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A step by step ALT escape plan

5 Comments
By Whitney Hubbell

Working as an assistant language teacher (ALT) is a common occupation for native English speakers in Japan. Not only does it provide a secure way to move to Japan and start working, but there are always plenty of English teaching jobs available at schools and at eikaiwa (English conversation schools).

However, many people who start as an ALT might want to transition to a different role. Though job hunting in Japan can be tricky, the current labor shortage means that foreign workers are increasingly in demand. There are so many other options besides a career as an English teacher. Read on to learn how to escape a career as an ALT and how to prepare for a future in Japan outside of teaching English.

Step 1: Study Japanese

  • iStock-s-hide-1009-Japanese-dictionary.jpg
    Image: iStock/ s-hide-1009

Learn Japanese: Japanese is essential to transition to non-English teaching jobs in Japan.

  • English-Friendly Jobs: Low-level Japanese jobs in hospitality and IT are possible.
  • Get Qualified: Taking the JLPT is advisable to qualify your resume.

If you want to keep working in Japan but not as an English teacher, you must learn Japanese. Having Japanese fluency will vastly improve your chances of getting a non-ALT job in Japan. For those with low-level Japanese, the majority of jobs available are in teaching English, but there are some non-teaching jobs out there that do not require fluent Japanese skills. These positions are mainly in hospitality and IT, with a high demand for English speakers and foreign workers.

However, even most of these jobs require the ability to communicate at least at a conversational level. Many more jobs will require N2 or N1 proficiency on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and proof of your test result. This test has five levels, with N2 and N1 being the most advanced. Because of this, it is a good idea to take the test to earn a qualification to put on your resume.

Many people find Japanese difficult to master, but there are plenty of self-study resources you can use before and during your job hunt. Here are some great free apps for any level and some books for advanced learners looking to refine their skills.

Step 2: Set a Career Objective

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    Image: iStock/ Jacob Wackerhausen

Browse Job Boards: Begin career objective planning by browsing job boards casually.

  • Start Early: Start job hunt preparation at least a year before leaving the current ALT position.
  • Utilize Resources: Use websites like GaijinPot Jobs to understand available positions and refine career objectives.
  • Identify Preferences: Identify preferred positions and compare your skills to desired candidate profiles.
  • Skill Assessment: Determine the skills needed for the desired positions and plan how to acquire them.

A good way to start planning your career objective is to casually browse job boards, even if you don’t plan on applying for a while. Realistically, you should start planning your job hunt at least a year before you plan to leave your current job as an ALT.

Checking out websites like GaijinPot Jobs will help you understand what kind of positions are available so you can keep your objectives grounded, and can help you come up with ideas for a career objective if you’re unsure.

Find the positions you’re most interested in, and compare yourself to the desired candidate. What skills do you need to be hired in such a position? How can you acquire these skills? See what you can work on, and move to the next step.

Step 3: Have Side Projects

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

5 Comments
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In the US the main complaint is: "Learn English." Becoming conversationally good isn't possible after just one lesson, either in Japanese or English. At least the Japanese people seem pretty tolerant.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't become an ALT. If there's no choice, have a Plan B. The ALT gig has no future. Did it for 16 years.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Considering all the horror stories I've heard about people who've gone to Japan to teach English, I think this is a route best avoided.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Don't become an ALT. If there's no choice, have a Plan B. The ALT gig has no future. Did it for 16 years.

Sage advice. I, too, did the ALT thing for many years. While I enjoyed the classroom experience, it is a dead-end career track with virtually no opportunity for advancement. Living hand-to-mouth is no way to raise a family...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I think it would be fun as a job to do after retiring. I did it for one year and it was great. Got out because the salary wasn't good though.

Sage advice. I, too, did the ALT thing for many years. While I enjoyed the classroom experience, it is a dead-end career track with virtually no opportunity for advancement. Living hand-to-mouth is no way to raise a family...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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