Getting a Job in Japan

Posted: July 27, 2013 in English, Japanese Arbeit
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being able to work in Japan as a foreigner can be a long and nerve-racking process! There are many different websites and blogs (further down is a list of useful sites) on how to get a Job in Japan, but I have the feeling that around 90% of these sites only talk about teaching positions. What about NON-teaching jobs? What kinds of jobs are there? How can I apply for a job in Japan? What skills do I need to bring? I am certainly not able to answer all the questions regarding Job-hunting in Japan. However what I can do is to share my own experience in the field of Shuukatsu (就活, Japanese job hunting) and how I got a workplace there. If you really want to work in Japan you have to keep the 6 P’s in mind!

Have a PLAN

Just as with every kind of job hunting it is important to have a plan. The most important question you have to ask yourself apart of “Do I really want to work in Japan?” is “When do I want to start?” If you want apply for teaching positions with the JET it is often enough if you ‘only’ apply 9-6 months in advance. However if you are looking for a non-teaching Job in a Company the application period becomes usually much longer. Japanese people tend to start applying for jobs 2 years in advance. I myself got my job offer a year in advance. That does not mean that you cannot apply later, but the earlier the start the better! Most companies have also only one date during the year when they welcome all their new employees (usually in April). So it is important for you to keep in mind for what year and period you will apply for. This however can be also negotiable. My company allowed me to join them 4 months later then everybody else, but again that was an exception rather than the rule of Japanese companies.

Find the right PROGRAM

Now it’s getting real tricky. Where do I look for jobs? What kinds of Jobs are there? In general Japan has of course all the positions you would find in every industrialised country. However there are just a few for which they will need foreigners. The absolute best website I know of is CareerForum.net.  The website is in English and Japanese and offers a great overview on different companies in Japan that are looking for foreigners. Apart of using only the website in itself I highly recommend to everybody, who is really interested in working in Japan, to go to one of their Career forums.  They are held in different cities like New York, London, Sydney but the two biggest ones are Tokyo and Boston. It is free (they even paid for my lunch), highly organised (with more than 200 companies, depending on the forum) and this is where I found my job. Especially if you are not so good in Japanese (and I am quite bad) this is a good way to get in touch with companies that are looking for you.

Set yourself PRIORITIES

Just very few people get exactly the job they want. You have to ask yourself “What is important for me” and then apply for ALL the Jobs that suit the list of your priorities.  I made the experience that I often got an offer from a place I least expected. The company I am now working with is a Car company, an Industry that does not fully suit a BA of International Relations. However my priorities were: being able to work in Japan, living close to Tokyo, getting a non-teaching job. So think carefully about your priorities and then apply for a variety of positions!

Be PREPARED

You need to speak a minimum Japanese! 99% of all positions and interviews will be in Japanese. The only company that offers full English interviews (I know of) is Rakuten but many friends working there have told me that you still need to speak a certain degree of Japanese. Some of the teaching positions might not require Japanese either, but I am not quite sure about it. For all the other jobs, you have to be able to hold a job-interview in Japanese. That requires preparation. Before I went to the Tokyo Career Forum I practised intensively Japanese Interview questions with my friends. I went through every possible question and every possible answer. I could barely order food at a Japanese restaurant but I could explain into detail, why I wanted to work for a Car company, what my weaknesses are and where I see myself in 10 years. So find a Japanese friend or anybody who can help you and practise, practise, practise! But also don’t worry too much about your Japanese level. There is always a Korean or Chinese who will be better than you in Japanese. Concentrate on what you know and be SELF-CONFIDENT!!! In addition get information about the company you are applying for. Who is the company working with, what are their products and values? These are all things you need to know! The Jasso has a really good Job Hunting guide, have a look.

Be POSITIVE

Getting a Job in Japan is not so much about what you know, but how you fit into the company. Do you have the same values, the right social skills, what do you want to do in your future? You have to sell yourself! Interact with the interviewer, make a little joke (telling a joke in Japanese helped me quite a bit, but I guess it depends on the person you are talking to). In addition the application process for one company can also be very long with many different stages.  For my current company I had 2 Japanese interviews, one Japanese Maths test (still don’t know how I managed to pass this one) one English Maths test, another Japanese interview and an English interview. So stay positive throughout the whole process.

Be PATIENT

I think by now you understand that getting a job in Japan can take a looooong time. Be patient! And once they accepted you, it’s all good. Even after receiving my job offer, I was still worried because more than a year is quite a bit of time. What if the company change its mind? Why haven’t they sent me my contract all ready? Japan is very bureaucratic. Everything needs a bit longer. I waited more than 6 months for my contract and the Visa was even a bigger pain. Can you believe it: 1.5 years preparation time and I will get my Visa on the very last day before I go to Japan. Well, well patience is a virtue…

Here is a list with useful websites that can help you to get a job in Japan:

If you know other useful websites, want to share your own experience, have questions or ideas: Please leave a comment!

 

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