So, after finishing university, what was there to do but find a job and leave home? Isn’t that what you’re meant to do?
I have to be honest here – it wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated. First of all, I had no idea what I wanted to do except for a vague notion that my degree subject (Music), living in Japan, or using foreign languages might be involved. Secondly, most jobs and even internships seemed to require several hours of experience in fields that seemed impossibly advanced. I’m sure most of you reading this blog have either suffered the same or have read about it somewhere…
After a few desperate, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempts to get my post-studentship financial situation in order, I finally scored a part-time job in a local cinema, a whole two months after I had started applying for temporary jobs. This was the stopgap while I worked out what I wanted to do. I learnt a few new transferable skills while working there which I inevitably glorified on my CV as ‘Customer Service’ and ‘Administration’, as I was still looking for a full-time job in a sales or administration position. So began a rapid-fire process of idolising and subsequently discarding numerous plans. (Application count: ~10)
One of my earliest thoughts and longterm dreams was film composition. I hurriedly put together a portfolio of previous compositions and composed several new themed short tracks. Some were suitable for video games, some for action films, some for romances etc. I then started applying to countless small-budget jobs that were demanding scores for feature-length films for almost no fee. No doubt the projects would’ve evaporated long before completion. My dream was still alive though, and I would’ve taken any of the jobs to get started. Anyone interested in any of the arts knows what it’s like; start small and then
slowly work your way up get lucky. I picked up some work experience at a recording studio and post-production company in between nights at the cinema, and was working towards an afternoon with a real-life TV composer before he disappeared off the radar. A further two months later and it was December, with nothing to show for my time other than improved Japanese, a longer CV and a slightly less depressing overdraft. Still no luck with a full-time admin job either. (Application count: ~40)
Next came Law. One day, while lamenting over the inadequacies of my bank balance, I felt I had struck gold (literally) when I thought of applying for a Law conversion. Furthermore, I found out that the conversion could even be sponsored. What luck! (As I’m sure most lawyers can foresee, this went about as well as my first plan.) After researching a number of companies, I finally settled on 10 that I felt I could contribute to. Of course, I’d missed the deadlines for this year (2015), and that meant not starting the conversion until 2016, and not earning until 2018 at best. I frantically searched for fast-track conversions but found nothing worth following up. I mentioned idolising and discarding ideas earlier. That’s not entirely true. The Law plan wasn’t completely discarded and was actually partially revived, but more on that later. (Application count: ~80)
As you can see by the growing application tally that I’ve added to each paragraph, I was getting a bit worried. Of the 80-odd applications I’d sent off, I’d only heard back from about 5 and been rejected from all except the cinema. The most costly of these rejections were positions I’d applied for in London, as the train fare is about £45. At this rate, my part-time job almost wasn’t supporting the cost of the applications. I redoubled my efforts to find an office job, and got reasonably far with two more applications before being rejected with a stock email. It was time to be radical.
At some point between the end of university and now (January ’16), I had rekindled my sixth-form college interest in computer coding. Out came the old compilers and Linux partitions. I relearnt my C, C++ and PHP and started digging into Java and Python. This sparked my next idea. I started looking for postgraduate degrees in Computing, Coding, Cyber Security. After ringing up a few universities, I started wading my way through the recommended pre-reading material. Three fat books, over 1,000 pages each. Game on.
I made it 200 pages into the first of the three and returned them to the library. I really can’t see the appeal of the technical theory of network structures. Pentesters, please enlighten me. (Application count: ~100)
Ok. Law round 2. I’ll rush through this as I probably had as long for applications as it took to type this post. Applied to 6 companies, confident I’d get work experience. Didn’t. No bueno. (Application count: I’ve lost count, 150 maybe?)
So here we are, at the final master plan. TEFL. The idea had been floating round for some time and I’d actually applied for the JET scheme while in university. I knew if I was going to teach, I didn’t want to just be a human tape-recorder. Unfortunately, this often seems to be the case for those who apply for ALT* (Assistant Language Teacher) schemes in Japan. I still hadn’t moved from the cinema, but had saved up enough money by this point for a CELTA course, an English Language Teaching qualification. This was my first stroke of luck in some time. I was accepted onto a reputable four-week course, which was a mixture of the most fun I’d ever had and the hardest work I’d ever done. I can recommend it to anyone wanting a career change. Maybe I’ll write about it more in a future post – let me know below if you’re interested!
From here, I got a short contract with a summer school, which obliterated the newly-made ‘fun’ and ‘hard-work’ records above. From the 12-hour days, to the excitement of really doing something I felt was worthwhile, this experience reinforced my desire to carry on teaching.
A few more painful months of job-searching ensued. What kind of a story would it be if I didn’t almost fail at the last hurdle (again)? Finally, I secured a position in a language school in Japan. Having been before, I can say with certainty that the city is in beautiful area. I’m off in early February and start teaching at the end of the month. I intend to keep this ‘photo journal’ updated as often as possible. If you don’t care about the words and just want to see the pictures, you can follow me on Flickr, or look at my portfolio of best images on 500px.
My next post will probably be up in early February!
* For those of you who are interested in teaching English in Japan with no formal qualifications, I can recommend ALTIA and JET. If you are qualified or you just want to see what sort of jobs are available, head over to Ohayo Sensei.
Top photo: Sheep with its winter coat