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Kopfkino

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Hello,

I'm working at a small Eikaiwa and my employers have recently threatened to either not renew my contract or even fire me. The reason is that they want me to attend a weekly meeting that is not in my contract, requires me to come in an hour early for no extra pay, and only lasts 5 minutes - and I haven't come the last two weeks. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but I don't like being bullied or having my time wasted for no good reason. Even if this sort of corporate coercion is common in Japan and in Eikaiwas, I've heard of other schools that pay overtime for all meetings.

I'm eager to try a new job, so my only real concern is that it might look bad on my CV that I was fired, thereby costing me some job opportunities - especially since this is only my second year of teaching experience overall and my first year teaching in Japan. A colleague who has his own English school has offered to give me an endorsement as a former employee, but I don't know if that will be enough, as his school is even less well-known/established. Having said that, there's no guarantee they'll give me a letter of recommendation even if I "behave" for the rest of my contract's duration.

Other details: My visa's good until this Fall, when my contract ends, so I'll need to find new employment by then at the latest. I'm learning Japanese and plan to take the JLPT N3 or 4 in July (I need to look at the sample questions and make a decision in the next few days).

Based on your experience, what advice would you give me? Am I right to be concerned about getting fired and the effect it will have on my resume? Or should I call their bluff?

Thanks in advance,
K.
 
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I'm eager to try a new job, so my only real concern is that it might look bad on my CV that I was fired, thereby costing me some job opportunities - especially since this is only my second year of teaching experience overall and my first year teaching in Japan.
Being fired only shows up on a CV if YOU write it there.

Job application 101: always writean application with a positive mindset:
I am looking for a new job because:
- I want to teach a different age group (if coninue to teach)
- I am looking for a job that suits my skills better (if looking for different kind of job)
- I want to teach closer to home/ move to the area of your school (if continue to teach)
- etc etc, be creative.

No company wants to hire a guy that does not seem to apply out of genuine interest in that company, or that talks negative about his former/current employer.

I do not live in Japan at the moment, but form what I know from the websites I check and the people I know, jobs with little Japanese language requirements are generally:
- teaching
- selling Japanese cars to foreign (mostly African, but also US and European) customers over the phone/internet
- recruitment/headhunting

Sellinc cars and recruitment requires a lot of direct approach to potential clients, and not everyone is cut out for it. However, I know of people who have moved on to sales positions in decent Japanese companies, but you would have to work hard on your Japanese while at the recruitment/selling position.
 
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Echoing what Mike Cash said, you do kinda need to get over yourself. This is Japan, land of where everything has to be done a certain way. I'm not surprised that you're struggling to keep your current position. There's a lot that isn't expressed in Japanese contracts that you're still expected to do. If you're upset about a really minor incident, Japan isn't for you. This isn't going to be the last time you deal with stuff like this, and that goes for everywhere. There will always be that one person or group that drives you up the wall.
I'm also a little conflicted on how to give advice to you, since most people I know were at a much higher level with their Japanese than you place yourself to be. I also don't know what you major in--if anything--and whether or not it's applicable in the real world immediately. You may still be in school for all I know. What I'm getting at it that your initial post seems more like a "I got bullied; someone comfort me" type of thing, which I do understand. I've been on the receiving end of some very vicious attacks, but believe me when I say this is likely the best opportunity available to you right now. Eikaiwa cafes pay decent and you don't even have to be in until 10 am. That's a whole three hours before I'm expected to show up both at my school and where I work (you probably make more than me too).
Without knowing anything else, I'd advise you take the hits just this once, swallow your pride and apologize, and then start attending those meetings. Even if they are only five minutes long, use the rest of the time to prepare for that day's lessons or socialize. Heck, I don't even work at an Eikaiwa but I still have a game plan for when I do language exchanges. Make a list of topics to discuss and flip through an English-Japanese dictionary for a bit. Maybe take that extra time to study for the JLPT, since that is what will eventually get you to a more desirable working position. But bottom line, show up to the meetings. You're in a place where you're going to get a free pass for a lot, but ignoring the rules ain't one of them.
If you've got any other questions or concerns, I'm more than willing to reply here or via PM. Your choice.
 

Mike Cash

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His first year in Japan....I guarantee you his employers have spent time and effort holding his hand and wiping his nose on things that weren't spelled out in his contact that they had to do.

Just by dint of being human, I guarantee he has walked into class late, come back from lunch late, borrowed office supplies for personal use, spent too long in the toilet, called in sick when be wasn't, or some combination of those or the various other things that employers are expected to turn a blind eye to.... while he goes all Cesar Chavez over five minutes once a week. No wonder they don't want to renew his contact.

This reminds me of the story about Vanna White phoning Wheel of Fortune producer Merv Griffin and demanding a raise. He said, "Vanna, think about what you do for a living and call me back." OP, you are at the bottom rung of a BS job chatting with bored housewives, pretending to teach them English while they pretend to learn it. Doesn't matter if it is your first year...you'd be no more valuable or in a position to be this petty if it were your tenth year. You are eminently and imminently replaceable. There are tons of people lined up eager to pass through the revolving door of eikaiwa. They all have the same qualifications you had, a clean shirt and the ability to fog a mirror. A week after you're gone the students won't even remember your name.

You have no other actual real job skills that are marketable in this country, otherwise you'd be using them. You can't speak the language and you're illiterate. The only reason you can swing your extended vacation in Japan at all is thanks to the existence of the bogus eikaiwa industry and the near zero demands and expectations placed upon the coddled gaijin youths who fill the how-can-you-possibly-get-fired-from-this "teaching" jobs. And the only BS you're asked to tolerate is five ****** minutes out of your week and you still think you're being abused?!?! What is this? The second job you've ever had in your life? Every job on earth has some level, degree, and flavor of BS that goes with it. Five minutes once a week is about the lowest, lightest, and tastiest kind of BS one could imagine.

The "that's not in my contract" or "that's not in my job description" attitude won't serve you well anywhere you go, not just Japan.
 
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I've heard of other schools that pay overtime for all meetings.
And, I've heard of others that don't, so get over this. Japan's law system is not one to stand on precedence.

What is discussed in those mere 5 minutes? Seems like a waste of time for all employees, not just you, to arrive an hour early unless there is something very urgent. What do people do the rest of the 55 minutes? Is the school open for business then, or are people arranging desks, sweeping, setting up stuff, making coffee, etc.? What do the other teachers say about this meeting?

And just how much out of your way is it to get there an hour early? That is, what time of day are we talking here vs. your commute. And, is there anything else you can do in or near the office during the 55 minutes after the meeting which would be productive, whether for this job or something else?

If you feel you have a leg to stand on, contact the Labour Standards Office near you and complain. Perhaps they will phone the employer and explain if there is a legal leg you can stand on. But I suspect that even if there is, your contract will simply not be renewed (not fire you) and maybe even they will try to make your life miserable enough to quit (thus removing them from the obligatory month's notice and pay).
 

Kopfkino

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An update- today, a person in a higher position spoke with me today and reassured me that I would not be fired... her approach was very different from that of the previous person to speak with me and she painted a portrait of an extended heirarchy whose higher-ups "spy" on the teachers without being directly involved with them. She says that neither she or the other person would report my absence directly, but rather she's worried that THEY might notice and take action to dock my pay or not renew my contract. She appealed to my ego, saying that, even though I'm a good teacher, the higher-ups will not see it thus if I'm absent from a meeting. I pointed out that docking my pay is probably illegal, but said I would think about it...

Being fired only shows up on a CV if YOU write it there.

Job application 101: always writean application with a positive mindset:
I am looking for a new job because:
- I want to teach a different age group (if coninue to teach)
- I am looking for a job that suits my skills better (if looking for different kind of job)
- I want to teach closer to home/ move to the area of your school (if continue to teach)
- etc etc, be creative.

No company wants to hire a guy that does not seem to apply out of genuine interest in that company, or that talks negative about his former/current employer.

I do not live in Japan at the moment, but form what I know from the websites I check and the people I know, jobs with little Japanese language requirements are generally:
- teaching
- selling Japanese cars to foreign (mostly African, but also US and European) customers over the phone/internet
- recruitment/headhunting

Sellinc cars and recruitment requires a lot of direct approach to potential clients, and not everyone is cut out for it. However, I know of people who have moved on to sales positions in decent Japanese companies, but you would have to work hard on your Japanese while at the recruitment/selling position.
Thanks for the advice, cocoichi. You raise a good point, of course. My concern is more related to the optimization of my CV . Of course, I could leave this job off my CV entirely and put down my colleague's school instead - though, as I said, his school is smaller and would appear less legit - e.g. he doesn't even have a website.

On the other hand, if I do put down my current employer, I wouldn't necessarily want to be bad-mouthed if they're contacted.

Glenski said:
What is discussed in those mere 5 minutes? Seems like a waste of time for all employees, not just you, to arrive an hour early unless there is something very urgent. What do people do the rest of the 55 minutes? Is the school open for business then, or are people arranging desks, sweeping, setting up stuff, making coffee, etc.? What do the other teachers say about this meeting?

And just how much out of your way is it to get there an hour early? That is, what time of day are we talking here vs. your commute. And, is there anything else you can do in or near the office during the 55 minutes after the meeting which would be productive, whether for this job or something else?

If you feel you have a leg to stand on, contact the Labour Standards Office near you and complain. Perhaps they will phone the employer and explain if there is a legal leg you can stand on. But I suspect that even if there is, your contract will simply not be renewed (not fire you) and maybe even they will try to make your life miserable enough to quit (thus removing them from the obligatory month's notice and pay).

Nebulahime said:
Without knowing anything else, I'd advise you take the hits just this once, swallow your pride and apologize, and then start attending those meetings. Even if they are only five minutes long, use the rest of the time to prepare for that day's lessons or socialize.
[...]
You're in a place where you're going to get a free pass for a lot, but ignoring the rules ain't one of them.
Hello Glenski, Nebulahime. The meeting is generally considered a waste of time by the teachers, but it's only because of a recent change in schedule that it became an inconvenience to this extent. The day of the meeting is going to be changed to accomodate others' schedule, who would start teaching right after the meeting. For me it will still require coming an hour early. It takes me about an hour to get to work.

As for ignoring the rules... a few months back, they instituted a mandatory workshop that required us to come to work two hours early twice a month. I stopped going and was confronted about it, but they dropped the matter; presumably because another employee attended but complained and two others stopped attending and then stopped working there around this time. So I think taking a stand can work if there's some solidarity, but it seems I'm the only one inconvenienced by the new meeting schedule.

As for the 55 minutes... it's true that I can run away to another room and study Japanese during that time, and that's what I'm leaning towards doing, even though it is still an inconvenience. While I don't appreciate the coercion, I'd end up wasting around as much time researching and eventually taking legal action. Also, if I'm to take said supervisor's warning seriously, it seems more prudent to acquiesce - at least for most of the meetings. This way, I might be able to retain the possibility of a future recommendation.

To that end, I've just written a colleague who stopped working here to ask about when she asked for the letter (i.e. how many months before the end of her contract) and from whom she requested it. If I'm not mistaken, she went straight to a higher-up.

Do any of you have any interesting experience with letters of recommendation and the like? Also, do you think many employers would hold it against me if I tried to apply for a job before the end of my current contract (1 year)? Again, I don't have to write that in my CV, but they could always call the company to confirm that I left prematurely. Or is considered acceptable to end a contract prematurely if you give sufficient notice? How long is that notice?
 
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Resigning before end of a contract has always been ticklish here. If you are in good graces, depending on how much notice you give, too, it might be ok. If they are sticklers and have a contract clause, you might have to follow it. After working a year, I believe you only have to give two weeks notice. Keep in mind the company must give a month's notuce, even tho some might demand far longer from employees.

If they want to dock your pay for skipping a non-paid meeting lasting only five minutes, that would constitute a penalty, not wages earned. The contract should state policy on such things. This still brings you back to my original suggestion about the Labour Standards Office. I'd have their contact info in my back pocket just in case, if I were you.
 
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Thanks for the advice, cocoichi. You raise a good point, of course. My concern is more related to the optimization of my CV . Of course, I could leave this job off my CV entirely and put down my colleague's school instead - though, as I said, his school is smaller and would appear less legit - e.g. he doesn't even have a website.

On the other hand, if I do put down my current employer, I wouldn't necessarily want to be bad-mouthed if they're contacted.
That is not what I intended to say. I would never myself, or advise someone else to lie on a CV. Not only is it illegal, it also is unethical. At first you said something like "I have to do something that was not in the job description or contract". I think telling lies to get hired is much worse than the "harm" that is done to you.

It is much better to be yourself and stand behind your decisions. Let the company decide whether you are the person they want. Then if they do, you will feel much better about yourself, and you know that it is actually YOU they want, instead of the person with fake credentials.

I wouldn't sweat leaving your first employer. It takes time and experience to know what you want to do and what you are good at. Sometimes it really is just not clicking between employee and employer. As long as you are decent about it, and talk about your previous employer(s) in a respectul way, I don't see the problem. Now, if there's a pattern, say you had three employers and left them all within a year or so, then there is a problem.

What I really meant with my previous advice, was that a cv should be a reflection of reality, and that you should be positive about your reasons to apply for company x. Tell them why you WANT to apply, not why you HAVE to. Besides, if your teaching up til now is solid, and you really have only missed two meetings, I don't see why they would be bad mouthing you. If they at all contact other companies.

To quote my Japanese counterpart during a job interview: "We don't need references. We have our own way of doing things, and with these interviews we try to see if you have the right mindset to learn it".
 
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Hello Nebulahime. The meeting is generally considered a waste of time by the teachers, but it's only because of a recent change in schedule that it became an inconvenience to this extent. The day of the meeting is going to be changed to accommodate others' schedule, who would start teaching right after the meeting. For me it will still require coming an hour early. It takes me about an hour to get to work.

As for ignoring the rules... a few months back, they instituted a mandatory workshop that required us to come to work two hours early twice a month. I stopped going and was confronted about it, but they dropped the matter; presumably because another employee attended but complained and two others stopped attending and then stopped working there around this time. So I think taking a stand can work if there's some solidarity, but it seems I'm the only one inconvenienced by the new meeting schedule.

As for the 55 minutes... it's true that I can run away to another room and study Japanese during that time, and that's what I'm leaning towards doing, even though it is still an inconvenience. While I don't appreciate the coercion, I'd end up wasting around as much time researching and eventually taking legal action. Also, if I'm to take said supervisor's warning seriously, it seems more prudent to acquiesce - at least for most of the meetings. This way, I might be able to retain the possibility of a future recommendation.

To that end, I've just written a colleague who stopped working here to ask about when she asked for the letter (i.e. how many months before the end of her contract) and from whom she requested it. If I'm not mistaken, she went straight to a higher-up.

Do any of you have any interesting experience with letters of recommendation and the like? Also, do you think many employers would hold it against me if I tried to apply for a job before the end of my current contract (1 year)? Again, I don't have to write that in my CV, but they could always call the company to confirm that I left prematurely. Or is considered acceptable to end a contract prematurely if you give sufficient notice? How long is that notice?
The timing of the meeting makes sense then. You want to have everyone there to be able to discuss matters for the day and then let people start working. I can understand how the transit makes this a bit more of a struggle, but again, use that time to study for the JLPT. That is turly going to be your ticket out of this kind of position.

I'm just gonna say this: there's strength in numbers and there isn't. Before I quit my third Girl Scout troop, the leaders kept changing the meeting dates because it "interrupted family time" or they would cancel last minute for no reason other than their kids had too much homework. The rest of the troop was incredibly inconvenienced, as we were working on our Silver award at the time. The only reason half of us even have out Silver Awards (the one before the one that gets your scholarships) is because we did the work on our own, despite this supposedly being a group effort. My point is, even if a lot of people complain, that doesn't always change the fact that the higher ups have the power and they choose how to use it.

As far as the 55 minutes left and hour transit, that's almost two hours you can put towards JLPT study on a daily basis, assuming you take a train to work. Get books, podcasts, CDs, practice tests, and really crack down on your studying. I cannot express enough how important it is for you to get higher JLPT certification. It's going to make your life a heck of a lot easier and open new doors to opportunities you didn't have.

Networking is good though. It gets you information faster or news you wouldn't have heard otherwise. I only knew about the positions I work now because of connections I have. Heck, most of the workshops I attend have speed-networking sessions at some point. It's useful thing, regardless of where you live. Now, I've never worked in an Eikaiwa--and hopefully never will have to--but it was at the very least to my understanding that the pay was hourly, and not dictated by how many patrons you work with per day. That's the impression I always took away from job listings anyway.

Relating to that, unless your friend's cafe is of a smaller size and can't accommodate the same pay you've been getting, I don't see why transferring would be too big an issue. You could still do it, but switching jobs, especially to ones that pay less, means you're going to make sure you can live within your means under a smaller paycheck. It's not impossible, but it might mean giving up certain luxuries to make ends meet. The thing to keep in mind with that though is that it won't last forever. You're taking efforts to rise in the ranks as it is with your potential for N3 JLPT certification.

And finally, to address your last point, I actually haven't had much experience with letters of recommendation. Then again, that probably has to do more with my being a decade younger than you and only working part-time positions. I may know more than my years suggest, but there are still some questions I can't answer. This is one of them. As far as premature severance and notice go, I'd really just rely on your friend for that information. It varies greatly depending on the company and their relationship with you. I would need to give a little over a month's notice at my current job, but someone else I know in a similar position would only need to give 2 weeks. Different companies work in different ways, and Eikaiwa are kinda unusual to begin with. Go with someone who's been there before especially. And study for that JLPT dangit! You've only got a little more time until July!

Here: 問題例に挑戦しよう | 日本語能力試験 JLPT It's a lot shorter than the real thing, but it's enough to give you a feel of what each level is going to look like. You can change the language of the page at the top, but the sample questions, in addition to the actual test, will be entirely in Japanese. I've got a whole folder of JLPT resources if you're interested in them too. Most of them are online and free too.

Best of luck to ya
 
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I think telling lies to get hired is much worse than the "harm" that is done to you.
It is much better to be yourself and stand behind your decisions.
To quote Mark Twain:
“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
 

Kopfkino

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There's nothing in my contract about penalties, so I don't think they'd have a leg to stand on, but it probably is more prudent to swallow my pride and avoid the time and peace of mind it might cost me otherwise... 

Cocoichi, you raise a good point about ethics. I prefer not to lie, but my concern was with the viability of my CV. Regarding this quotation:

"We don't need references. We have our own way of doing things, and with these interviews we try to see if you have the right mindset to learn it".
Do you think this is true of many schools?

Nebulahime, I've tried some questions on LV 3 and 4 and found my biggest weakness is vocabulary. My kanji and grammar seem generally adequate, but I need to learn more actual words. Kanji recognition is probably my biggest strength, since I've nearly finished Heisig 1, but I need to work on catching up my other skills.

If the meeting only lasts 5 minutes, it's actually 70 minutes til my first class, so more time to study...
 
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"We don't need references. We have our own way of doing things, and with these interviews we try to see if you have the right mindset to learn it".
My answer is that even if a reference is not needed/wanted, you should still be able to explain why you left the previous employer.

As for what most eikaiwa want, it's a foreign face, reasonably young and naive person (to bamboozle with their interpretation of laws and contracts), and a personality that matches the clients. If they seem to have a sense about how to teach, all the better.
 

Kopfkino

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My answer is that even if a reference is not needed/wanted, you should still be able to explain why you left the previous employer.

As for what most eikaiwa want, it's a foreign face, reasonably young and naive person (to bamboozle with their interpretation of laws and contracts), and a personality that matches the clients. If they seem to have a sense about how to teach, all the better.
That seems easy enough - I can always just say I wanted to live in the new employee's area, i.e. I'm tired of the city and want to have more nature around me.

I'm hoping to give ALT a try, actually. Though I've heard direct hire is generally better than a dispatcher like Interac.
 
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