An interview with JET alumni Tiffany D., who was an ALT in Toyama prefecture from 2006-2011. She now works as a Senior Sales Manager at Kintetsu International Express, one of the biggest travel management companies in the US and Japan.
Tell us a little bit about your current organization and your role there.
Kintetsu International (KIE) is the 2nd largest travel management company (TMC) in Japan and a top 50 TMC here in the US. We handle corporate business travel programs as well as groups and meetings to Japan and other locations around the world.
I help manage the corporate and group business portfolio for the Los Angeles office, and maintain client relationships for key accounts. I also create proposals and take lead on meetings/incentives typically consisting of 50+ participants. This position has taken me to Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Caribbean and more.
I manage a team of 8 staff including 4 sales executives and 4 meeting coordinators. Three of them are also JET alumni!
How did you end up at your current position?
I returned to my home state of Maine after I finished JET in 2011. At that time, I knew I wanted to pursue work related to international relations or in a company that is Japanese/conducts business with Japan. Unfortunately, I searched in-state for 9 months with no success. Looking back, I realize that most companies either didn’t know what JET is, or I didn’t do a good job “selling” my skills on my resume in those early stages of my post-JET career.
While performing part-time jobs to make ends meet, I started looking for opportunities out of state. I utilized the JET alumni network by tapping into my local JETAA chapter in Boston and kept a keen eye on opportunities that popped up on JETwit.
When an opening was advertised on JETwit for a JET Program Coordinator at the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, and I knew I had to go for it! Even though I hadn’t strongly considered moving to the west coast, I figured, “why not?” and applied.
Well…they invited me to an interview! They asked me to fly out to meet them and offered me a job not long after that. I’ll never forget my mother’s reaction when I told her I was moving to California – “after Japan, LA is not that far!”
Fast forward a few years, and I realized that while I loved serving the JET Program as a coordinator, I craved more “action” and moved into a sales position at Kintetsu International (KIE).
How did JET prepare you for your current position?
Transitioning into sales for a Japanese travel/meeting management company was a great fit at the perfect time! I had gained speaking experience through my time teaching on JET. I learned to lead others when I became a regional rep and then a Prefectural Adviser (PA) in Toyama Prefecture. Finally, my time designing recruiting strategies and organizing interviews as a JET Program Coordinator helped me when it came time to make event schedules and sales plans at KIE. It all came together!
Perhaps most importantly, the top skill I gained on JET is adaptability. I learned to become incredibly resourceful and solve problems efficiently as a direct result of living and working in Japan on JET. My clients know they can count on me to deliver top-notch experiences and solutions; as a result, they feel excited and confident to go anywhere with KIE.
What advice would you give to JET Participants or future JET Applicants when it comes to establishing a career after JET?
Put yourself out there. Network as much as possible. Join your local JET alumni network and keep an eye out for opportunities on JETwit!
Be ready to succinctly explain the skills you gained from JET. If you’re networking outside the JET circle, some people won’t know what JET is and it’s easy to fall into the pattern of telling interesting stories about Japan without tying them to your own personal and professional growth. Be able to explain what your top skills are, and how you gained them…those are the stories that will get you a job. It’s important to show potential employers what you can bring to the table. They want to know that you can translate the skills you gained in Japan into a new position in their company.