By Sarah Parsons (Gunma-ken, 1995-97) for JQ magazine. Sarah is the careers and networking coordinator for JETAA UK and chair of the Midlands Chapter. She also runs her own business called Japan In Perspective, where she facilitates business links between the UK and Japan.
There are a variety of ex-JETs: those who have just returned looking for jobs and hoping to make sense of and use their JET experience, and those who are still interested in keeping in touch with Japan who have been very successful using their JET experience professionally—whether it be directly Japan-related or using it as a catalyst for a new career—but who have not been engaged with JETAA for a long time, if ever. Several things became evident.
First, JET can be a life-changing experience that offers so many potential professional opportunities, but the professional needs of our members are not being formally facilitated within JETAA UK. Secondly, the job environment in the UK is getting more and more competitive and it is very challenging for ex-JETs to stand out, gain more business skills and use their experiences professionally, so there is a demand for helping JETs with their post-Japan careers; and thirdly, in order to achieve any of this, JETAA needs to raise its profile professionally and engage with local business communities.
In this vein, we decided to map out a multifaceted programme within JETAA UK to facilitate these needs and to engage and utilise the expertise of some of our more experienced members. We wanted to organise networking events for local ex-JETs to meet the local business communities (UK companies that are interested in Japan as well as local Japanese companies) so as to offer great opportunities for JETs to develop important contacts and give attendees a chance to keep up to date on what is happening in the Japan-related business world.
The programme was officially launched at our annual JETAA Welcome Back Reception last October with a networking reception at the University of Nottingham featuring with local UK and Japanese businesses and academics that have ties with Japan.
“I had only just returned from Japan when I attended the Nottingham reception, and it was great to see there are so many Japan connections in my local area. Local businesses were really interested in my experience and one even wanted my advice on their upcoming business activities in Japan,” said attendee Amy Roberts (Kagoshima-ken, 2011-13).
The Japan/UK Careers Seminar, held in London the following month, included ex-JETs and representatives from big Japanese corporations, who gave advice on how to find jobs in the Japan-related arena. We hope to continue and refine these networking events, and to also roll them out across the whole country. Running alongside this, we implemented a mentoring programme and were absolutely astounded by the amount of ex-JETS who showed an interest in mentoring.
“The seminar gave me a great chance to network with other ex-JETs and meet potential employers as well as find out what the job market is like in the UK for Japanese speakers,” said attendee Matt Nelson (Hiroshima-ken, 2008-11). “I will certainly be attending the next one!”
With support from the UKTI team in Tokyo, we have been able to identify some possible Japan-based internships suitable for life after JET and we hope to start forming more links with companies in the UK that could offer something similar. We aim to update our website to give links, contacts and details of our activities, as well as become more active on professional social media such as LinkedIn. As this programme is in its infancy, we also hope to attract more members who are willing to organise or speak at professional events and engage attendees on behalf of JETAA UK as well as add new ideas.
Our members truly believe that there is both a wide scope and interest in this programme. Japan is undergoing an economic resurgence and offers many opportunities for JETs to further economic links and participate in the globalisation Japan is striving to achieve. Many companies, including UK companies interested in the revival of Japan, could certainly utilise the experiences of ex-JETs, and we hope that our Careers and Networking Programme can help our members at all stages of their careers.