If you are an aspiring JET eagerly awaiting the next application period to open, I am sure by now you have read about the many tasks that current and outgoing JETs had to do in order to gain one of those coveted interview spots!
Arguably the most important task is your Personal Statement (or Statement of Purpose). This is your opportunity to write in your own words all about why you want to take part in this programme, and what you have to offer as a potential JET Programme candidate.
Having spent the past three and a half years assisting prospective university students with their personal statements and applications, I learned many useful tactics on how to tackle getting started. These tips definitely helped me when it came to writing my own JET Personal Statement and kept the whole process stress-free, so I’m passing them on to you – because sharing is caring.
Ganbatte! Let’s show JET the best possible you!
Get Started Early
The JET Programme application usually opens sometime around late September through to October, and stays open for about a month. If you think this gives you plenty of time to write a strong statement – YOU’RE WRONG!
Whether you are a current undergraduate or have previously graduated, you should avoid starting your statement from scratch during the open application period. There are many other parts to complete on top of this, especially if you need to visit a doctor for medical evidence or collect university documentation. These can quickly become difficult to manage if you have personal, work or university life to juggle alongside.
It isn’t a mammoth task, but a rushed statement is easier to spot and pick apart, and this is your one opportunity to shine before they get to meet you. Starting earlier gives you more time to plan, proof read and edit your statement until it is the best representation of you!
Do not rely heavily on example statements
Example statements can be a really helpful tool if you have a mental block or are struggling to get started. However you should use these with caution as they were written solely from one person’s experiences! Reading other statements whilst writing your own can also be a detriment, as you may compare yours to what they have written – something you should avoid doing.
Everybody has a unique story about how they fell in love with Japan, what led them to apply and the experience that you can bring. JET wants you for what you will bring to them, not a cookie-cutter clone who fits a mould – hence why every successful statement is completely different.
Photo by Leo Hidalgo (@yompyz)
Stick to a structure
When you start searching for JET Personal Statement advice, you will undoubtedly come across many different requirements that people have had to abide by. This can be a bit of a panic at first but the best advice is to stick to what your consulate/official JET website states! For example, us Brits can write between 800-1000 words, double-spaced which can end up at around 2-3 pages, whereas elsewhere in the world I have heard it can be limited to 2 pages only.
Your official JET website may also provide a structure that they would prefer you to stick to (if you’re applying from the UK there definitely is one). This is extremely helpful, and it is ideal that you do work around this as you will answer all of the questions they want to know, in the order they are looking for.
That said – don’t feel like you need to stick to three exact paragraphs because they give you three sections. You can write as many as you like, as long as it fits within their requirements. Just make it flow like you would with any regular essay, but keep your content organised.
Remember it’s a job!
The JET Programme is a fantastic opportunity for sharing your culture and experience and….. aw heck, you really want to live in Japan. We all do – that’s why so many JETs are already there and the rest of us soon to join. But it isn’t an extended holiday or a chance to continue a university style life. You are applying for a full time job – so keep that in mind when writing. Treating the application professionally will show through the way you write and present yourself.
Just to note, it has been debated whether or not mentioning an interest in anime or manga can put a negative spin on your application. But if mentioned as part of an interest and not the overall theme or driving factor for your application it should be okay. I actually wrote about my childhood love of Pokemon in mine and here I am now, due to start in August.
The biggest thing to do is WRITE. By the time you have researched and planned what they want from you, you’ll be ready to just go for it. Don’t write your first draft with the word or page limit in mind – go over it! It is always better to have more than less, and trim it down later. You can proof read, and have friends, family, colleagues and teachers help you along the way (Especially if you listen to the first point and start early ;D).
Have as many trusted people as you feel you need give you an honest opinion on the statement, but remember to keep it true to yourself. You can always re-write a sentence to make it sound more professional, but the original personality should be there. Some of the best statements my students sent off to their universities began as raw, excitable (and terribly written) pieces of writing that they rewrote to a professional standard. But because they gave themselves enough time and proof read carefully, they kept a flavour of themselves in there without becoming robotic.
I hope that you enjoy working on this and that my advice is of some reassurance to you throughout the process. And when in doubt.. head on over to the forums! There’s a fantastic community on there and plenty of helpful hands on deck to give support. I’m always more than happy to answer any questions.
Statement of Purpose essay
This is an essay, in English, of not more than two 8½" x 11" (or A4) pages, typewritten in 12 point font and double-spaced with one-inch margins. Please note that anything beyond the required two pages will not be read.Please type your name and page number (1of 2, 2 of 2) on each page. Be sure to include two copies of your statement in your application package. You should incorporate all of the following points in your essay.
Relevant Experience: Describe applicable experiences, professional skills, relevant interests and personal qualities, and how you feel these will be useful to you as an ALT or CIR.
Motivation for Participation: State why you wish to go to Japan and participate in the JET Program and why you are interested in the position for which you are applying. Also address what you hope to gain, both personally and professionally, and what effect you hope to have on the Japanese community and internationally as a result of your participation in the JET Program.
Considering you only have two pages, it is important to make sure all the points listed above are mentioned somewhere in your essay -- avoid fillers, get straight to the point.You have to make yourself look good, but at the same time, you don't want to talk about yourself too much (By this, I mean: Make you sure you address things you can do for the company, not just the things the company can do for you). The main focus should NOT be "I want to go to Japan really badly, because I love the culture." It's okay to mention it briefly, especially in answering the "why do you wish to go to Japan?" point of the essay, but then move on.
Also, I would avoid going into detail about interest in anime, manga, or computer/video games in your essay. This point is somewhat controversial, but I know a person who didn't get to the interview stage that mentioned his love for Japanese video games and computers in his essay. He took that out of his essay when he re-applied the following year, then he got the interview. It may have been a coincidence, but I think that mentioning these things could lead the application committee to think you're shy, anti-social, or just want to go to Japan for your own interests and not for a love of teaching and multi-culturalism, whether that's actually true or not. When I took my rough essay to my Japanese prof to look over, she told me to take out the mention of anime, because it gives the wrong impression. I guess it's just important to remember that, first and foremost, this is a formal essay for a job.
It might also be a good idea to check out the page on the JET website that describes that responsibilites of a JET ALT and the qualities they find appealing (On the USA page, it's under the tab on the side that says "Job Descriptions"). I used this to decide what qualities and experience I have that I can focus on the most in my essay to match what they are looking for in an employee.
Allllllright. So....here is my final essay that I submitted with my application. I hope that it helps all of you planning on applying for 2013! Ganbatte :) If you have any further questions, just leave a comment! My next post will be coming in a couple of weeks.
Statement of Purpose
If accepted for the ALT position with the JET Program, I would strive to create a positive, upbeat environment that excites Japanese students about learning English. I believe that creativity is a powerful tool in the classroom to stimulate interest and motivation. Therefore, I hope to utilize my knowledge of American music education by teaching language and culture through song. I am convinced that my collegiate experiences, interest in Japanese language and culture, and desire to teach make me an ideal candidate.
In May 2011, I graduated from Marshall University with a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and a minor in music. Through the Marshall University Japan Club, I enjoyed meeting and working with Japanese foriegn exchange students. Being a member of the Marshall University Chorus for four years and secretary of the Marshall University Collegiate Music Educators Association for two years, I gained valuable leadership skills and enjoyed collaborating with peers. I both attended and helped organize educational clinics at state conferences. Also, as part of an education course, I observed and assisted in music classes at Meadows Elementary School. One of my responsibilities was writing and teaching choreography for an upcoming concert. Through these experiences, I came to the realization that I would like to teach.
During my last semester of college, I met with a Japanese graduate student once a week to help him with his English. The student was rather shy, which made communication challenging. However, we made progress and it gave me a desire to help others like him in the future. I believe that working as an ALT would be a great way to gain classroom experience, so that I may be better equipped to assist those having difficulties with the English language. My goal is to obtain a Master's Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language upon returning home and share the multi-cultural experiences gained through this position with students in the United States.
I am also interested in living and working in Japan to learn more about the country's rich culture. I have a strong desire to continue my Japanese studies and I would love the opportunity to do so in Japan. For my undergraduate Capstone Project, I wrote a comparitive study of elementary music education in Japan and the United States. If given the opportunity to work for JET, I would appreciate the chance to learn more about Japanese music and the education system firsthand.
I am a dedicated, hard-working employee, which is evidenced through having been employed with Frostop Drive-In for over six years. When faced with a difficult situation in the workplace, I find a way to solve the problem instead of giving up. I believe this is an important quality for someone working as an ALT, because I realize living and working in a different country could be challenging. I take my commitments seriously and always give my best effort.
I believe that cultural exchange is important in this increasingly globalized world. If given the opportunity, I would seek to teach students about the English language in a manner that would inspire them to persue multicultural careers. I am convinced that my knowledge and skills, combined with my passion for Japanese language and culture, make me a unique candidate for the JET Program. Working as ALT for the JET Program would not only assist me in obtaining my goals, but also deepen my understanding of the world around me and help me grow as a person.