Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
After all the work of getting hired and moving, we are SO excited to have a life changing experience, live in Japan, make all our friends back home jealous…(jk).
At first everything is scary and new and exciting.
But then… after you get used to things…
Even with tons of forum browsing and research on different companies, you might get hired by a company that likes to take advantage of others. I would say all of the recruiting companies do this at least some of the time, and some of the companies take advantage of all their employees. Choosing a dispatch company to work with can be like choosing a disease. A somewhat helpful disease that is bothersome at least.
I did a lot of complaining about my previous company, but honestly, the placement was cushy compared to anything I can find these days. The second company I worked for seemed cool until they acted like sneaky liars about my placement. The job wasn’t that bad and I would have kept it if the company was honest, but I hate lying and am a stubborn one. I also have some savings and an entrepreneurial streak. It’s been two months since I didn’t renew my contract and I’m just starting to get some freelance lessons set up.
It took me a while to admit this on the blog – because I’m trying to help people who want to work as ALTs and I’m not even an ALT anymore. I honestly loved being an ALT. It isn’t working out for me to do that right now (bad timing), but if the right job came up, I’d take it. I’d keep my freelance lessons on the side though.
(btw: I currently earn Zero from this blog and don’t have any passive income coming in. If I’m not at my goal of meeting minimal living costs in a month, then I’m in trouble.)
The majority of the time, if you don’t like your job, it’s based on your attitude, even if your specific situation seems worse than everyone you know. Working as an English teacher in Japan, it’s commonly said that Every Situation Is Different. You could have one super tame school in the countryside and amazing students who become like your best-friend-children who you can’t wait to see every day. Or you could have fifteen schools, all full of awful punks who show off their bad word English and Japanese teachers who talk about you behind your back (or in front of your face, while assuming you can’t understand Japanese). Those are extreme examples, but I bet someone out there can relate to each of them.
This job is all about adaptation. Being a good teacher is about using your resources (homeroom teachers, Japanese teachers of English, school staff, dispatch company staff, other English teachers, online resources, etc.) If you have no free periods for prepping lessons, you have to accept that the quality of your lessons might not be as good as you wanted, but you can stick with the same formula in each class so everyone knows what to expect. We have to know when to change what we’re doing – because it’s not working. There are a lot of resources online full of games and ideas that work in most situations, so I suggest saving your time and using these when you need a vague plan.
Okay, but what I really wanted to talk about is, what if your specific situation sucks because: A) Your company is a sneaky-liar-face or does anything illegal. B) Your expectations at work are not physically sustainable, like you will become mentally ill, an alcoholic, sick from stress, etc.
Don’t waste time feeling bad for being a quitter.
Don’t renew the contract.
Join the union to help you out if needed. Communicate your needs to your company (don’t complain to someone at your schools) without burning any bridges, and if they will not negotiate or lie to your face, quit. You are entitled to work for whom you choose to work for. This doesn’t mean you are entitled to a job. This means, if you signed a contract, but you don’t like the job, it’s legal to quit.
You then have some time, with your work visa, to find another job.
You must know, if you quit, you might not find work for a while and you might have to move to live close enough to another job. It costs so much to move, so if you can find something where you live before quitting, it’s always helpful. (Another reason I recommend having extra cash when you start working abroad – the unexpected costs of leaving a job that isn’t worth it.)
You also don’t have to quit abruptly. Depending on the situation, maybe you tell your company you will finish the term and stop working in two months. This will buy you some hustle time to find the next job.
In my situation, my recruiter lied to get me to agree to my contract by promising a placement that didn’t exist. I told the company I wouldn’t renew the contract on the last day because they kept making excuses when I called them on the fake placement. No hustle time.
Maybe you decide living abroad is not for you and you want to go home.
This is another topic in itself, but living abroad is commonly called ‘isolating’ and can result in loneliness and depression.
Just know that if you choose to quit, you will: 1. Give up and go home, 2. Find something better, which takes time, or 3. Evolve into a different career but most likely be much happier for it.
If you are entrepreneurial, maybe you have a side hustle that can evolve into your full time job. Maybe you can create your own job. Most of the time creating your own job will be more work than the job you didn’t like. Be prepared for hard work.
Moral of the story: It’s not worth it to stay in a job where you’re being treated unfairly. As a foreigner working in any country, it’s unfortunately common to have companies trying to cheat you out of benefits or pay you too little.