Jul 22, 2018
Choosing to become an English teacher in Japan makes sense; there is a huge demand for it, it's an interesting way to meet both Japanese people and other foreigners, and it's ultimately a fun and rewarding job.
And, conveniently enough, it's absolutely possible to land a job with absolutely zero experience.
I moved to Tokyo with no teaching qualifications and barely any experience, and within a week I had a job offer. These days I work three or four days a week teaching English to kids in the afternoon and running adult conversation classes in the evening. I absolutely love it, and it works perfectly for the lifestyle I envisaged for myself in Tokyo. I earn enough money to cover the bills, and I have enough time to explore my new surroundings. Sure, I'm not saving any money, but that's not what it's about for me at the moment.
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as landing in Japan and firing off some generic resumes and expecting responses. I put in a bit of time and effort into tailoring my resume for English teaching roles to make sure I had the best possible chance. For anyone looking to teach English without any real experience, here's what I've learned.
Tailor your resume to the role you want
First thing's first, update your entire resume to reflect the skills required for the job you want. In particular, think about those skills that are transferable across roles and focus on those. If you've got hospitality or retail experience, then you've probably already got interpersonal skills, confidence interacting with a variety of people, and the ability to lead conversations. If you worked in a corporate environment you would have developed an understanding of business English, and the ability to write clearly and speak articulately, as well as a wealth of soft skills such as punctuality, time management and the ability to deal with stress.
Also focus heavily on your university/college graduations. Despite graduating five years ago, all of the jobs interviews I went to asked me in-depth questions about my university studies, so find those key points from your studies that translate into English teaching and run with it.
The idea is that every single item on your resume is applicable to the role you want. If it's not relevant (or potentially relevant), you can probably just remove it.
Of course, the way that you position your resume will look different depending on other factors such as if you want to teach adults or children, if you're working for an established business or a startup/family business, and whether the job ad has any other specific focus like art, music, science etc. To help you have a look at position requirements online.
Online job boards
I can't begin to tell you the number of hours I spent scouring online job boards for English teaching roles, and I'm glad I did. I learned a lot about the types of jobs on offer, minimum requirements and expected pay. My favorite job boards were:
I found my first job in Tokyo on Gaijinpot. At the time I wasn't moving to Tokyo for another six months, so I saved the job ad and emailed the company closer to the date telling them I'd seen the ad on Gaijinpot, that I loved the sound of their business and wanted to be part of it, and was wondering if there currently were any openings. Luckily, there was an opening, and I got the job.
Think about doing an online TEFL/TESOL course
You'll notice from the job ads that TEFL/TESOL courses are viewed upon favourably. I think it shows that you're dedicated to becoming a knowledgeable English teacher.
I did a 120 hour online TEFL course through i-to-i TEFL. To be honest, the only reason why I chose that course amongst the hundreds of courses online is that they had a massive end-of-year sale at the time, so the course cost me about $150. However, I can speak from experience and say that the course is really well put together, feedback from tutors is very quick, and I'm glad I did it. Who knows, it might put you just ahead of other candidates. It certainly helped me.
Teach English for free or go to language meet-ups
Teaching English for the first time is daunting and I knew I would need at least a tiny bit of experience to help calm the nerves. Back in Melbourne I had a look on Craigslist and found a Japanese student in Australia looking for a language swap partner. I emailed her, and we met a few days later. At the time she as working in a restaurant so I helped her with situational English phrases, and she helped me with Japanese basics. I can't tell you how valuable this was in helping me learn the fundamentals of teaching in a casual and fun environment. I now teach adult conversation classes in the evening and I regularly draw upon that experience to help me.
Around the world there are language meetups, so find one and go along! There is a great app called Meetup which even has an entire section of language-exchange meetups. Of course, it's also a great way to meet new people!
Think about the other skills you can bring to the job
If you can go above and beyond the job description in other ways, then you've got a great chance of getting the role. There are so many new English teaching businesses popping up, especially in the major cities, and many of them are quite small. You like photography or social media? Offer to help develop their social media platform and assist with advertising. Web development? Translation? Editing? Events management? These are all fantastic ways that you can show your enthusiasm and will certainly impress your hirer!
If you've got a job teaching English, please let me know your experience! If you're still searching, please do not hesitate to ask any questions! がんばって!
Hellooo! I'm Lisa from Melbourne, Australia. I moved to Tokyo in May 2018 with no idea what I was getting myself into. I now work with kids and adults teaching English, and in my spare time I love to wander around with my camera. You can find me on Instagram at @lisagoestotokyo