Ask James: Am I Too Old to Teach in Japan?

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Photo by Yasushi Matsuoka

Our resident working-in-Japan writer, James Winovich, answers your questions on everything from finding a job to networking to having more fun during school lunches and more. Got a question you’d like to ask James? Email it to editorial@gplusmedia.com.

Old School

Hi James,

I’m 45. I’ve been applying for a few weeks and haven’t gotten any bites. Can I teach English in Japan, or am I too old?

— Greying but Genki

Hey GbG,

In short, yes. Teachers over 40 get hired to teach in Japan all the time, but I would be lying if I said they get hired at the same frequency as fresh-faced 22-year-olds right out of college. That said, if you really want to teach in Japan, you can definitely make it happen.

Teachers over 40 get hired to teach in Japan all the time, but I would be lying if I said they get hired at the same frequency as fresh-faced 22-year-olds right out of college.

To ensure you are giving yourself your best shot at landing the all-important interview, there are a few things you can do (after asking yourself if you are truly ready to accept an entry-level position at the age of 45 of course):

1. Don’t mention your age

For some reason, MANY of the resumes I receive from older people start with something like, “While I know I am older than most applicants, I think…”

DON’T DO THIS.

Even though there is nothing inherently wrong with being older, a resume and cover letter should be all about showcasing your strengths. Age is exactly no one’s strength in the teaching game. Highlight your experience, your education, your special trainings, anything you think will make your resume more attractive to employers. Age doesn’t do that, so don’t mention it.

2. Shoot for non-ALT positions

For whatever reason, ALT companies seem to lean more towards youth than other teaching opportunities in Japan. While we could debate the validity of the reasons for this, you are trying to get a job so you don’t have time for that now. Focus your energies on Eikaiwa, university, or other adult learning opportunities for the best chances for success.

3. Be persistent

Some hiring managers put all resumes from people over 40 directly in the trash. Other more intelligent hiring managers realize that age doesn’t define the skill of a teacher and will actually look at the content of your resume before making a decision. Since you have to apply to both sorts of people, you will have to be twice as diligent as younger applicants as they will be given more leniency than you will.

In the end, if you really want to teach in Japan, the opportunities are there for you. Highlight the right things on your resume (experience and education), and focus your energy on applying to places that understand that age can be an asset. With enough persistence and with strong enough application materials, you can definitely get hired in Japan!

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Refusing to be a bitter gaijin since 2007.

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