The Nomad Life
There is more than one way to skin a cat, or if you’re in Japan, more than one way to teach English, and sometimes Corporate English Teaching is labelled the nomad life. Other options available include Communication Skills classes, industry-specific English classes, English group conversation classes, private conversation classes, English speaking cafes and much, much more. While this isn’t the only job available for foreigners, it is maybe one of the easiest ways into the workforce as a full-time employee. Especially, for an English speaker with next to no Japanese speaking skills. Of course, many go via the Eikaiwa (English speaking school) route, and this serves as a sufficient entry level role for several years until many finally decide to return home. However, there is also a number of English Teaching alternatives, available for those looking to advance or progress their teaching career, or who may be more inclined to follow the nomad or freelance kind of lifestyle. If you’re looking for an English teaching job, you may also be interested in my article about acquiring a work visa.
I have been teaching for a few different schools for a couple of years now, and the beauty of this lifestyle is in setting your own schedule, basically being your own boss, while still having time to explore your other passions, for me, being this site, FAQ Japan. The majority of my time I work teaching Business English lessons to main professionals in their company office, via Skype or in a local school nearby. In between that, I use my spare time for everything else including life, which is definitely a lot more freedom than I ever had to work at an office full-time in Sydney.
This comes with some precautions too though, as independence means responsibility which means just that, you need to take ownership of your work and build up a reliable and positive reputation.
Firstly, you must make sure to stay on top of your schedule (at all times), obviously some lesson planning may be required and for some of this job, you may be constantly travelling to different locations, which can also eat into your time. Travel time will vary mostly on where you decide to base yourself in terms of housing, and while you may be lucky with some nearby work, you will still be at the mercy of the contractor supplying you with students. In saying that, of course, you will also have the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting and friendly people on the journey. In addition, most of these types of students are highly motivated and in my experience, it is rare to come across a student that was particularly challenging or had a bad attitude.
The role of teaching Business English or running corporate style classes is pretty broad and varied, and it pays to have an open mind and a somewhat flexible and tailored approach. For some low-level students, you may be just conducting a basic conversation, correcting their mistakes and focusing on role-plays. For the intermediate levels, things will tend to concentrate less on grammar and more on output such as expressing opinions, joining discussions and building core competencies related to presentations, meetings and negotiations. Once you start reaching the upper echelons of advanced English speakers, you will probably need to provide more specific training, either based on materials brought in by the student or very precise scenarios they need to prepare and refine. Working together with the student to identify their goals, both short and long-term, should enable you to both agree to an approach and course that is both realistic and achievable. Firms that tend to have a focus on Business and Corporate English lessons include Berlitz, ECC, IES, Aeon and Coco.
Typically, the firms who concentrate on either corporate classes or more communication skills training will always look for candidates with some amount of business experience as a priority. So make sure you have at least 3 years in a from a particular industry, preferable sectors include finance, engineering, travel, medical, law and the like. Usually, these types of roles are part-time or contract based and the hourly rate is usually better than the equivalent English Conversation school counterparts (upwards of 3,000 yen per hour). However, in this type of job, you will usually forgo health insurance and many other full-time employee benefits like paid leave. Furthermore, due to the timing and schedule of lessons being generally outside of normal business hours, it is recommended you seek out a few schools or options to help you fill in the gaps across your weekly calendar.
For example, my regular schedule in a typical week is something like the following:
- Monday – I have an early morning, lunchtime and evening business classes.
- Tuesday – I have several classes throughout the day, again starting early in the morning.
- Wednesday – Begins with an early morning Skype lesson, mid-morning business morning, and then from afternoon to evening, I conduct group conversation classes at a small local school.
- Thursday – I have 2 morning Skype lessons and a lunchtime and afternoon business class.
- Friday – I have one business lesson in the early morning only, and the rest of the day off.
- Saturday and Sunday – I tend to work either in the morning or afternoon, on only one of these two days each weekend, running group conversation classes at my small local school.
Occasionally, I may get the opportunity to take on extra work and classes, usually because another teacher is on leave, taking holidays or away sick and this also helps to bump up that monthly salary.
You may find that some schools also have a set syllabus or style you will need to learn and adjust to. Comparatively, others will give you complete freedom about how you approach and teach your student. Sitting in between these two extremes are companies that adopt a mixture of the two, so make sure you clarify the kind of materials and resources used by each firm to give you a better idea of their expectations.
As mentioned, a lot of corporate or business classes may run outside business hours, and so to supplement your income it is important to diversify across a range of lessons or schools to help boost your salary. Alternatively, you may wish to try and find different jobs other than teaching (part-time) to broaden your experience or skillset. From here I will provide you with some insight into other options you could consider for teaching English in Japan.
Firstly, there are a number of introduction agencies who will organise and introduce students in accordance with your schedule and location. You simply register with the company, they will conduct a short interview with you to basically verify who you are and you are competent. Once they are satisfied, they will then begin to refer students onto you that match your location, timing and teaching competencies. Lessons will usually be conducted in a cafe or quiet location, and are based on a pay as you go system. The student will pay you at the end of each lesson, usually in cash. Cash is a great way to make money, but you may, unfortunately, experience some students that cancel multiple times and/or who do not show up to lessons, and this can obviously be a hassle even if the company has a cancellation policy. Some examples of English student introduction agencies include Eigopass, ABCkara and Elite Sensei.
Skype lessons are also available and these can come from a range of schools, or even be completed online across the globe. These can be especially good to fill in any gaps in your day as you can obviously conduct these from any location, as long as you have access to a quiet place, Skype-enabled device and an internet connection. Teaching via Skype does come with its share of drawbacks, as it can be difficult to get your point across, especially to lower level students. In this case, you can definitely use the share feature of your screen, or type any notes in the chat interface for their future reference or to explain something in writing. Yet, the ability to teach face to face is much less restrictive and enables the use of gestures and body language for easier communication. You can find Skype lessons via a range of sources and a simple internet search, from the italki application, to work advertisements on Craigslist and the like to a range of schools operating within Japan.
There are also a number of sites that let you do your own advertising, and allow you to create your own profile and set your own parameters to appeal to the students in your local area. Find students is one such site, and hello sensei is another.
If you’re considering searching for jobs on your own, feel free to check websites like Craigslist, Gaijinpot, Daijob, Ohayo sensei and more that you can find through a simple web search. Of course, make sure to proceed with caution before handing over your resume and personal details to anyone over the internet, always check the counterparty is reputable by searching the internet, and check they have a proper website.