Job 1: GEOS
Posted by Heliocentrism on April 24, 2015
November 2005 – November 2006
After spending more than a year as Mark’s housewife, I’ve decided to get a job. In a few weeks of writing this, I will take a trip to Okayama for 5 days of orientation. I’ve been through many orientations so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about them and all the overseas jobs I’ve had. I will talk about the good and bad and give any advice I can.
My first job was in Japan with a company called GEOS. It was the type of school called an eikaiwa. I know they went bankrupt a few years back, but I’m unsure whether or not they still have schools running in Japan. I first applied to NOVA, but I completely bombed during the interview.
I was just finishing my course at the University of Manchester in England. I went to a jobs’ fair and talked to some people at the NOVA booth. I handed them my resume, which was really written with getting a job in mathematics in mind. They didn’t seem to care. Soon they called me to come down to London for an interview.
It was my first job interview ever. I had no idea that there was a game to be played and I was totally unprepared. Back then, I thought I should look my best and answer all the questions honestly. If I were the right person for the job, which I was sure I was, I would be hired. During the interview when I was asked what my greatest weakness was, I told them the truth. I did not know I was supposed to give an answer like, “My greatest weakness is that I demand greatness from myself and I’m always trying to impress my boss.”
After not getting the job, I complained to a friend how the people at NOVA clearly made a mistake. He agreed that they had missed something good in not hiring me. Then he asked about the interview. He asked me how I had prepared and how I had answered the questions the NOVA people asked.
“Prepared? I’m just qualified for the job. What else do I need to do?”
I had a lot to learn.
The next interview was with GEOS in July 2006. This time I was prepared. I knew more about the company, the job, and I even looked up what questions they might ask me during the interview. I practiced my answers until they were perfect. I even had some questions of my own, because I read online that they like that. I spruced up my resume and cover letter too.
All this helped me to appear more confident during the interview. And I needed it. The NOVA interview was a one-on-one interview and took less than an hour. The GEOS interview had one interviewer and 30 possible candidates and took 3 days. I had to look better than 29 fools for more than 3 days in a row.
This was another interview in London. On the first interview day, we sat in a room and listened to lectures on living and working in Japan. We were given some basics on how to teach. We were each given a situation that could arise during a lesson and a few minutes to think about it. We were expected to tell everyone how we would deal with the problem and why. This was easy stuff.
We were given a break before lunch while the interviewer talked to her helpers. One by one the helpers came up to each of us waiting in the lobby to tell us whether or not we should come back after lunch. 5 people did not return.
During lunch we tried to figure out why the 5 were rejected. For one of them it was obvious. He had shown up to the interview with a pierced lip and visible tattoos. He constantly talked about anime and how things were done in Japan. He was clearly a Japanophile, but he had no clue about Japanese business culture.
After lunch we had a test. It was mostly on grammar, but there was also some trivia about current events in Japan. Because I had prepared for this interview, I was expecting this test. Everyday for the past couple weeks I read an article from a Japanese newspaper. The grammar I was not too worried about; I knew my grammar was legit!
I think I had the highest or the second highest score. The other 24 interviewees could not hide their amazement that I did so well. One of them said, “I didn’t even know Americans could speak English.” “It’s the only language I speak, so I better speak it well.” “…good,” someone tried to correct me. I hoped he was just trying to be funny.
Twelve of the people left failed the test and had to retake it. They were given 2 more chances. About 8 people could not pass the test, even after both retakes, and did not continue with their interviews.
For the next 2 days of the interview everyone could relax a bit. There were no more cuts until the final one. We were not told how many people from our group would be hired. But, I knew from looking online, that they would hire about 8 of us.
The second day was spent showing us how to make a lesson plan and teach a class. We took notes and asked questions. Then we were put into groups and we had to make our own mini lessons. This would be what the interviewer would mainly use to pick which one of us she would hire.
On the third day after the presentations, the interviewer talked to each of us privately. This, I was not expecting. No one online had ever mentioned anything about anything happening after the presentations.
When it was my turn, Yuki, the interviewer, asked me why I had chosen GEOS over say, NOVA. This time, I knew not to answer honestly and say that I had interviewed with NOVA but was not hired. Nor did I tell her that what I really wanted was to work on the JET Programme, but since I was an American living in England I could not do that. But I was still honest enough with my answer.
In my research on GEOS, I found it to be a better company than NOVA. Both companies were essentially the same. But, GEOS had a better housing arrangement. (With GEOS you get your own apartment. With NOVA you have to live with 2 other people.) GEOS had the better vacation plan, they had more schools all over Japan, and they had a bigger end of the year bonus. With GEOS you got money, but NOVA you just got a plane ticket home. (At the time, the money was worth more than the plane ticket.)
I explained this to Yuki and she seemed to like my answer.
A few years later NOVA stopped paying its employees, leaving many ESL teachers stuck in Japan. Then they went Bankrupt. GEOS went bankrupt too, but many years after NOVA did.
About two weeks later I got a letter from GEOS telling me that I was going to be hired. I had to go back to London to get some paper work done. There was also to be some orientation-like meetings in London before we left.
Ten people from the original 30 were hired. We all left for Japan at different dates and went to different places. After our last meeting in London, I never saw any of them again.
I left for Japan in November 2006. I was met at the airport by a Canadian guy who spoke some Japanese. His name was Marco, which is a masculine name in the West, but in Japan is sounds like a girl’s name. He took me to my hotel and then to the school.
There I met the teacher who I would replace. For the next few days she showed me the ropes and gave me many tips. She was a very nice and organized person.
She left her apartment fully furnished. She even purposely left some food in the fridge to give me time to settle in without having to worry about grocery shopping. But what I was most grateful to her for, was how all her lesson plans were well written with all the props in organized folders. I didn’t have to do much other than copy what she did and be happy and cheerful in class.
Within a month I had gotten a hang of it and was doing a great job. My students were happy and active in class. Several of them had already re-signed for another year of lessons, even though I was a new teacher. I was even hanging out with some of the college aged and older students out side of class.
About 3 months after I got to Japan and started teaching, GEOS had me go to orientation. One thing GEOS was good at was pointless meetings. The manager of our school was always away to attend some meeting, leaving me or one of the Japanese English teachers to answer the phone, if we weren’t in class.
The meetings never helped anyone be a better teacher. Most of the people giving presentations at the GEOS meetings had never taught English. They were just stock holders or something, so if you asked them for specific advice, they would give vague or meaningless answers.
For example, most of the teachers at GEOS had no problem with their adult or high-school level classes. What we needed help with was dealing with badly behaved toddlers from the baby classes. One of the presenters told us that to punish a misbehaving 2-year-old, we should lock him or her out of the classroom.
“Really? You want to leave a toddler unsupervised in the hallway or lobby? The front door of the school is never closed, what if the kid runs out into the street?”
There were 3 meetings a year and they were all useless!
GEOS loved making people do paperwork. We had to do so much paper work and then fax it all in to… I’m not sure whom. But doing this paperwork meant that someone out there, the guy who had to read this stuff, had a worse job than I did.
GEOS also loved telling its employees how badly they were doing and how much money they were losing. We would get faxes everyday showing us, in graph form, how we only made 5% of the money their best schools did.
I never understood why they showed me statistics like that. What do I care if they lose money? I’m doing the job that I was hired to do. I only teach students, not recruit them. GEOS was supposed to bring them in. If they’re losing students to NOVA that’s kinda on them.
I enjoyed my job. I loved teaching my students. They taught me so much about Japan while I taught them English. Many of them took me on trips and introduced me to their friends. Many of them, and their friends, I still talk to today.
GEOS, the company, was not so great. But, I always got paid and on time too. So, GEOS was not too bad. Though, when I heard that they had gone bankrupt, I wasn’t surprised.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to askwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)