By Carolyn Brooks (Ishikawa-ken, 2006-11) for JQ magazine. Carolyn is co-author of the blog MadSilence–a cross-cultural blog written with her father–and a current culture/education related job-seeker in the New York area available for full-time or consulting work.
JET alumni from all walks of life gathered this weekend at the Nippon Club in New York City to talk about something important to us all: jobs and how to get them. The Career Forum is a much-anticipated event, with JETAA New York providing a varied and well-planned series of presentations for recent returnees and new career searchers alike.
“We hold this event annually to help the recent returnees get settled back in New York, provide job hunting advice and techniques for highlighting the JET experience on their resume, and give them the opportunity to meet alumni and recruiters in their possible career fields,” said JETAANY president Monica Yuki (Saitama, 2002-04). The Career Forum achieved all those objectives with flying colors, as well as giving us recent returnees a taste of home, which for many of us suffering from reverse culture shock was as welcome as the career advice.
Evan Hyman (Osaka, 1995-96) started the presentations off with a bang, sharing the 10 most important lessons he’s learned in his 14 years since JET. Over the years he’s worked in marketing and planning with some of the world’s largest companies (including Pepperidge Farm and Johnson & Johnson), but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t encountered the same road bumps that new jobseekers do. Some of his advice included practical matters like “Network, network, network!”; “Utilize as many recruiters as you can”; and “Your job search will be determined by the economy”; but it was his more personal advice that really struck me.
Lesson #9 was “It can take a really long time to realize what you want to do.” Mr. Hyman’s had some jobs that, while lucrative and attractive, just weren’t for him. It was those jobs that helped him find his “sweet spot” and learn skills that got him the jobs he liked. No experience is ever wasted! Lesson #5, my personal favorite, was “Have a passion for what you do!” If you work at a job you’re not interested in, you’re not going to do your best work, so find your passion and see how you can use it in a career.
The other three presentations were from more recent JET alumni, covering such topics as informational interviewing, social media and networking, and resume writing. “The job market is kind of like the dating scene,” said Chau Lam (Gunma, 2005-07), beginning her resume presentation with Shannan Spisak (Kanagawa, 1996-98). “Your resume is like your profile on a dating site, and its job is to interest people enough that they want to know more about you after looking at it for 30 seconds.” Their dating analogy brought a chuckle from the audience, and their seven page handout including power verbs, self-assessments and writing examples is an excellent resource that will be available on JETAANY’s website in the near future.
Sean Harley (Ibaraki, 1995-97) and Amber Liang’s (Kochi, 2006-08) informational interviewing presentation answered some important questions about proper conduct, like what questions are appropriate and why you shouldn’t even hint at asking for a job in an interview. Their presentation will also be available on the website.
The last portion of the forum allowed attendees to unwind and talk to a variety of alumni and recruiters. We exchanged business cards and stories of Japan while asking how they ended up where they did—as a public school teacher, grant writer, TV editor, research analyst, and translator. Throughout the day, all of the presenters stressed the importance of utilizing the JET network, both socially and professionally, and it was during our free talk that the strength of that network made itself felt. All the alumni were eager to tell us how JET helped them become who they are, how JETAA helped them survive after their return, and offered to open their networks to us, their new comrades.
By participating in JET, we all expected to become a bridge between Japan and America, but I don’t think any of us expected the bridges we would create between ourselves. It’s events like these that really prove how worthwhile programs like JET are–that the outreach and sharing we did in a foreign country can continue at home, making our countries better from the inside out.
For more on JETAANY, visit http://jetaany.org.