Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

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Junken Master
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Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by Junken Master » Sat Sep 14, 2013 7:43 am

Dear LJ readers!

I believe I’ve been reading that some people on this forum are thinking about heading back to their own counties, and I’d like to share some of the eventful things I’ve experienced since my return and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

(Be warned, this is a long-ish read, but could include some interesting details!)

Well, been back in the UK for two and a half years now. Shit that’s already half the time I was out in Japan for.

It’s certainly been an interesting experience since taking the return flight to the UK, taking off just shy of four hours before the earthquake struck on 11th March 2011.

In short, my original aim was to come back to the UK in Spring 2011, have a few months downtime then start a Masters in TESOL late 2011. I’d already been in contact with the course director and believed, perhaps naively that there would be a more than decent chance of working at the University’s language school after I’d got the masters. If the masters still wasn’t enough, I could do the DELTA that would more than guarantee me getting in. So I did all the studying, got some excellent grades, working on and off at the language school throughout doing cover teaching and then a result – got offered my first full terms work of teaching. Initially contract work, I thought it would only be a matter of time before the position became permanent.

Then this year in early 2013 after my first terms teaching, I was told there would be no hours from April and more than likely no work in the summer due to a large fall off in student numbers. I was, in effect, out on my arse. I was then unemployed for 10 weeks, applying for every graduate programme under the sun and getting flat out rejected. Or even after getting shortlisted I was failing at the Psychometric testing stage. I was, in effect, woefully unprepared for the chance that things would not work out at the language school, and had absolutely no backup plans in place. At 35, I was unexpectedly competing against thousands of fresh faced graduates on the jobs market.

Fortunately after 10 weeks however I was given a lifeline. At a careers fair I went to I gave a CV out without really thinking about it to an aviation recruitment company and they offered me an internship for the summer. I took the internship and the other day they offered me full time work. Now I’m not going to lie and say it’s a mega salary but they’ve got a decent bonus system (which is paid anyway, regardless of how many people are placed) and is a rapidly growing company with a good chance of early promotions. If I was to start something completely new at the now tender age of 36, then this is it.

So, if you’ve managed to read this far, this is what I’ve taken from this experience.

- Don’t put you eggs in one basket.
This seems ridiculously obvious but teaching was all that I’d ever wanted to do since doing my original TESOL course in 2002. I was so focussed on doing the qual upgrades and getting a teaching job I hadn’t covered any basis if it didn’t work out. In the time I was studying for my masters I hadn’t bothered going to any of the careers fairs because I didn’t see the point in going to any of them (because teaching is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do!!). Well I should have gone to every single one of the shit heads.

- Research before you go back what is involved in job hunting in the modern era. Don’t be an analogue watch in a digital age.
I simply wasn’t prepared for the Psychometric testing phase involved in nearly every single graduate job application process. You have about 20 mins to try and work out all sorts of maths puzzles, logical reasoning tests and data analysis questions. I wasn’t even getting through 25% of the questions before the time limits were up and had absolutely no chance of progressing onto the next phase, even after intensive maths lessons from the old man! To perform in these tests well you have to practice like a mother fucker. If I had been practicing these while I was doing my masters, I would have been much better prepared for taking these tests when the time came. Or could have even started to practice them before I even returned to the UK.

- Prepare for the unexpected. I hadn’t been prepared for not getting the teaching job I wanted even despite having two masters level teaching qualifications. I was, in short, as good as fucked. Try and be aware for what could possibly go wrong unexpectedly, and make contingency plans for it.

- Don’t count out any kind of possible job. The recruitment consultancy firm was probably the last company I’d have considered when I was going round the stalls at the careers fair. But the last 3 months have been a blast. It’s quite a unique job, getting people into aviation mechanic positions. Lots of wheeling and dealing going on. It’s no cold calling to clients as the clients are already there. Just have to match the right people with the right experience to each job. And guess what – no lesson preparation and I’m not completely fucked when I go home every evening! Everyone I've met over the last few weeks has commented on how healthy I look now, so there you go - there is life beyond teaching English as a second language after all!


A couple of things I actually did right however, that helped me when things went tits up were:

- Studying for my masters at decent university with a decent careers service and alumni network.
This, in effect, saved my arse. When I suddenly found myself out of work earlier this year the reputation of the University saved me. I initially gave a CV to the recruitment company during a careers fair 1 month into looking for work, without really thinking about. Got rejections from every other company who I contacted at the careers fair it but it was the aviation consutancy guys who eventually called me up 2 months later after every other single option was exhausted.

- Making my own luck. Before getting the internship opportunity in the summer I tried to make up for lost time. I hadn’t been going to any careers events during my masters but I made dam sure I was going to every single careers related thing under the sun afterwards. Attended careers fairs all over the south of the UK. Went to as many Alumni networking events as I could (another reason for going to a decent University with a good Alumni network) Getting my CV registered with every single recruitment agency in existance.

To summarise, the biggest advice I can give to anyone on here is to prepare for the unexpected. Also, if you're so 100% focussed on one goal, take a step back for a moment. Think about whether there's anything new you'd like to try out if, on the off chance the goal your chasing doesn't work out for any particular reason.

And good luck if you are coming back – physically I’ve been healthier, mentally I’ve been healthier. And after 8 years of marriage I think I’m finally starting to get on with my wife a bit better. Even seem to be getting laid a bit more often. Everything’s been positive.

To anyone that’s still in Japan – good luck out there. I couldn't it manage it long term personally but if you can make it stick then fair play to yer! :cheers: And keep the gripes up - it's great reading!

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by BasilFawlty » Fri Apr 03, 2015 1:06 pm

The amount of traffic on this site, you might get a reply before Japan's next bubble...

WTF is up with this site? Fucking dead! 'Recent posts' from fucking 2014... WTF??

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by T.D. » Sat Apr 18, 2015 1:41 am

Been back in the states for 8 years now and still miss the hell out of Japan, but the reality is that if I moved back to Japan then my career would be shit and I would miss living in the States. I miss the simpler lifestyle of Japan that's for sure. Much easier to commute, (even though I had a car there), the food is exceptional, etc. but the lack of career or working 60 hours/week+ keeps me here in the States.

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by RalphWiggum » Sat Apr 18, 2015 1:50 am

Yeah, I miss a lot of things from Japan but the truth is I'll never make the money I make here in the UK or maintain this quality of life if I go back. At least having the in-laws there means I'll be back for longish visits every couple of years. Heading over for just over 3 weeks in July. I'm going to eat all the food and drink all the booze.
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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by wilde_oscar » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:11 am

Sort-of the same as Ralph in that while I greatly enjoyed my time in Japan there really isn't anything there for me in the long term. I could have stayed and tried to make a go of it in the long term but that would more have been about me having fun rather than building towards anything concrete.

Took me a little while to come to terms with that, but with kids, mortgage & etc I have every incentive to stay where I am and do what I'm doing rather than try to get back to Japan for an entry-level English teaching job, which is about all I'm qualified for over there.
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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by T.D. » Sat May 09, 2015 2:32 am

Oscar I'm in the exact situation as you. Got the mortgage and nice life here in the states and really only could teach English in Japan. Not to mention my daughter, who is 8 now, really can't speak much Japanese at all and frankly has little desire to learn it.

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by senseiman » Sat May 09, 2015 10:20 am

I bucked the trend and after spending 3 and a half years back home ended up returning to Japan.

I had a decent job in Canada with a lot of potential (though also a lot work and stress), but when the opportunity to come back to Japan came up I couldn`t resist. Basically I just like life here better. Its hard to put a thumb on why, I think a lot of it is just the fact that the cities here feel a lot more livable than the ones in Canada do. I mean, Japanese cities are ugly, but they are also compact, easy to navigate by bicycle and have loads of great shops/restaurants, etc. Plus no street crime. Canadian cities just feel boring and inconvenient in comparison, plus you can`t walk 5 feet without being accosted by some weirdo. Everyday I spent in Canada (after having spent 5 years in Japan) I missed living in Japan so when I finally did come back it felt so amazing.

Having escaped the Eikaiwa game (which, mind you, isn`t a bad one if you can do it on your own) I`m pretty comfortable here. My salary is probably about what I would be making back home and my job is much less stressful (though I am stuck in that short-term contract situation that most foreigners find themselves in). I don`t own a car, and live in an apartment that is probably much smaller than what I would get for the same money back home, but really don`t care.
祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響あり。娑羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰のことわりをあらはす。おごれる人も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢のごとし。たけき者も遂にほろびぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by T.D. » Thu May 14, 2015 3:29 am

Senseiman, what work are you doing? I agree completely with what you say. Life in Japan, despite its quirks can be much better. The overall convenience of just walking to the grocery store instead of driving. Not to mention the great restaurants and izakayas, etc. all typically located within walking distance. In Atlanta here, you have to drive everywhere, and if you live where there is public transportation you can bet it'll be a shithole neighborhood.

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu May 14, 2015 9:24 am

T.D. wrote:The overall convenience of just walking to the grocery store instead of driving. Not to mention the great restaurants and izakayas, etc. all typically located within walking distance. In Atlanta here, you have to drive everywhere, and if you live where there is public transportation you can bet it'll be a shithole neighborhood.
Depends on where you live. Where I live we have to drive everywhere; public transportation is almost non-existent. And I wouldn't call it country bumpkinville by any stretch of the imagination. Only the big cities in Japan have great transportation and everything in walking distance. I'm guessing outside of Kanto, Osaka/kinki, and three or four other big cities most places in Japan are like where I live now. Certainly that's been my experience whenever I go on holiday in Japan.
"Yous guys talk a lotta shit. I'm much more smarter than all a yous." - Samurai Jerk after being owned by the Let's Japan crew.

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by senseiman » Fri May 15, 2015 2:06 pm

I am in academia now.
MacGyver wrote: Depends on where you live. Where I live we have to drive everywhere; public transportation is almost non-existent. And I wouldn't call it country bumpkinville by any stretch of the imagination. Only the big cities in Japan have great transportation and everything in walking distance. I'm guessing outside of Kanto, Osaka/kinki, and three or four other big cities most places in Japan are like where I live now. Certainly that's been my experience whenever I go on holiday in Japan.
I`m sure there are inconvenient places to live in Japan, but I guess my point is that if you want to live in a convenient location with great public transit, walkable neighborhoods, loads of shopping/entertainment options easily reached by bicycle then almost any city with about 500,000 or more people can offer that (assuming you don`t get a place way out in the suburbs). I`ve been to a few smaller cities below that population threshold but still kind of big-ish (300,000 or so) like Miyazaki which were definitely lacking in some respects, but even those were way better than anything Canada or the US has to offer.

Also, I am guessing that easily 2/3 or more of Japan`s population lives in cities of half a million or more so I think the type of convenience they offer is more the norm than the exception for your average person living in Japan.
祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響あり。娑羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰のことわりをあらはす。おごれる人も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢のごとし。たけき者も遂にほろびぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。

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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by redpower » Thu Aug 27, 2015 10:51 am

I always tell people that if I could have my job, teacher, in Japan with the same money and job satisfaction I would love to move to Japan. Sadly I doubt this would happen and my Japanese wife loves her London lifestyle.

I am also approaching my mid 40s whenever I think of my time in Japan it was when I was in my late 20s and early 30s and would work 30 hours a week for a reasonable amount of money and have top japes. I imagine being a married 40 odd year old in Japan is not as fun as being a thrusting young buck.
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Re: Lessons learned since returning home…..and possible advice..

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:24 am

redpower wrote:I always tell people that if I could have my job, teacher, in Japan with the same money and job satisfaction I would love to move to Japan. Sadly I doubt this would happen and my Japanese wife loves her London lifestyle.
You wouldn't need the same money as it is cheaper to live here (even Tokyo) than London. But dunno how much would be equivalent. And as you know being a (gaijin) "teacher" here isn't being a real teacher anyway, unless you work at an international school, which would get you the big bucks, certainly in comparison to other teaching gigs. I have friends working at int. schools and they love it. Work hard while school is in but get close to 3 months off a year I think (6 weeks during summer and then about 6 weeks during the rest of the year).
redpower wrote:I am also approaching my mid 40s whenever I think of my time in Japan it was when I was in my late 20s and early 30s and would work 30 hours a week for a reasonable amount of money and have top japes. I imagine being a married 40 odd year old in Japan is not as fun as being a thrusting young buck.
Meh, just depends on what sort of lifestyle you want. Although to be fair I wouldn't want to live in Tokyo again. Maybe Osaka or a similar smaller city but not Tokes. A mate of mine moved to Fukuoka from Tokyo recently and is loving it. Although having said that I'm considering getting out altogether and going to SEA cause I can work anywhere and it's dirt cheap. At least compared to the West.
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