Thinking of wanting to join JET? Been already accepted? Or perhaps rejected or placed as an alternative? Before you make your decision or decide to wallow in misery for being rejected, take some time to read this.
Most JETs rather pompously think they are the elite of all the English teachers or interpreter/translators in all Japan. But are their thoughts founded?
Misconception: You work for the JET Program once you get in
Reality: YOU DON'T... or at least in the beginning you don't.
The truth is that when you get first inducted into JET, you are NOT paid directly by CLAIR (Council of Local Authorities for International Relations - JET's parent group). This, by common sense means that you are not receiving wages from JET / CLAIR. You receive money directly either from your school, board of education, or the organization that you were picked by. And, by common sense, you are employee of your school, board of education, or the organization that selected you. Those whom stay in JET for extended periods of time, usually as 5th year "Unicorn JETs" may get the opportunity to work at CLAIR, but even then, it is almost impossible to get in.
Wanna-be JETs MUST NOT FORGET THIS. Every time I meet a JET or former JET whom says that they worked "at the JET Program", I ask them if they ever received a pay check directly from Tokyo. All have said "No", so I ask them where they were stationed. They tell me, and I tell them, "So you worked at the ~~~~~ (Board of Education, School, ~~~~Organization)". This usually irks them, but the truth hurts.
Misconception: If you work in the JET Program, regardless of your length or job title, you will get any Japanese related job you want
If that were REALLY the case, I'd be working at Rakuten, Nintendo, Sony, or any multi-billion dollar Japanese company.
But the truth is, most Japanese related jobs really don't give a rat's ass if you were an ALT or a CIR. If you are a CIR, then you have a leg up since it shows that you (supposedly) sufficiently communicate in Japanese well enough.
Even funnier, 95% of the native Japanese population has no idea what the JET Program even is. To them, all English teachers are the same. It's just like a pizza man here in the United States. I don't care if you worked at Pizza Hut, Dominos, or a local shop (which are the best by the way), you're still the pizza man.
Pushing it even further, most, if not all, executive level Japanese managers outside education have no idea what JET is, nor do they care that you can teach "This is a pen" to elementary school or jr. high students.
The only thing that matters to managers is that you have skills. If you are not planning on staying in the education field for the remainder of your career, then you WILL (and mark my words, W-I-L-L) have a very difficult time trying to secure work if all you have is teaching English skills and making lesson plans if you want to work at a regular Japanese company around the world.
Misconception: If you join JET, you will get fluent in Japanese through their Japanese Program.
Reality: The JET Japanese program is not even worth the paper is printed on. If anything, you are better off learning from either me (sorry, shameless advertisement :p ), or any other textbook or materials. In addition, while the JET Japanese Class probably has changed over the span of five years, the advanced level of the book was too easy and not even JLPT N4 level, which is still not enough Japanese for one to live in Japan comfortably.
In fact, you may be able to get more fluent by going to local classes that are designed for foreigners to improve their Japanese. Akkeshi didn't have one (because "Go Home Gaijin"), but when I lived in Asahi, there was one in neighboring Sosa, which I frequently went to every Saturday before work. Most, if not all of these classes, are free.
Misconception: JET has the best support network for all returning JETs.
Reality: This... is not entirely false. But, chances are, you are not going to be living in the areas were there are JET Alumni Associations. In fact, if you are going to the Midwest, which is where most Japanese companies chose to locate their firms, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan don't even have societies, leaving people to find mentors (like me) for support and help.
I'm sure there are other misconceptions that I have heard over the years, but for now, I'll leave it at that and up date this page from time to time. But yeah, there are a lot of misconceptions about JET... and almost all of them are exactly what they are.