Hiroshima City JET alum Fiona Jenkins answers some questions about what she’s been up to post-JET and how the JET experience has helped her. If you’re a JET alum and would like to answer this questionnaire, please email the editors at wideislandview (atto) gmail (dotto) com!
Name: Fiona Jenkins
Location in Japan while on JET: Hiroshima City
Years on JET: Almost 5 (August 2007-March 2012)
Currently living in: Folkestone, Kent, UK
Current occupation and jobs held since leaving JET:
Currently I’m a full-time mama, as I just quit/deferred my job as a Teach First trainee primary school teacher. We arrived back in the UK in May and I almost immediately started my training, and then went into the classroom in September. I stuck it out until November before deciding now is not the right time for me to do it.
Highlight/funniest part of your JET experience:
Too many to choose from! I absolutely loved learning Japanese in classes at the International Centre and later at Hiroshima YMCA. I am really proud that I came to Japan knowing no Japanese and left with JLPT 2. On a personal level, I came to Japan single and left married with a baby – quite an achievement! I have so many wonderful memories. l particularly loved dressing in yukata for summer festivals and travelling to many places within Japan.
How the JET Programme has benefited you career-wise:
It’s difficult to say exactly, but I am sure my experience on JET helped me to get onto the Teach First programme. I would love to use my Japanese at some point and not let it fade away.
What transferable skills JET gives you:
Patience, diplomacy, the ability to work with a wide range of people and their working styles, cultural sensitivity, planning and self-organization, presentation skills, and classroom management skills.
What advice you would give to current JETs for getting the most out of the JET experience in order to further their career afterwards:
Employers really love it if you have held leadership positions, so if there is a chance to be PA or to be involved in AJET etc. go for it, even if you don’t see yourself as a natural leader. Try giving presentations at the mid-year conference or Tokyo Orientation. Don’t forget you’re in an amazing position to learn a language not many foreigners can speak. I would also advise saving as much of your generous JET salary as you can while still enjoying yourself!
Any tips for job hunting after JET?
If, like me, you want to have the next step sorted before leaving, you could apply for something while still in Japan. I interviewed for Teach First in summer 2011 to start in summer 2012. With hindsight, I really needed more downtime to readjust to being back in the UK and also to being a mother. The reverse culture shock process seems to take a long time, especially if you were away for several years. For some people, going straight into a new job might help them to cope, but for me it was the opposite. It is worth thinking about what might suit you.