Top 5 Reasons Ex-JETs Make Great Entrepreneurs

When I returned to the UK after 3 years on the JET Programme I was, at first, concerned that JET had effectively ruined my career prospects. In Japan, it seemed, I had developed a rather different kind of approach to work than my non-travelling peers. Years later, I now see how brilliantly my experience in Japan prepared me to start out on my own…

In fact, I now firmly believe that the unique characteristics of the JET programme provide entrepreneurial types with a solid, practical advantage by honing their unique skills. Just to clarify, by ‘entrepreneurs’ I mean any freelancers, sole-traders, business owners, designers, artists, journalists, writers, bloggers, online workers, general creative types, consultants, and career 2.0 designers. JET sets you up to blast off! And here are my top 5 reasons why:

1) JETs are Risk-Takers

The JET Programme attracts people who don’t mind jetting off (do excuse the puns) on a year’s non-negotiable contract with very little idea what they are getting into, having had very little choice in where they were placed. It’s a plunge into the unknown; developing our innate trust that everything will somehow just be OK. Whether we are suddenly starring in a festival that starts in 5 minutes, or singing our unrehearsed rendition of the national anthem on stage in front of 500 people, JETs learn to rise to any occasion with a certain outlandish confidence. Crucial for business success is this same appetite for adventure: the ability to launch into something new and remain flexible as to how it develops.

2) The JET Programme Imparts a Sense of Responsibility

JETs are people who make things happen. From the word go, most JETs understand that their experience in Japan will be created by their own efforts. JETs have a special opportunity to influence the minds of children, adults and, well…Japanese society at large. If that doesn’t impart a profound sense of responsibility, nothing will. So, they design a new curriculum. Prepare innovative teaching materials. Organise a lunchtime conversation club. Join a club activity. Which leads nicely to the next point…

3) JETs become Multi-Taskers

On the JET Programme we were ALTs or CIDs, but we took on multiple roles as syllabus devisers, material publishers, games masters, advisors, cultural ‘ambassadors’, playground mates, speech-contest coaches, volleyball-team members, TV stars, international festival committee members, rice harvesters, etc, etc. JETs often also take on voluntary roles such AJET committee members, newsletter contributors, Ultimate Frisbee championship organisers, Habitat for Humanity volunteers… you get the idea. As a self-employed person you can transfer those marvellous multi-tasking skills to the adventure of becoming a boss, marketing/PR/advertising exec, salesperson, administrator, book-keeper, accountant, SEO and social networking expert all rolled into one! The reward is the ultimate ‘results-only-work-environment’: see

4) Returning JETs are Not on the Corporate Ladder

I know, this can feel like a seriously scary place to be. University classmates seem to have jolly important jobs that are already far too well paid to reconsider. The thing about the corporate ladder, though, is that once you are climbing it is near impossible to get off. And when one reaches the top, one may find that the ladder enthusiastically picked as a young graduate was actually leaning against the wrong building. Appreciate the breather that JET gives you, a chance to decide what it is that you would really love to do, not just what you think you should do. Try this free e-course: ‘Discover the Work You Were Born To Do’

5) The JET Experience Re-defines What’s Possible

As an ex-JET, you know it is indeed possible to move to Japan from the UK. And back again! You know you can learn a language often considered one of the most difficult in the world. You know that accidentally using MSG instead of salt for three years won’t kill you. But most of all, you know that you can live your life as one big exciting experiment. I thoroughly recommend ‘Screw Work, Let’s Play’ by John Williams – a book which defines the new work era we are lucky enough to be living in. Anything is possible…

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