AJET PRO Tip 1: Professional Organizations

prodev_protip1-slider

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” –Steve Martin

Being a JET participant is an ideal time to improve personally and professionally. But, where to begin? There are a lot of great options, but in the daily whirlwind and among 644 million websites, finding worthwhile ways can be daunting in a new country, career, or work environment.

Joining a professional organization is a great way for anyone to establish themselves as a professional in a new environment, add to an existing resume, or broaden their skill-sets. If you’ve recently joined the JET Programme, it can be a great way to become acclimated and adjust to life in Japan as well. Professional organizations provide a multitude of benefits, such as:

  • Introduce new resources
  • Provide a network of other professionals and mentors
  • Create opportunities to speak and publish in a variety of media

All of these help build your reputation as well as your portfolio, and both current and future employers will strongly appreciate your proactive effort to stay at the top of your game. So, how do you go about getting involved?

Current JET Programme participants are already members of one very active, nationwide professional organization: AJET. There are many opportunities available to coordinate events and charities, assist in educational projects, or volunteer for anything from international fairs to development conferences. If you want to get involved in any of these, send a quick email to anyone in our prefectural and block AJET directories; I’m sure you’ll find a project that matches your interests!

Likewise, many former JETs also have access to JETAA chapters throughout the world. Organizational heads are ALWAYS interested in more people getting involved and can match your skills and interests to projects no matter where you are.

There are a number of other great organizations that offer a variety of possibilities that you can tailor to your professional needs and career goals, and I’ll share a few of my favorites below to get you started.

The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) – www.jalt.org
JALT is a Japan-wide non-profit organization with multiple chapters and publications always interested in contributors. They offer a variety of local and national conferences with great educators from all levels K–post-secondary. JALT also has a variety of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that you can join. They are always welcoming new members and have professional and educational development opportunities to suit you no matter where you are in your career.

Additionally, JALT’s partnership with AJET allows all current members of the JET program a number of additional benefits. Here are a few links to help you learn more about JALT’s events, membership, and what members think of joining JALT.

Have a question for JALT? Not sure what you can contribute? Don’t worry, there is always someone that can help, and AJET and JALT have just established one easy way to find them. Contact JALT’s Domestic Affairs Chair, Matt Shannon by sending an email to askjalt[at]gmail[dot]com.

There are other professional organizations to choose from as well, and they all offer unique benefits to eager JET members. English Teachers of Japan (ETJ) and the Japan Association for College English Teachers (JACET) are two more highly popular organizations with active members across the country. ETJ is an organization that is free to join and was founded by David Paul, who also operates Language Teaching Professionals.com providing research and evidence-based educational practices and pedagogy tips. ETJ also offers conferences, round table discussions, and other events throughout Japan. JACET is specifically for university English teachers, however it can be a good organization to look into and begin dialogue with about how to get involved, as well as network with professionals if you are looking to get into that field. For the dedicated JET participant, joining more than one organization can create a wealth of contacts, resources, and more.

Finally, I highly encourage everyone to ask around in their communities about local professional organizations that might be available. Maybe you saw a keynote speaker at a Skills Development Conference or the CIR Mid-Year Conference that really impressed you. Ask him or her if he or she belongs to a local association or group. There are many local professional organizations to join that provide grass-roots development and experience in the field of event organization, presentation, and publication, and they can be a perfect source for getting involved and meeting the people that make things happen in your area.

One example of local associations is Saitama City Educators, an organization started by a former JET that helps EFL/ESL professionals work together at grass-roots levels to grow as professionals in a number of ways. Working with local professional organizations offers anyone a strong opportunity to get easily accessible support, guidance, and feedback about your professional and educational practices. They also allow contributors to more easily generate contacts outside of the JET Program’s proximity, find out about seminars and other development opportunities, and establish themselves as professionals within their communities. I highly recommend seeking out any local professional organizations in your area, introducing yourself, and asking how you can help!

None in your area? Perhaps no local AJET chapter in your area? Maybe you have found a niche to fill. Contact National AJET to find out how you can build your resume, management, and networking skills by establishing exactly what your area needs.

Chris Low
2014–2015 Director of Professional & Education Development