Oh the references. As soon as I got back from Texas, I emailed all of my references to let them know they might be contacted, and I got a response from all of them within 24 hours saying they'd be happy to reference me.

However, three days before Interac needed to send everything to Tokyo, I got a call from my recruiter telling me they can't get a hold of my references. Emails weren't getting through to addresses that worked perfectly for me. So I give them the cell phone number to one and they said they'll try another reference I listed.

Then the day before everything is due, I get another call. They still can't contact one my refs, and this is all that is holding me back. So in a desperate Hail Mary, I call my ref and thank my lucky stars that he's at his office late. Somehow, he hadn't gotten the email until the day before, so I tell him I need it as soon as possible and apologize and thank him over and over.

Then D-Day, my recruiter calls and lets me know they got everything taken care of. I finally breathe. My recruiter sounded as relieved as I did.

Then, June 19th, I got my answer:

"Your qualifications and application have impressed our recruiting and training departments, but unfortunately we do not have a placement for you at this time. You have however been shortlisted and we would like to propose a deferral until late March 2010. We do understand that you will be disappointed with this news but knowing you have been shortlisted for next year allows you the luxury or more time to prepare for your relocation to Japan."

At first, I was really disappointed, because who words an acceptance letter like that? Then I realized I was actually shortlisted and had a position.Then I realized it wouldn't start until March. After some time, I became really thankful for this, because it gave me time to save some money for start-up costs - they recommend you bring $5,000 and I am a broke college grad with car payments and student loans.

So that pretty much brings us up to speed. They'll send me an official letter of employment in December, and then I get to work on Visa stuff. Until that time, I'm looking for a job. I'm planning to substitute teach, but I need to get a Kansas license, and I just got my Utah one and get to jump through hoops to transfer it.

Meanwhile, I'm job searching and blog posting. This is the life after graduation that no one tells you about.
My interview/seminar location was in Dallas. I live near Kansas City. That, my friends, is an 8 hour drive. So that was how I spent the day before my interview. Luckily, I like driving, and it gave me time to collect my thoughts and prepare a little more. Once I got to the Dallas area, I stayed with a friend of mine who lives there (much cheaper than a hotel).

The seminar is supposed to start at 9am, and we have to be there by 8:50, so I aim for about 8:40. Friends's house is about 45 minutes away, possibly and hour and ten minutes with traffic, according to the interwebs. It's Saturday morning, so we don't think there will be any traffic, but I play it safe and leave around 7:30. Another miracle occurs and I don't get lost on the way to the hotel where it's being held and I arrive around 8:15. I wait in my car, going over my introduction and trying to relax until about 8:40, then I go on in.

I find my little group in the lobby. And by little, I mean a grand total of FIVE of us. When I heard seminar, I though there would be like, 30-50 of us. But no. FIVE. Three guys, two girls: the girl is a fresh grad like me, and the guys are a bit older, but still probably mid to late twenties. The recruiter is there, too, and we all kind of chat for a bit while we wait for everyone to show up. We're all nervous, but everyone seems really cool and really nice. It's a pretty casual atmosphere.

At 9:00, we head up to a conference room and get started, keeping that fairly casual mood. First, we introduce ourselves, telling where we're from, why we picked Interac and how we got into Japan/Japanese, and the craziest jobs we've had. Everyone has been to Japan and speaks some Japanese. Everyone seems extremely qualified. And when it's my turn, the recruiter lists off my credentials and is like, "Well, you are just perfectly geared for this job." And I'm embarrassed and joke, "Yeah, what else am I going to do with those?" I'm such a dork.

Also, the BYU and LDS thing came up rather quickly, and I was impressed with how he handled everything. I never straight-up said I was LDS, because I didn't want to influence his judgement in anyway, but being a BYU grad, it's kind of assumed. But he when out of his way to tell everyone what a great school BYU is for languages and how it's one of the top in the nation (which it is - 110 languages, baby). He also mentioned how the company isn't an LDS company, though the president and vice-president both are. But I really appreciated how he always said LDS instead of Mormon, and was very respectful overall. He also made some comments later about how I could make accommodations - like ordering a sprite at enkais (parties) and it'll look like a gin and tonic. I laughed.

So after that he talked to us about the company, what the job entails, the paperwork, and pretty much everything. This went on for about 2 1/2 hours with a short break, and it was a bit of an information overload, but we got papers and I'll be very glad about that later. Also, we had a short quiz on the info, which I totally got a gold star on for answering a question that was only answerable if you read the FAQ beforehand. :) Bonus points for me!

We take another short break and then come back to take the grammar test, which had some really simple sentences where you pick the correct tense, a section on passive/active voice, a section on spelling, and I think that was it. We were also given a personal test to work on when we finished, but as soon as everyone finished the grammar bits, we moved on to the most daunting part.

This next part was recorded so that it could be sent to the Japanese side. (Oh, and we had our pictures taken earlier, because Japanese resumes require pics.) We were told in advance about this, but not a WHOLE lot. There were three tasks: greet/warm-up a class, a self-introduction, and a 3 minute lesson/drill/activity. After each person went, the recruiter told them how they did, and what went well. I was the third person to go. The greeting was a simple "hello, class" and questions like, "what is the weather today" or "what day is today" type things to get them in english mode. The self intro was how we would introduce ourselves to our new co-workers, and we were encouraged to use Japanese if possible. (This is what I was freaking out about the other day - I was trying to do the whole thing in Japanese and I was just too rusty.) I totally fumbled a bit, but the recruiter was nodding a lot, so I think that went alright overall. Then the lesson. I was doing colors, and the recruiter heckled me, thanks to my background, but he said I handled him perfectly. So yay that.

Finally we were ready for the last part - individual interviews. We scheduled out half hour blocks for each of us, and I was fourth, so I had some time to kill. But by this time, it was about 1:00 (? maybe 1:30?) and the other girl was wanting to get some food. She didn't have a car, so I offered to go with her, and we drove around the corner to a McDonald's. She seemed really nice. Everyone, really, was so nice. We all chatted a lot and wished each other luck and really, any of them would be great for the company. However, Only about 1 in 3 are hired, so MAYBE 2 out of the 5 of us. Which is sad.

So my individual interview started out VERY well. He basically just looked at me and said I had a very good chance of being hired. Assuming my references turn out and the Japanese side likes me, I'm in. I've already contacted all my references, so they know to be on the look-out (assuming the stupid site doesn't screw up). Most of the questions he asked were straight-forward, easy, or had been so drilled into me at school that my response was all but automatic. He asked where I'd like to be placed and I said Kansai or Kanto regions, or Central/Southern Japan. Nooo more long winters for me. He mentioned earlier in the informational part that most offices had a Westerner to act as a buffer, but the Southern places often didn't, and if that would still be ok with me. I put on my brave face and said yes. He's thinking of recommending me for Hiroshima, where the office branch leader is Japanese, but also LDS and would take good care of me.

And this part really impressed me. He said they would do what they could to put me someplace where I would still be close to a church. I really didn't expect that. I wasn't going to bring it up at all and fend for myself, so I thought that was really cool.

And then that was pretty much it. He asked me if I would accept if they offered me a spot right now, and I said most likely, which lead into a discussion about JET and how he'll have to call them and tell them to not upgrade me, because he doesn't want to lose me to them.

Now Part Three, the references and the waiting.
So if you want to get into a similar line of work, this is how to start. I knew I wanted to go to Japan and teach for a long time - I'd gone on Study Abroad, I'd been a student ambassador, and still loved the country. And I was well aware of what teaching takes from a person, especially by the time I graduated (student teaching is probably the hardest thing I've done).

First, research your options. START EARLY. Originally, I wanted to get into JET, and their application process is not only insanely long, but insanely early. I was set to graduate April 2009, so I wanted a job soon after. To start Fall 2009, you need to apply a full year in advance. I believe applications were due the week before Thanksgiving or so. In January, I was notified that I qualified for an Interview, which took place in February. Then, finally, in April I got the news that I was an Alternate. And that I was an Alternate in the worst year possible, because VERY few were getting upgraded. After several nerve-wracking weeks of no news, I decided I needed to find other options. (At the same time, I was finishing my student teaching and preparing to graduate and move across the country. It was a very stressful time, to say the least.)

My next choice was Interac. I worked in the Asian Department at BYU, and this company came highly recommended to me by several professors I knew. Now I completely lucked out, because their application process was MUCH faster. I filled out their application completely online and within three days, I got a phone call. This was in the middle of May. This phone call was basically a screening process and felt like an interview.

The rep asked me things like why I wanted this, experiences I'd had, and stuff like that. I wish I could be more specific, but I honestly don't remember. I remember the rep was really nice, and he said he'd love for me to come to the seminar in Dallas on May 30. Done and done.

I also applied at Amity, which came recommended at the JET message boards I frequented. Their's was also a simple online application. I didn't get a phone screening from them, but I was invited to an information seminar at the end of July via email. I put that on my list in case Interac didn't work out.

And that is the end of part one.
I'll be making a few posts to catch this up to speed, but first I want to just sort of introduce myself.

My name is Lauren. I'm 23 years old and fresh graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in English Teaching, a minor in Japanese, and a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. While I went to school in Utah, I'm originally from Kansas, which is where I'm living now. I'm living with my family until I depart for Japan in order to save some much needed money. (They don't tell you that life after graduation is this insane.)

I recently was offered a position at Interac, which is a company that contracts English speakers out to Japanese schools. I'll be starting in March, though I don't know my placement or really anything more than that. So y'all will get to find out with me.

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to ask! One of the frustrations of job-hunting is not having someone to really ask questions about. I'm not an official representative of Interac, but I can give you my opinion, advice, and basic information, and things like that.