Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Life After ALT: 11 Skills ALTs Can Develop To Help You Land Your Next Job by David L. Hayter

by David L. Hayter

Bio: David L. Hayter worked as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan from 2014-2019. Although he primarily taught junior high school, he has taught all the grades from kindergarten through ninth grade. During his time as an ALT, he worked in 11 junior high schools, 2 elementary schools, dozens of kindergartens with hundreds of JTEs to teach thousands of students.

Aside from teaching classes in junior high school, his other duties included training and managing new ALTs, designing and delivering teacher training workshops, and performing other duties for his local Board of Education (BOE).

After his career as an ALT came to an end, he started working as a freelance writer and entrepreneur.

Outside of work, he actively volunteers in his community, enjoys playing video games, loves to cook, trains hard, podcasts, helps run the ALT Training Online blog and writes for his blog, Yokkaichi Connections.

For a lot of ALTs, our lives are only as good as our last contract. Although some ALTs have decided to make Japan their home, there are a lot of us who will, eventually, move on to another career in another country other than Japan.
There are too many stories of ALTs who spent years working in Japan only to struggle with finding work once their days as an ALT are numbered.
So many ALTs are caught up in the honeymoon of moving to Japan and starting to work that they often forget about what's going to come after.

When I first started blogging, it was to help new ALTs get more information. One of my first posts was what to do before coming to Japan. Last year, I wrote a blog post about 5 skills you can develop as an ALT to help with your future employment.

Since I just finished up my own stint as an ALT for 5 years, I figured it was a good time to revisit some of the skills I've learned while working as an ALT, volunteering in the community, and helping out with ALT Training Online. Maybe these are some skills that newer ALTs will want to pick up too!


Almost everyone knows the old ALT mantra of "ESID" (every situation is different). After teaching in a variety of schools with different teachers and students, I can say that it's very true. Each teacher has their own way of teaching. Every class has its own attitude, strengths, and weaknesses.
To be a successful ALT, you have to be adaptable and flexible. That means that you have to be able to look at the atmosphere in the class and adjust your teaching plan accordingly.
Sometimes your lessons may be too hard or too easy. You might be really excited about the content of your lesson and nobody else is. Something you thought was going to be really boring might end up being a big hit.
By watching reactions and changing things up, you'll be sure to have great lessons.
Time Management

When it comes to the daily schedule of the ALT, we sometimes can get a lot of downtime. If you're spending those free hours becoming a better teacher on, then you're already many steps ahead of the game!
Depending on the school I was working in, I sometimes had too much free time or not enough. In either situation, the ability to manage my time effectively really helped me get a lot done.
By paying attention to what I needed to get done and how long it takes, I was able to plan out my day and make sure I handled everything I needed to without too much stress.

This skill is especially handy for anyone going into a management-related field. Let's face it, if you can't manage your own time, you definitely can't manage someone else's!

Planning Ahead

I have to admit that as a college student, I was the master of winging it. I would usually do just enough work to get what I needed to get done at the last possible moment. My work was still pretty good, but it would have been A LOT better (and less stressful for me) if I had gotten an early start and made a plan.
Similar to time management, planning ahead is an essential skill for ALTs, especially for projects and classes that will be taught in succession.
This can be tough for us though as a lot of what we teach can depend on teachers that may, or may not, know what they are doing for their next class.

Either way, if you take care of everything you're supposed to, you can't say that any problems that arise were caused by you.


This is perhaps one of the most important skills an ALT can develop. Since ALTs often work with other teachers, the ability to community clearly and in a short time are essential to getting a lot done in a short amount of time.

This can also be tough given the schedules of the JTEs and language abilities of ALTs and JTEs (this will become even more troublesome with the addition of elementary school teachers to the English teaching equation).
When it comes to having good communication as an ALT, it's important to start early, be proactive, and put the ball in the JTE's court.
If you don't communicate enough, you may seem uninterested or anti-social. If you try to talk with your JTE too much, you can come off as demanding or needy.
I would usually start with an email or a written note. If I didn't get a response, I'd just go talk to the teacher when I saw them around the school (it usually helps to start with small talk before you get to the business of lesson planning).
Whatever form of communication you use, it's important to be clear and succinct.
If you come from a place of supporting the JTE and the students, you'll really be appreciated by the school you are teaching in.


In ALT life, there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration. You can work with your JTEs and students in the school to complete projects that can't be done alone.
There is also a large community of ALTs out there working on all sorts of projects on-line and in professional groups
Aside from building your professional learning network, belonging to groups looks GREAT on your resume.
If you're looking for opportunities to work with some great ALTs while picking up some knowledge and skills along the way, be sure to check out these groups:
That's about all I could think of off the top of my head. Do you know about other groups? Let us know what they are in our Facebook group.

Social Media Marketing

A few years ago, I came across ALT Training Online while researching ALT training for some new ALTs we were getting in August. Little did I know that volunteering to proofread new modules for the course would turn into the opportunity to run the blog for the site and help with our social media promotion.
Social media marketing is becoming a very in-demand skill for a lot of companies. There are even more opportunities to work remotely and on a part-time basis for clients.
This can become a nice full-time gig or even a side hustle to help supplement your teaching income.

Graphic Design

Along with social media marketing, the rise of internet marketing and the sheer amount of content that's pumped out online every day has created a HUGE demand for eye-catching graphics and well-designed websites.
Most schools (hopefully) have access to a computer. There are a lot of free programs you can use to produce quality graphics for your lessons and other projects.
Whether it's making yourself Batman (like I've done numerous times) or creating a version of Momotaro where he pops out of a Cup Noodle (something I've done once), the students really get a kick out of seeing what you can do with a computer.
The same work you would put into making a worksheet for your class could easily be transferred into layout design for a magazine or poster.
Remember that Google is your friend. The answer for how to do anything you want on almost any program is only a search away!


Although most teachers want ALTs to focus on speaking and listening skills in our classes, a good writing class can really help your students increase their English ability.
By writing samples for your class, you have a chance to hone your writing abilities.
Don't get me wrong, the English you'll probably write for your students will be simple, but then that's the challenge!

Writing for companies that produce non-academic content can be very lucrative. You can also take a chance and try to get creative with some of your writing for class. If the students and teachers see what you can come up with, it might inspire them to go a little bit more out of the box than usual.

As an ALT, you can also get some experience blogging. I run this blog in addition to my other blog, Yokkaichi Connections.
Aside from building skills, the things your write online can help serve as a portfolio of your work and get you noticed by potential employers.

If you've got the Japanese skills, you can make a decent living doing translations for a variety of clients. When I was an ALT, my BOE would often have some documents from City Hall that needed to be translated. Those of us who would read Japanese would help translate forms and letters from Japanese to English and vice versa.
If you want to volunteer, there are also opportunities to work community groups that serve as local tour guides, help people who don't speak Japanese, and promote local attractions.
If you can build a reputation as a reliable translator/interpreter, you'll be able to open up doors that otherwise wouldn't be available to you.


When you think about it, teaching something is pretty much giving a presentation (although it's hopefully a little more interactive and interesting than your usual college PowerPoint).
The way you speak, your volume, diction, vocabulary choice, pace, questions, and timing all really add up to either making a great experience or one that's lackluster.
If you can reflect on your performance and how you can improve, you'll become really good at presentations and super comfortable talking in front of crowds.

Web Design

This is another skill that people are willing to pay big bucks for. If you can make a slick website for a person or a company, you can find a lot of work.
Even if you plan on being a teacher, your ability to help out with the school's website may be the difference between your getting hired or someone else.
The days of having to be a coder to make a website are over (although it does help). Almost anyone can do it, but it takes practice to do it well.

If your school has a computer club, this is something else you can do together. You could even use making a website as a group project for your students if you have access to computers.

-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

If you have something 'ALT' to write about that hasn't been covered in these blogs, email me at so we can work together and spread your story.

Don't have any ideas? We have a list of topics to write about that need a writer. Email in your interest to write and we can set you up. 

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