Although the JET Program’s application is something that is mostly done on your own, there are some parts that require the help of others. Namely, the letters of recommendation.
Most people have professors or managers who they have set aside to write letters of recommendation for them. Someone who knows them well enough to write a personal review of their character, and someone who has an impressive enough title to hold weight. I thought that was the case for me.
When the application process started, I had a list of people I wanted to ask, as well as some backups. On one of the first days after it opened, I went straight to my advisor and asked him for a recommendation. He had it completed relatively quickly and submitted with plenty of time to spare. Then I went to ask another professor who had advised me in the past, but never actually taught me in a class. She said it was her personal policy to only write letters of recommendation to students who had taken her class. Fair enough, and even though I was disappointed, I still had plenty of other people I could ask.
Fast forward, and I had approached and sent out emails to several other professors I thought would be able to write me a letter of recommendation. Every single one of them fell through. Either they didn’t answer the emails to begin with, they answered but took too much time, or flat out said they weren’t going to be able to help me.
This weekend, as I was sitting around waiting for at least one professor to email me back, I remembered another professor who always responded quickly. I sent her an email, and within 24 hours she had responded and taken care of everything that I needed taken care of.
I’m finally able to breathe easy. After a month of stressing whether or not someone would get back to me, I have everything taken care of and I no longer have to worry about anyone falling through at the last minute.
Which brings me to my point. Even though you might think that you have everything lined up, when you bring others into the mix, it adds a whole new level of challenge to the situation. I know good and well that I can finish my application on time. It’s meaningful to me, and I know that I’m determined to submit the best application I can. But to others, they don’t care as much. This is going to mean a lot more to you than it means to everyone else, so don’t expect a huge level of excitement coming from those who probably write a hundred letters of recommendation a year. Have backups, backups for the backups, and backups for those backups.
I ended up going with someone who I had interacted with and trusted to write a letter on time. The “on time” part was by far the most important to me.
While it is true that I had other professors who probably interacted with me more and could elaborate a bit further on my character, I wasn’t able to trust them to get it in on time. We’ll see how everything ends up because I don’t know if I’ll get accepted yet, but as of right now it looks like that I would rather go with someone who will actually submit it on time than someone who knows me slightly better but can’t be trusted to be timely.
If you can manage to get people who will be both reliable and informative, obviously you have nothing to worry about. But don’t become complacent. I didn’t think I’d have to go through five different professors to find one who could help me, but sometimes that’s what happens. Even ones that have helped me in the past weren’t able to help me this time.
Of course, if you’re not applying for JET for another couple of years, you should always be looking out for professors who can write you an honest, reliable letter of recommendation. This goes for really anyone who is looking for a job, but especially those who are applying for JET considering this program has a specific due date. Even though the program only requires two, talk to as many people as you can because you never know what the situation is going to look like in the future.
But all that being said, I have now completed everything that I need to have done by November 18th. My essay is finished and it’s being reviewed by several different people. I hope to put some polish on it and have the whole application sent off by the end of the week. We’re approaching the end of the application process and it’s an exciting time, and I wish the best of luck to everyone else who is in the same position as I am.