By Bahia Simons-Lane and Jessica Record
Transitions: Opportunities Forum & Networking Expo 2020
September 20th-26th 2020
Location: Zoom Meetings & Webinar
Transitions: Opportunities Forum & Networking Expo is the annual career and networking event organized by the Pacific Northwest JET Alumni Association (PNWJETAA). This year, the event was co-hosted by the U.S. JET Programme Alumni Association (USJETAA) to expand Transitions beyond the Pacific Northwest and welcome alumni from other chapters. The event is co-sponsored by The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA).
Transitions is one of PNWJETAA’s biggest events and draws from the experiences of hundreds of JET alumni and members of our community. Whether you are a new returnee or you’ve been back for a few years, it’s our goal to help you explore your options and plan your next steps, regardless of the path you choose to pursue! While this event is specifically for JET alumni, it’s open to anyone who wishes to attend. As a JET Alumni-produced event, it provides the unique opportunity for individuals who wish to learn more about the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program or organizations doing work related to the Japan-America community.
A total of 150 people registered. Most attendees were previous ALTs and CIRs, with no SEA joining. In addition, most people had not returned from Japan within the last 12 months. Individuals from 26 different JETAA organizations were identified, as well as participants from five countries other than the United States. This was the largest Transitions event to date and the first open to people outside of the Pacific Northwest region.
We had nine speakers spoke throughout the week, five graduate schools and one graduate school consultant met attendees on Wednesday, and nine mentors met with attendees on Saturday to complete the program. Most of the mentors were from PNWJETAA, while most of the speakers who were not on a panel were from USJETAA. The opening remarks began with welcome remarks by the organizers, remarks by Consul General Hisao Inagaki of the Seattle Consulate, a keynote by Dr. Satu Limaye, Vice President & Director of the East West Center in Washington, followed by concluding remarks and kampai before networking with Sam Corpuz, President of PNWJETAA.
During the Graduate school session, we were joined by representatives from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs: Syracuse University; Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy: Carnegie Mellon University; School for International Training; Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey; and American University's School of Education, along with Leah Gowron, Career Consultant & Coach at ReImagine You: Global Career Coaching.
This was the first event held online and available for other regions and countries to join. We implemented mentor sessions so participants could connect directly with people in their desired field. Emily Frank, Denver Career Catalyst, provided career counseling that was open to US residents who were JET Alumni. J-Link was an idea formed by PNWJETAA for their own chapter before social media was frequently used, so we decided to relaunch the idea to welcome networking for members to connect easily as a National J-Link. Finally, the post-event materials were provided exclusively to the attendees, including contact information for speakers and mentors, except for the recordings of the sessions, which are publicly available.
In order to serve as many alumni as possible and have a diverse group of speakers, this program should continue to work with other chapters or USJETAA and be online. J-Link and mentors were popular so should be continued though reformatted for easier use and more time. What the program focuses on should be considered due to the demographics of attendees.
“Hi Jessica, thank you for all the hard work you and your team have put into the Transitions event - it's been absolutely phenomenal! I've really been blown away by all the high caliber people sharing their amazing experiences and insight. This year has been hard to say the least, and it's been so very uplifting being able to connect with so many JETs! I've gotten so much more out of this week than I was ever anticipating! 😍…. I wish a program such as this one was around when I got back waaay back in the day lol. I think it would have helped me immensely! And perhaps there was a program of a similar nature that I simply didn't know about, that's also possible! I left Transitions more uplifted and inspired that I have been in quite sometime in this bizarro world of 2020! I truly appreciate everything you and the Transitions / JETAA team put in to create this event - it was MAGICAL! Thank you for all you do!” - Kat Lovegrove