As the ides of March are soon upon us, there are a number of changes that may potentially take place in job situations at various universities, elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools. These changes are often due to people leaving the country and leaving for other jobs, thereby creating opportunities for those who still have places in their schedule for work, or are looking for work on a full-time basis. One friend of mine refers to this time as the “second hiring season” in Japan.
One thing that becomes apparent when getting hired at this time is that the qualifications are often interpreted more liberally than earlier. One example is a university that hired me on a contract position in late February in Osaka a few years ago. It turned out that of the three applicants to the position (all were invited to interview) only I showed up! The professor who hired me told me later that I was pretty much guaranteed the job as soon as I turned up because they had become quite desperate. I also know several people now working at a number of universities because they had Masters equivalent qualifications, and when I asked, it turned out that all three people had been hired in March.
So, for those looking who have spaces available in their time schedule, it is the perfect time to network with everyone you know. Send emails to anyone who you had contact with in the past year or two and briefly explain that you are looking for a particular time slot(s) or a full-time position, and to please let you know if anything is available that they might know of at any school in your area. If you don’t know the person well, an attached resume might also be a good idea. Often people know of positions that are open and just an introduction may be enough to secure a position.
If you do find something better, a word of advice: try to leave any position(s) on as nice of terms as possible. One thing that means is clearly explaining the decision you made and why you made that decision as honestly as you can. Something that some people may do is to procrastinate having the unpleasant conversation of telling a boss that you cannot fulfill an obligation that you had, but is better to let your current employer know as soon as possible. Finally, offer to help fill the position or positions that you will not be able to teach. After all, you do not necessarily want to have a bad name with any previous employer. The community in Japan tends to be rather small. I personally know of several situations where people have left suddenly and there may have been legal repercussions, however, as they had left on good terms there were no issues. Having said that, one final caveat is to be careful of any legal obligation that you may have with respect to a contract. Getting sound advice on your own situation will at least give you the knowledge of where you stand (if you do not know where to turn, the general union might be a good place to go to).