Hiroshima JET alum Sean Hofman 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 editors at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Sean Hofman
Location in Japan while on JET: Mihara-shi, Hiroshima
Years on JET: 4
Currently living in: San Francisco, California
Current Occupation: Training and Development Specialist at Uber
Highlight/funniest part of your JET experience:
When I go down memory lane of my favorite JET moments, all roads end up leading to Mac Bar [R.I.P. : ( ]. Whether it be post-orientation party “hijinks” or your casual, sloppy karaoke after-party, Mac Bar has always been the locale of some of my most special, wild nights.
One night that stands out in particular, is the 2012 Welcome Party. This was our last time having a “Pour your own drinks” tabe/nomihodai as our welcome dinner (and for good reason). In the span of one evening at Mac Bar, glass bottles were smashed, beer was spilled by men in sombreros, and all types of unspeakable acts were committed.
And oh yea, I met my future fiance!
How HAS the JET Programme has benefited you career-wise?
The biggest career benefit I got out of the JET programme was getting to know all of the JETs themselves. Everyone who joins JET comes from a very diverse background. You meet people from all over the world with different job histories. I met JETs who used to be investment bankers, teachers, recruiters, military, grad school students and more. I learned a lot about different industries I’d never even thought about joining. It made me broaden my scope and entertain the idea of pursuing other opportunities besides teaching. Ultimately, this new perspective led me to the position I’m in now. Definitely take the time to get to know everyone in Hiroshima because there is a lot to be learned from their experiences.
What transferable skills does JET give you?
Adaptability. When you get dropped off on a doorstep and are expected to immediately start your life in a new country, you’re forced to learn a special set of skills. You learn to listen more, you take more notice of social cues, you take a second longer to think before you speak. All of these skills pay off when you return home. You’ll find that you have a brand new perspective on your old life and the way you interact with people. Work-wise, every new company you work for is going to have its own culture, and some people can adapt better than others. If you could successfully adapt to Japanese culture, you’ll already be miles ahead of most people.
What advice would you give to current JETs for getting the most out of the JET experience in order to further their career afterwards:
It’s never too early to plan your exit strategy. Your number one priority should be to enjoy every last moment you have while you are in Japan, but it never hurts to think about what comes next when the fun is over. If you know for sure you will be leaving in July/August, start thinking about questions like where do you want to be, what do you want to do, how are you going to do it? I know it took me a long time to figure those questions out, even after I finally left. But, having a plan of attack definitely helped subdue my anxiety levels about going home.
The more confident you feel about moving on, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the time you have left.
Any tips for job hunting after JET?
Take advantage of your JET network. One of the most important parts of finding a good job is knowing people in the industry you’re looking to join. JETs are afforded the amazing advantage of having a tight-knit alumni group that has dispersed into most any industry you can think of. Start on Linkedin (if you don’t have a Linkedin page and you plan on job hunting, stop reading and make one NOW!), and simply search for JETs in your area or at any particular company you want to apply to. I reached out to three different JETs who worked at tech companies in SF. I had never met any of them in my life but, all three were happy to offer some great advice/leads for my job search and even met up with me for a drink! Our network is invaluable so take advantage of it.
Put yourself out there. Make use of all the job sites at your disposal. One strategy that really helped my job search was creating a job profile on Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, Glassdoor.com, and any other major job site that I found. Recruiters scour these job boards and are looking for specific kinds of candidates. You’ll find that recruiter calls will start coming to you. The first job I received with Google ended up coming from a recruiter reaching out to me after seeing my resume on Monster.com, despite all my other applications to Google being rejected. Do everything to make these people know who you are.
Don’t sell yourself short. You are a college graduate with international work experience under your belt. You are qualified for an adequate job! Don’t fall into the trap of accepting the first job you are offered, especially if it’s not up to your standards. Good jobs are out there, trust me. It just takes a bit of patience. Don’t be afraid to say “no” and wait for the right job.