JET Alum Jason Letts at a park in Kyoto
Hiroshima-ken JET alum Jason Letts answers some questions about what he’s been up to post-JET and how the JET experience has helped him. If you’re a JET alum and would like to answer this questionnaire, please email the editor at wideislandview (atto) gmail (dotto) com!
Name: Jason Letts
Location in Japan while on JET: Shobara-shi, Hiroshima-ken
Years on JET: 2008-2010
Currently Living in: Williamstown, MA, USA
Description of Current Occupation: Since leaving JET, I’ve been developing a career as an author of young-adult fiction. That usually means sitting in my pajamas and writing stories for months at a time, but it also means hearing from readers, which can be a lot of fun. You can check out my books on Amazon here!
Highlights of your JET experience: I had so many great experiences. Dancing through the streets with my coworkers at the Yoitoko Festival. Yuki-Gassen with my fellow JETs. My glorious, glorious elementary school in little Saijo. Cycling through the mountains of northern Hiroshima-ken. Taking trips and trekking all over Thailand and Okinawa’s tiny Kerama Islands. The friends I’ve made and the people I keep in contact with. The things that even though they were tough made me think. Big fat grapes from Miyoshi; you just can’t get them in the States!
How The JET Program benefited you career-wise: Every one of my stories has utilized some small part of my experience in Japan. Having that kind of familiarity with another culture has done a lot to give my work a more diverse, globalized perspective. I also got my start writing fiction while I was still on JET. It was a great way to spend quiet work nights and get out those little frustrations in a productive way.
What advice would you give current JETs for getting the most out of their JET experience in order to further their careers afterward? In addition to studying Japanese, I recommend doing everything you can to get yourself involved in the culture. Pay attention to what’s around you and how people are behaving. Travel and check out other cultures. There’s really always something new to learn.
Another important thing is to pursue your own interests and passions, whether they be artistic or what. Keep developing your own skills. The job market when I left was a horror show (and it remains so now). I applied to so many jobs, and it just didn’t matter how good I was because there were always hundreds of other candidates. If you’ve got a secret “in” somewhere, that’s great, but it might be helpful to think about what you would do if you had to make your own job. That’s what I had to do, and right now I’m doing a lot better than I would’ve been if I’d gotten any of those jobs I’d applied for. Plus, I’m doing what I love.
Any tips for job hunting after JET? I’d love to say something about networking and being persistent – and those have been helpful for me and my writing – but the job market for me was just a brick wall. Don’t just apply for your dream job. Get the job search started in earnest before you’ve even left JET. Because JET is a temporary position, you should always have a rough idea of where you want to go afterwards, and that can help get you thinking about what you need to do to get there. The most important thing you can do is be creative when it comes to applying your skills and imagining what you can do.