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JET Program Japan -
The Essay or Statement of Purpose

The JET Program Japan and the grueling application process has practically become legendary. When it comes to splitting hairs on applications procedure do's and don'ts no one quite does it any better than The JET Program. Even if minor mistakes, and we do mean minor, missteps occur the application that you slaved over for hours gets whacked.

Gone is the endurance required to complete the mindbogglingly complicated application. Gone is the patients burnt waiting for months to hear "yea or nay" from all them-there kind folks.  It all gets flushed down the commode in the blink of a young girl's eye. 

In this particular article we will be addressing the U.S. JET Program Japan. Although U.S. participants do account for the majority of JET participants, the procedures for participating countries are quite similar. Given the rigidity of their mission statement it practically mandates uniformity world wide.

Although anal or inflexible may come to mind, these folks be serious about crossing t's and dotting i's.  Your application should be constructed as follows - it should be:

  • Written in 12 point type and be a maximum of 2 pages.
  • Written on standard paper. (In case you are confused just ask the guy at Walmart for the ISO 216 A series size. Some folks just call it A4 size.)
  • Common fonts like Times New Roman should be used. Avoid the career hazard of getting cute with fonts that read like this sentence.
  • Margins are also taken into account. They should be one inch or 2.54 centimeters around the written copy.  There is no margin for error here. To believe it to be marginally important is to err. 
  • You will also need to write your name and the page number in the upper right hand corner of the page - even though there are only 2 pages.

The JET essay also known as a statement of purpose essay should be more or less focused on fulfillment of The JET Programme's objective rather than on yourself. Just as as a cover letter should not be written from the perspective of the employee but rather the employer.

In other words it's not what your country can do for you - it's what you can do for your country. Or in this case it is not about you fulfilling your dream of going to Japan and taking selfies, it is about you helping them achieve their mission statement.

At this point you may be wondering exactly what this is. According to The JET Programme's official website - 

  • Education and 
  • Internationalization

In order to assess how you can meet their mission statement goals, they have amassed some questions for your essay to determine if you fit the bill. And so here we go.  Here are the big 3 plus a couple more. (Not to be confused with Ford, GM and Chrysler Motors.)

The JET Program Japan - Question #1

Applicants should take this opportunity to reflect on:
"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."

One should note how open ended the questions is, as it is designed to dig out motivational factors for your application. Now the kicker here is that although your true motivation might be to chow down enough sushi to choke a horse and we here at (the acronym for the site's name) don't believe it to be necessarily unhealthy, one should bear in mind it isn't the motivational aspect that the JET Program is looking for. 

So what can you read into this? Just like any other employer you should do your best to tell them what they want to hear and what they probably already know. So logically, your next question would probably run along the lines of "So what do they want to hear?"

They want to hear things that are actionable and not just arm-chair theory. They want to hear a fairly deep answer about why you want to come to Japan and not some fecal waste about Japan. So some superficial cookie-hurling or lunch-losing line like "I have always had an interest in Japan" just won't cut it. 

They want to hear a connected narrative of why you want to come to Japan - personal in its nature but not to the point of causing an air of self-centered nausea.

The JET Program Japan & How I Became Interested in JapanThe JET Program Japan & How I Became Interested in Japan

So what does this mean? Well, to help you folks interested in giving JET a shot we asked staff writer Drunken Billy (not his real name) for his take on it - and he cranked this out in his usual manner - on the back of a bar napkin:

"When I was a boy I read a fascinating book, my family always had a lot of books. It was called 'Taro And The Tofu'. The illustrations were like nothing I had ever seen. Nothing like American cartoon illustrations of Charles Schultz's Charlie Brown.

The colors and just the way the book was written was captivating and so engaging with a story line to die for. It kind of kicked off my love of Japanese animation. I read every Japanese children's story book I could get my hands on and I wondered for years and years if Japan was really like how it was depicted in Taro And The Tofu and the other children's books I had been reading. I had to find out for myself. I guess  you could say I wanted to see the "real Japan" and my journey began there."

Some of my all time favorite stories from childhood were Momotaro, Urashima Taro and  Kaguyahime. I couldn't tell you how many times I read them. As I grew up I became increasingly interested in Japanese culture and later on Japanese language.

Learning the language helped me so much in getting a better understanding or feeling for Japanese culture.  Later on in my university days I tutored Japanese students in conversational English in an after school club, made friends, shared laughs. Sometimes I feel like I got more out of the experience then they did.

As a JET, it would be a chance for me to give back to a country that has given me so much.  I am confident that the ALT position will allow me to incorporate my love of  and experience in teaching with my passion for Japanese culture in a unique way.  I enrolled in an 180 combined TEFL class and have completed  it . I look forward to the bringing my skill set and enthusiasm to the challenge of helping to bridge the gap between our cultures."

This is merely an example and is on the short side. It could easily be longer but I think you get the picture. If it were to be expanded the final paragraph should be another 100 - 200 words or so. It would be wise to think a bit about the people having to read through piles and piles of these stories and to cling to the idea of "brevity is the soul of wit."

Here, the writer, wove a fairly personal and understandable story in 323 words while pulling a bit of what is termed "The Golden Thread  (a copy writing term that means a continuation of a concept throughout a story). This was done without violating the principle of it not being personal and relevant. One might also note it packs enough punch to allow expansion in the next questions that will need to be addressed  in the SoP. So space was conserved.

The JET Program Japan - Question #2

Applicants should take this opportunity to reflect on:
"What effect you hope to have on the Japanese community and internationally as a result of your participation in the JET Program." 

Successful applicants understand this: Like any other job you need to show that you are actually suited to that job.

If you put yourself in their shoes, it gets crystal clear real quick. For example, Microsoft doesn't care that it would please you to work for a tech giant and that it has been your dream to work for them since you were a kid. They want to hear that you are the cat's meow when it comes to writing code. Period.

The JET Program Japan - Question #3

Applicants should take this opportunity to reflect on:
"What applicable experiences, professional skills, relevant interests, and personal qualities you have and how you feel these will be useful to you as an ALT."

They are basically asking how you can translate your life experiences into something that is beneficial to JET. These might be personal qualities for example the ability to tell a funny joke, the ability to explain things in an interesting way so as to hold student attention.

Your abilities to overcome diversity without getting rattled when you drag out your big smile, laugh off whatever pushed you off of your game plan and march forward and nail down the objective etc.

In your application you stated various things or "talked the talk". So here is where you demonstrate how you "walk the walk". Note they have already read your application so here you are adding extra information showing how you would follow through with the aforementioned information on your application.  

The JET Program Japan - Question #4

Applicants should take this opportunity to reflect on:
What you hope to gain both personally and professionally from your JET experience if you are selected and how  participation will assist you in your future goals."

JET doesn't see this as a one sided deal. If they are going to hand you a wad of cash they expect a little something for doing so. What is this you may ask?  It is to promote the image of Japan upon your return to whatever country you came from via whatever social outlets you may have.

For example it might be giving talks to college students interested in visiting Japan. Telling them what they might expect and how Japan is different from Canada etc. Read - promotion of Japan.

The JET Program Japan And Getting Your JET Essay rite / write/ right?

Okay, time to wrap-up the JET Program Japan article. It goes without saying if you don't proofread your SoP, one could say ya love to live dangerously. Don't assume just because your interviewers may not speak fluent English doesn't mean that you can write crap and it will slide. It won't.

Firstly, proofread  it a few times. The  slippery slope. Trained copy writers know this and here it is, the more you proofread the copy (your written word), in this case your SoP, the more blind to any mistake you may have made you become. You'll start to gloss over it so have a friend or two read it as well. Also here is another little chunk of gold for catching errors. READ YOUR COPY BACKWARDS. Why? Because it takes off that blindfold you put on yourself by proofing the copy multiple times enabling you to catch errors.

Run it  through a spell check. Grammarly is the best on the market so far. It  uses artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms allowing it to easily outperform anything Microsoft could ever put out. 

Watch these homophones carefully. Here are the most commonly misspelled homophone lurking out there.

1. affect/effect  2. than/then  3. which/witch  4. here/hear  5. are/our  6. buy/by 7.accept/except  9. there/their/they're  10. to/too/two.

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