I’m graduating with a Master’s this summer, but I have no idea what will come next. Oh, I know where I will be staying (parents) and what I will be doing (looking for work), but there is no clear path from here to a Ph.D. program. If I was completely fluent in Japanese then I could try to get a job as a researcher or a Japanese archivist, either of which would add to my appeal as a potential grad student. But my Japanese isn’t good enough for that.
The obvious thing to do seems to be to go to Japan to learn Japanese, right? There are a few problems with that. JET, the most common way that grad students have gone to Japan, has weird timing for U.S. applicants. If I apply (and I most likely will), I will still need a job to keep me occupied for several months beforehand. Aside from JET, I could just go as a regular assistant English teacher. But the programs that I have looked at seem to have hilariously low pay. To be fair, they tend to throw in free/reduced housing, some form of health insurance and whatever taxes are applicable. Even considering that, I’m looking at very low salaries – most likely too low to live on. The assumption seems to be that one will take some unofficial tutoring jobs on the side, but I’m leery of accepting a job where I will be financially required to take on another job, which may or may not exist. And a second job would take away time that I might spend studying Japanese.
So, Japan is a last resort. What is there in America? Moreover, what is there in the eastern half of America? There are a fair number of opportunities in politics and economics, but I do culture, and those jobs have nothing to do with teaching. I could try to get a job as an English or Japanese teacher, but apparently an advanced degree with a strong focus on Japanese literature in translation does not qualify one to teach high school students basic literature according to the No Child Left Behind Act. There aren’t any open Japanese teaching positions that I could apply for, and even if there were I would be limited to those aimed at lower-level courses because of my abilities. (I’m not bad at Japanese; I’m actually quite good at it. Just not fluent.)
In theory I could try for a more culture-focused job on the West Coast, but then I would be in the position of possibly moving across the nation for a short period of time, not being near my family or friends, and having limited options for interviewing for the job in the first place.
All of which boils down to, finding a job is hard work. No news there. I just thought that by this point in my life I would have a better handle on my career.