Working in Japan

I’m an English Teacher and I’ve Just Lost My Job… Now What?

If companies are reducing their number of teachers or closing locations, does that mean that teachers who have been let go don’t have a new job to go to? With COVID-19 continuing to spread through

If companies are reducing their number of teachers or closing locations, does that mean that teachers who have been let go don’t have a new job to go to?

With COVID-19 continuing to spread through Japan and both the central and local governments asking people to avoid any non-essential travel, English schools of all varieties have been hit hard by the drop in the number of people coming to take lessons. This has meant that companies have had to let teachers and staff go in order to stay in business.

It is true that there aren’t as many jobs going as there were before, but there definitely are jobs still out there. Just looking at the first page of, you can see that there are many companies out there desperate to find teachers, even using the words “urgent” and “immediate start” in the title. Keep in mind that while some companies may be letting teachers go, there are many teachers who have packed it in and returned to their home country, leaving open positions in their wake. Also, because of government rules changing, some inbound teachers and first timers have been told to stay in their country of origin, leaving some schools desperate for a teacher to replace a new hire on short notice.

While the demand before was largely from English conversation companies looking for teachers, the focus has now switched to teaching kids’ classes. This includes international schools, private schools, public schools, and especially preschools. The ALT market is still strong, maybe the strongest I’ve ever seen due to the travel restrictions, as the board of education contracts must be filled and are not affected as much by market forces.

If you enjoy teaching kids, this is great news for you. If teaching kids isn’t your cup of tea however, you may want to give it another thought, especially if the age bracket you usually like to teach is highly competitive in this market. Change the mindset of “I don’t want to teach kids” to “OK, I’ll sign a contract for a year and will teach kids for that amount of time and then move on to the next job.” By putting in place a clear timeline (for example, one year), you know that there is an end, and you know when it is. Take the job for now and give it your best. After the year, you can transition to a new job.

Teaching Kids

Even if teaching kids might not be your forte, you can do it if you need to. It’s not gonna be this bad, Japanese kids are very well behaved!

Very important: Get your mindset straight before you go to an interview or it is going to show. If you feel like you don’t want to do the job, it will show up in your behaviour and attitude. Here’s a quote from a school owner who has been interviewing some of the corporate English teachers:

The teachers interviewed well, but were not able to respond well to direction during their demo days, one of them showing almost complete disregard for the young, but very skilled and talented…

You will find that knowing that this isn’t forever will make it easier to accept the new teaching environment. And you know, it is possible that you may actually come to enjoy teaching the future leaders of the world!

Another thing to consider is that you don’t necessarily need to stay in a teaching position. It is easy for a lot of us to resign ourselves to the fact that teaching is the only job that we can get in Japan because of not being fluent in Japanese. However, that simply isn’t the case. Looking through available positions on you can find many jobs that don’t require fluency in Japanese, such as engineering and coding, hotel staff, game development, graphic design and retail. Of course a little Japanese helps, but it is by no means required to find a job outside of teaching in Japan these days.

The Bottom Line

If you no longer have a job, you need to make a decision about what you are going to do. You may choose to go back to your home country, or you may have saved up enough to take a break and live off your savings until something opens up. However, if you need to find a job now, you need to take action. Take a look through the job board and see what is out there. 

One more piece of advice, take the First Round Video Interview. Having one of these attached to your applications will more than double your chances of getting hired. It’s like going through the first few standard questions of a normal interview, but this way you only need to do it once, rather than having to repeat those same answers over and over for each interview. It also saves you a lot of time scheduling zoom or in-person interviews, and employers can get a sense of who you are quickly, rather than only seeing a list of your qualifications in size 12 Arial font.  This allows you to showcase your abilities and personality in a way that a resume or cover letter just can’t.

Keep positive, move forward and find that next job!

Peter Lackner is the Managing Partner at and has had management-level positions at major job boards in Japan including:, GaijinPot, CareerEngine and currently the managing partner at

Running a job board gives Peter the opportunity to speak with employers and job seekers every day and find out why some are successful and others are not. Speaking to both employers and job seekers has given Peter the ability to be able to see both sides of the hiring process. This is why exists - to help job seekers find the jobs they want and employers to find the candidates they need.

Peter is active in the ETJ (English Teachers in Japan organization), a member of JALT’s School Owners SIG and currently on the Executive Board of the Tokyo Association of International Preschools.

You can often find Peter speaking to groups on how to get a new or better job, and to employers on how to avoid making a bad hire.

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