations. Having prepared translations at hand will also make it easier for the volunteers who read to the children.
As Ms. Sasaki, who is also a friend of the Andersons, having known Taylor, said in talking with one of the local newspapers that reported on the story, “This is a way to express our thanks to Taylor’s family. We want to show them that we are continuing Taylor’s legacy by carrying on her work.”
By Eden Law (Fukushima-ken, 2010-11) for JQ magazine. Eden is JETAA New South Wales‘s webmaster, meaning he is the voice on all the online and social media for the Sydney-based chapter like Twitter, Instagram (both @jetaansw) and Facebook. Outside of JETAA, he doesn’t exist, and is merely a concept of a shadow of a dream of an enigma, wrapped in mystery and served with a side of salad.
The following is a shamelessly biased opinion: Being a member of JETAA is fantastic. One gets to help organise and be involved in events and projects that reach the general public here in Sydney (like the Japan Festival), hang out with a great group of like-minded people that know all the best Japanese places to eat, drink and be merry, and who are rarely inhibited in any karaoke session. There is ample opportunity to new people constantly, both inside and outside that chapter’s home city’s J-community, so in a way, the JET experience never truly ends.
That’s a personal assessment of what it’s like being a member of JETAA, the alumni association for former JETs. JETAA chapters exist all over the world from where the JET Programme has drawn its recruits. They give former JETs a way to connect with their local J-community and like-minded peers, and are essentially a non-profit social organisation with a Japanese cultural bent. And because JET is made up of a diverse group of people from all walks of life, JETAA chapters have great potential as a resource with links in government, business, education, academia and social networks.
But it can’t be denied that many chapters struggle with visibility or relevancy, in attracting members to events or to join their committees. The last point is especially important, as new members help to keep the organisation dynamic and active. And while the reasons for this are different for every situation, some similar and salient points can be discerned, notably from online forum comments (like LinkedIn). While a comprehensive discussion can probably fill a volume or ten, this article will nevertheless discuss these points.
So what does JETAA have to deal with?
Originally posted to JETAA DC Google Group by JETAA DC Volunteer Chair Paul Schuble (Hyogo-ken, 2008-11). Posted by blogger and podcaster Jon Dao (Toyama-ken, 2009-12). Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.
Position: Director of Member Engagement
The Global Language Network, a nonprofit dedicated to offering volunteer language classes in over 60 languages, is looking for a volunteer to take on a leadership role and head up their Language Liaisons program.
This is a single position and it looks to require a solid time commitment, but it also sounds like a great organization and awesome opportunity. Read More
It’s been three years since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. While the rest of the world, and arguably, the rest of Japan, has moved on, communities all along the east and north coast continue to endure and deal with the continuing legacy and consequences of that event, especially those displaced from the exclusion zone around TEPCO’s Daiichi plant.
The JET Programme continues to operate, with the government previously announcing plans to double the number of participants over three years. JETs continue to live and work in Tohoku, including JETs who were there before the earthquake, joined later by those placed after 2011. This article will examine the experiences and viewpoints of JETs who continue to work and live in Tohoku, in particular, those living in Iwaki, Fukushima, a city just past the the southern edge of the nuclear exclusion zone. Three years on, they will relate what they’ve seen and observed in their neighbourhood and the city. In addition, the viewpoints of two local Japanese residents will also be included, one from a retired member of a suburb in which evacuees have been housed; and a Japanese English teacher and mother of two.
Before the earthquake, Iwaki was one of the biggest rural cities in Fukushima, with a thriving fishing and farming industry, popular with tourists who come for its natural beauty and well-known beaches. A region rich in history from the Nara period (and prehistory, with its own dinosaur and fossil museums), it also has a famous theme park called the Spa Resort Hawaiians (made famous by the 2006 award-winning film Hula Girls) as well as the Aquamarine Fukushima aquarium. A mere 2.5 hours away from Tokyo by express train, it also supports a large JET community, ideal for those wanting to experience a rural pace with easy access to the bright lights of Tokyo. As a JET placement, it was arguably one of the best places to be.
JET Community Service Tracker 2013-2014
This year, National AJET has set some very ambitious goals for JET community involvement: 1,000,000 yen raised for charity, and 10,000 volunteer hours of community service. For any volunteer event, charity event, or fundraising campaign, large or small, please fill out this form. Whether you raised 100,000 yen, or 1,000, we’d love to hear about it. Whether 100 people volunteered for 10 hours, or two people volunteered for one hour, we want to hear about it!
JET Community Service Tracker:
AJET proudly introduces JET Community Service Tracker! This form is designed to collect data on volunteer hours served and charity money raised by JETs around Japan. You can enter figures for the entire JET-year: August 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014. The information allows AJET to share the positive impact JETs make in their communities with the Japanese Ministries that support JET and with the Japanese public, and help other groups increase the success of their own volunteer and charity efforts.
Race to the Top Challenge:
AJET also proudly presents the Race to the Top Challenge. This challenge will run for six months, from November 1, 2013 through April 31, 2014. Fill out the JET Community Service Tracker and win up to 60,000 yen to support your next volunteer or charity event!
How to Win:
That’s easy! Just be the most caring, dedicated, AJET Chapter you can be! Then, log all of the awesome things you do in the JET Community Service Tracker from November through April. For any questions regarding how to record your community service (what counts/what doesn’t) please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
One prize of 30,000 yen will go to the prefecture with the largest number of community service hours. A second prize of 30,000 yen will go to the prefecture with the largest amount of charity money raised. The winners will be determined on a percentage basis in order to account for the differences in JET population from prefecture to prefecture.
Who is Eligible to Win?
Any official AJET Prefectural Chapter is eligible to win one or both of these categories for a total of up to 60,000 yen. The winning prefecture(s) will be announced in the May issue of Connect Magazine.
The AJET National Council reserves the right to revoke prize money in the case of misconduct including but not limited to inaccurate recording, intentional lying, and unethical actions as determined by the Council. This contest is sponsored by the AJET National Council, a volunteer organisation of current JET participants elected and appointed by current JET Programme participants to represent the JET community nation-wide.
One of my close friends on JET, Tonisha Bell-Alston (Kikuyo-machi, Kumamoto-ken, 2003-05) was diagnosed with a very rare cancer earlier this year and is now fighting for her life.
If you’d like to join me in helping her, her friends have started a donation site to help with her medical costs: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/-teamtbellalston/96899
Tonisha is a strong, cheerful, wonderful person (and loving mother of two), as those of you who know her know. She is exhibiting those same qualities as she fights this disease. Please pass this on to others who may be interested in helping.
Tonisha’s powerful blog of her experience: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tonishaalston Here’s an excerpt from the “My Story” section in the beginning:
“Welcome to my site. Join me in the fight of my life! Please send your prayers, thoughts, kind words, well-wishes, and jokes my way. On February 27th I was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a very rare soft tissue cancer. Now, I can honestly say I’m one in a million :) Since discovering the cancer in my left thigh, it has metastasized to areas of my lungs. At one point I was hoping to avoid chemotherapy with a lifestyle change, but now chemo is the best option. I’m ready to beat this thing and put this chapter of my life behind me….”
Mark Frey (Kumamoto, 2002-06)
Originally posted to the JETAA DC website by JETAA DC Newsletter Editor Kathryn Kovacs: http://jetaadc.org/okaeri-volunteering-your-way-to-a-job/
Amber Liang, a former JET participant in Kochi Prefecture, shares her experience using volunteer work to boost her resume and land a job. She is now gainfully employed and serving on the JETAA New York Board of Directors.
Volunteering. What does that word conjure up? For many people, the first thing that comes to mind might be images of serving food at a soup kitchen, cleaning up the local park, or perhaps even, playing bingo at your neighborhood senior home. How does this actually lead to a job, you might ask? In the right context, volunteering can be a very effective strategy for laying the groundwork for a career, especially if you can mold the experience to suit your professional needs. To prove my point, I’m going to use my personal experience volunteering for JETAA New York (JETAANY) as a case study.
When I returned from my unforgettable two years on JET, I was remarkably optimistic that I would have no trouble finding a job in New York–naively so, because two weeks after my return, Lehman Brothers announced it was filing for bankruptcy and, well, you know the rest of the story. Needless to say, it was a rough time. I signed up with a number of temp agencies, but there wasn’t much that came my way and the jobs that did weren’t ones I could base a career off of. After weeks of doing nothing, I decided to get out of the house and went to my first JETAA event—the annual softball tournament, to be exact—where I met some awesome JET alumni, many of whom became excellent sounding boards for me; they told me about their careers and gave me some valuable advice on how to approach mine. This brings me to LESSON #1: Use your volunteering experience to build your network. Do not be afraid to speak candidly to everyone you meet. Networking with those you volunteer with is the perfect way to develop relationships in a more casual way than traditional networking avenues.
In the course of my conversations, I mentioned the fact that I had organized a number of events while on JET. I was speaking to none other than Steven Horowitz, founder of JETWit, and he invited me to help him produce an author showcase with some prominent JET alumni. Of course, having nothing better to do, I enthusiastically accepted. The event was widely successful and it confirmed that I not only enjoyed organizing events but I was also good at it. LESSON #2: Use volunteering as a way to work on your own skills and learn about your inner passions. This really gave me the confidence to run for secretary of JETAANY and continue producing events including a play reading of Sake with the Haiku Geisha, written by JET alumnus Randall David Cook.
When I went to apply for jobs, I now had substantive experience and results that I could talk about. I could also narrow down the types of jobs I wanted to that involving project management and event planning. When employers asked me what I was doing while I was unemployed, I could honestly and proudly say that I was being very productive. Lesson #3: Work your volunteering into your resume.I brought the flyers that I had created to my interviews and I showed them lists of all the events that I had organized on JETAANY. Long story short, I eventually got a job that I really wanted working in both program management and event planning, and what really brought it full circle was that my new boss knew Randall David Cook. Talk about making your network work for you!
In today’s tight job market, it’s important to stay relevant and engaged, and even more so if you are unemployed. You’d be surprised at how forgiving employers are when it comes to unconventional experiences, like volunteering, as long as you can tie it all it. So I encourage you to consider your passions, build your network, and volunteer your way to a job.
Did you volunteer your way to a job? Let us know any lessons you learned or resources in the comments.
(Hungry for more job search advice from JET alumni? Check out The Job Search section of our online Returnee Handbook).
As we head into fall, JETAA New York’s JQ magazine continues to provide content with an ever-expanding array of articles, interviews and features (see our recent stories here). We’re now looking for new writers, including recent returnees and JET vets, from all JETAA chapters worldwide for posting stories via our host at the global JET alumni resource site JETwit.com. (Scribes are also encouraged to join the JET Alumni Writers group on LinkedIn.)
Below are story ideas grouped by JET participants and alumni (JET World) and those more on Japanese culture (Japan World). And if you’re a JET or JETWit contributor from anywhere in the world with a story idea of your own, let us know!
Now, JQ is looking for additional help behind the scenes! Our editor (celebrating his fifth anniversary at the helm in November) is seeking a capable assistant to help with the posting, social media sharing and story assigning across all JETAA chapters. If you’re a wiz with WordPress, Facebook and Twitter, and enjoy all forms of Japanese arts, events and media, reach out to Justin. Thanks and yoroshiku!
Position: Volunteers for ESL Classes & Citizenship Programs
Posted by: FEGS Brooklyn Resource Center
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Start Date: N/A
Position Description: FEGS offers English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and an ESL/Civics program to immigrants seeking to learn English and/or gain citizenship. Volunteers are needed to assist with English instruction and connect new Americans to their communities. Volunteers will lead conversation groups for adult language learners at various levels. Topics will be provided.
Volunteers are also needed to provide assistance with the naturalization process. Volunteers will help clients to review the naturalization 100 questions and American History, as well as navigate ESOL and citizenship computer programs. Volunteers will be expected to assist clients in the completion of the USA Learns intake exam and to provide pre- and post-tests to determine the client’s level of English. Read More