Teaching English in Japan
The Internet Job Search
Japanese schools receive a flood of emails for every job they post. How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you conduct an effective job search from a distance? How do you weigh job listings and job offers?
Actually, it is not too difficult. By taking a few extra steps, you will rise above the crowd of applicants and obtain a teaching job.
Upload Your Resume on a Website
A Web resume is a powerful tool for job searchers (See Creating an ESL Web Resume by the author.) You will email a standard cover letter and resume, but only a limited amount of information can be included in these formats. A Web resume allows job seekers to sell themselves in a more powerful and thorough way.
Web resumes are easy to set up by using one of the many free blogging sites, such as Blogger. Simply go the the site and open an account. Be sure to include a photo. When you email schools, always include a link to your web resume and mention that it contains your photo.
Do Some Background Reading
Many applicants have no teaching experience and are not trained English teachers. This is not a problem for many conversation schools. However, a bit of background knowledge will help you stand out from other applicants. It pays to do some minimal research.
Most conversation schools claim to prefer a "natural approach" (although few understand what this means). Therefore, it makes sense to read about this approach so you can discuss it intelligently during a phone interview (or email correspondence).
Next, go to Dave's ESL cafe (www.daveseslcafe.com) and read the teacher's forums. These contain a wealth of lesson plans, games, and suggestions from working English teachers all over the world.
Scanning the above sites will give you a bit of background knowledge and enable you to talk intelligently about teaching. You will also get an idea of what you are in for.
While job boards can be useful, a proactive approach is the best job search method. Pick a few cities or regions you would like to live in. Then target schools in those cities. By doing this I received several job offers from schools that were not yet advertising their openings. In fact, this may be the most efficient means of finding a job.
Go to the Japanese Internet Yellow Pages at english.itp.ne.jp. By entering a city and the subject "language schools" you will get a list of schools in that particular area. Many will list email addresses and web addresses. They also list phone numbers.
Send an email with an intro letter, a link to your web site, and your resume to every school that has an email address. If you have time, send a paper letter and resume to those schools that do not list email addresses. If you can afford it, the best technique is to call them.
Stress any teaching experience you have and any travel or living abroad experiences. Stress your flexibility. Stress your enthusiasm.
Internet Job Boards in Japan
There are a number of internet job sites that advertise jobs in Japan. These are good sources, but they contain as many sleazy schools as good ones. You must be careful when responding to ads. Read the job requirements carefully.
The following web sites regularly carry job postings for Japan:
National Job Postings in Japan
Regional Job Postings in Japan
Respond to job postings by email. Include a short introductory letter. In the letter mention that your photo is available on your website (for example: www.yourwebsite.blogspot.com).
Paste your resume at the bottom of the email, in the body of the email itself (do not send it as an attachment).
The purpose of most interviews is to see if you can express yourself clearly in English. They will also be looking for enthusiasm, flexibility, and a specific interest in Japan. Emphasize these traits during the interview.
You will also get a chance to ask questions. Be sure to ask about the number of teaching hours per week. Also ask for the email addresses of current teachers.
Pick a School in Japan
Based on the answers to your questions, choose a school that fits. Be especially wary of schools that demand more than 20 hours a week of teaching. Be wary of schools that will not give contact information for teachers at their school. Be wary of schools in Japan that have an extremely rigid teaching system or claim to have a "secret" curriculum.