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A Step By Step ALT Escape Plan

In this post, we break down how to transition out of being an ALT and prepare for a future in Japan outside of teaching English.

By 7 min read

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

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Time to hit the books.

 

  • 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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Where do you see your career in five years?
  • 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

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Work on a side project to boost your resume.
  • Side Projects: Develop skills outside ALT work through projects, classes, or volunteer work.
  • Resume Boost: Add side project experiences to your resume.
  • Study and Network: Study Japanese and network within the ALT community.
  • Job Fair Attendance: Attend job fairs, like GaijinPot Expo and those organized by ALT organizations.
  • Connection Building: Build connections for job insights and advice.

While you are still working as an ALT, working on the skills you need to enter another field should be your side project. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a “project” in the traditional sense. You could work on actual projects, like IT-related projects or translation projects. Another option for your “project” could be taking online classes or pursuing a certificate. You could even complete an online graduate program or do volunteer work.

Anything you want to work on and any skills you want to improve are fair game. Whatever you do, put it on your resume once you start your job hunt. Along with your side project, you should study Japanese and network. Some ALT organizations will have job fairs in Tokyo and Osaka, and you should also look out for other job fairs. Additionally, make friends and keep in touch with people at your school, within your ALT community and where you live. The connections you make could lead to knowledge about job opportunities, and you can also get more help and advice from those who have gone through the job-hunting process in Japan before.

Step 4: Hone Your Skill Set

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Build up your skill set for the next industry you want to enter.
  • Self-Assessment: Assess your skills and experiences to identify job possibilities aligned with your background.
  • Transferable Skills: Find transferable skills gained, such as project management, cross-cultural communication, and public speaking.
  • Stay Resilient: Stay motivated even if your career path isn’t initially as expected.
  • Realistic Starting Point: Find a realistic starting point for your career journey, like planning your career objective.

It is essential to examine your skills and experiences. What kind of jobs could you get with your educational background, skills and experiences? Hopefully, your side project will have helped you in this area. However, working as an ALT will also provide you with transferable skills to other careers. For example, project management, cross-cultural communication, and public speaking are skills you can master as an ALT and are sought after in many other fields.

Don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you initially wanted to be when you started planning your career objective. Perhaps you’re not quite qualified to enter into your ideal post-ALT job just yet, but you can still work your way up to and beyond it. You must find a realistic starting point, similar to when planning your career objective.

Step 5: Start Applying Early

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Apply early and apply often.
  • Apply Early: Begin applying for jobs at least five to six months before leaving your ALT position.
  • Use Job Boards: Utilize job boards like GaijinPot Jobs to identify and save potential job opportunities.
  • Apply Every Week: Aim to send out applications to two or three jobs per week.
  • Focus On The End Game: Apply for positions even if you feel they are a long shot or slightly beyond your qualifications.
  • Don’t Quit Teaching Just Yet: Keep applying for jobs while continuing your current ALT position.

The job hunting process can take a while, so it’s best to start applying early. Look at a few job boards like GaijinPot Jobs and save any job you’re interested in or might be qualified for. You should start sending out applications at least five to six months before you intend to quit your ALT job. Applying early will help familiarize you with the job-hunting process and provide you with interview experience. This way, even if your first few interviews don’t go well, you’ll get better at answering interview questions in Japanese and eventually have some successful interviews.

You should also be sure to apply to as many jobs as you can. A reasonable goal is to send out applications to two or three jobs per week. You can also apply for jobs you think might be a long shot or not completely qualified for. You still might be considered for the job, and at the very least, applying will be good practice.

Finally, if you can stay at your job for a few more years, keep applying until you get something you like. It may not be ideal to put off your transition from an ALT career, but it can help you stay in Japan to continue your job hunt.

Are you currently an ALT trying to transition to a different career path? What kind of role are you looking for? Let us know in the comments!

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