Bringing the JET alumni community together

jetwitmascotEditor’s Note — Returning JETs, take note! If you haven’t seen yet, check out this excellent resource connecting JET alumni. This blog, developed last fall by JET alumni Steven Horowitz (Aichi-ken, 1992-94), often has several daily posts on Japan-related topics as well as frequent job openings that could be of interest to JET alumni, particularly in the publishing and translation sectors. Horowitz has recruited quite a few alumni to become regular contributors and he continues to seek out more volunteers (as well as advertisers!). Getting involved would be a great way to tap into the JET alumni network, which could help you with your endeavors post-JET. So check it out! The following article is a reprint of an interview of Horowitz that appeared in the JETAA NY Quarterly newsletter.

JETAANY Quarterly:  Hey, what is a JetWit, anyway?

It’s just “JET” plus the acronym for “Writers Interpreters and Translators.” I started the WIT e-mail group last May to find more writers for the JET alum publications and also to help freelance translators find more work opportunities. I wanted to create a sort of public face for the WIT group to be able to do these things on a more consistent basis. I also wanted to create an online archive of newsletter articles that editors from other JETAA chapters could easily access and copy and paste for their own chapter newsletters.

JQ:  Then why does JetWit look like an elephant?

[Laughs] I knew I wanted a Japanese-style mascot, so I went to graphic designer and Web developer Zi Mei (Saitama-ken, 2002-05) because I’d seen some of the excellent characters he created on his site ( I told him I wanted a cute little furry animal, and he somehow he came back with an elephant that he named A.J. which I love anyway.

JQ:  How’s it going so far?

Pretty good. The site is getting between 100 and 200 hits per day right now. But more importantly, it’s helped some JET alums find work, like Julie Matysik (Yamanashi-ken, 2006-07) who had just moved to New York and was looking for work in publishing. I asked her to start writing about her job search process for the benefit of other alums and she started writing under the title Editorial Pursuits. Within two posts, another JET alum at a publishing house saw her posts, got in touch and ended up offering her an internship. Meanwhile, Jonathan Trace (Fukuoka-ken, 2005-08) was also looking for work in publishing and writing and had just started doing the JETAA Chapter Beat feature for JetWit when Julie told me to let Jonathan know that her company had another internship opening, which Jonathan subsequently got. This is the JET alum network at work and it makes me really happy.

JQ:  So what’s the plan going forward?

I’d love to get more JET alums writing about their expertise, like triple-threat interpreter/translator/writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken, 2000-03) who does the WITLife posts after watching Japanese news each day, which she does anyway to keep her interpreting skills sharp. I’d also love to keep pulling veteran JET alums out of the woodwork. Like authors Roland Kelts (Osaka-fu, 1998-99) (Japanamerica), James Kennedy (Nara-ken, 2004-06) (The Order of Odd-Fish) and Rob Weston (Nara-ken, 2002-04) (Zorgamazoo), who I never would have learned about if I hadn’t started JetWit. I also wouldn’t mind attracting some paying advertisers.

JQ:  At the risk of offending, you’re a bit of a veteran JET alum yourself. Any parting words of wisdom for the younger JET set?

So I’m at that age where I can start indiscriminately doling out gratuitous advice? OK, might as well get on my soapbox while the memory is still relatively sharp. I guess I’d say that the JET alumni community is a terrific resource, and it’s still largely untapped in many ways. Given that the economy doesn’t seem inclined to do anyone any favors these days (well, except for those of us who work in the bankruptcy field) now is a great time to take advantage of the JET Alumni Association and our network, including You can meet a lot of people, but more significantly you can use the organization to create opportunities for yourself to get experience in whatever field you want.

Thanks, Steven.  And good luck with everything.  We’ll keep an eye on in the meanwhile.