Japan has become one of the favorite destinations for people who want to work overseas.
Some job seekers heard great stories about the working culture and local nature (stories that aren’t always authentic), some others fell in love with Japanese women (something we can understand), but many people simply look for an escape, or for something completely different from the life they live right now. And Japan is different. Or at least it can be…
Different culture, religion, air, working environment, nature, history. Everything is exotic, but the salaries and medical care are Western :). Perhaps this is the reason why many people consider moving to Japan, instead of Vietnam or Ethiopia, as an example.
Whatever your reason, I will try to outline a guide on how you can get a good job in Japan, and how you can get it fast. Let’s start!
First Step: Improve your Japanese skills
Unless you want to teach English as a way of making a living in Japan, you need to know some Japanese to get a job. Each level you progress (A1, B1, B2 and so on) will make things twice as easy for you in your job search.
International language schools have followed the trend, and you will find some Japanese classes in nearly each big city of the world. But you can make decent progress even with Duolingo, without a need to pay anything. And you can study on your convenience.
One way or another: if you are serious about getting a job in Japan, you have to work on your language skills.
Second Step: Contact an agent or visit a job fair
Unlike to United States and other countries, you do not have to pay a dollar to recruitment agents based in Japan. It is forbidden to take money from job seekers, and the agencies are compensated by employers–who pay them well, for each person they eventually hire (and stays in job for an arranged period of time).
Check this site for a decent list of agencies. Working with agent is the best option when you are older than thirty, have some corporate experience under your belt, and know what kind of job you want to do in Japan.
When you just graduated from college, or even still study, your best chance to get a job is visiting job fairs. You can make a trip to Japan, enjoy the country and visit one or two fairs during your stay. One of the best is Daijob Go Global Career Fair. If you speak at least some Japanese, and graduated from IT, Medicine, or Engineering, you will nearly for sure find a job directly on the fair. This itself will make the trip worthwhile.
Do not despair if you can not travel to Japan at the moment though. At any truly international job fair in America, Europe, or Asia, at least few Japanese companies will have their stand. They are looking for talents like you, and you should stop, greet them in Japanese, and start talking about the opportunities they offer.
Strep Three: Prepare for a slightly different interview
If you are used to semi-informal job interviews, ever more common in the Western world, meeting with the Japanese recruiters may catch you off-guard.
Everyone will be very polite and professional in the meetings, and you should follow the same code of conduct. What is more, the self-confidence that works well in many American corporations won’t impress anyone in Japan. They look for other abilities and values in an ideal job candidate.
Humility, loyalty, desire to constantly learn and improve. You should strive to show these qualities in an interview. Your body language is also crucial, and unless you learn something about the history of company, and the highest executives from the corporation, you can forget about success in an interview (unless it takes place directly on a job fair, and you had no chance to prepare).
Do not celebrate too early
Japanese managers will never directly tell you that you failed in an interview, and that they are not interested in pursuing the contact with you. They consider such action inadequate, following a strict business ethics.
In reality, their final words in an interview will nearly always be the same–regardless of their impression and intentions to hire you, or to send you home. They will smile, they will thank you, they may even bow, or praise you. And they will say that they will let you know their final decision soon.
You should not press them, or follow up (aggressively) with a call, like you would do in the US, or let’s say Germany. Wait, give them some time. They are polite, but they are serious. They will let you know their decision.
If they want you onboard, typically you will get a call from one of the managers in a few days. If they decide to reject your application, you will find a polite rejection your inbox soon. Reasons for rejection won’t typically be clarified, but you will get the decision.
Step four: Sort out your papers
You will find all necessary information about visa and residence permit on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. You can study it to get a grasp of the papers you need to bring, and the conditions you need to meet, to get approval for one of the working visas.
However, once a local company decided to hire you, they will typically assign a person who will help you with the application, and will walk you through the entire process. No need to spend long hours on the website of the foreign ministry. Focus on getting a job with a serious company. If you succeed, getting a visa will be just a formality.
Step five: Move in, and prepare for a slight cultural shock
Living in Japan is expensive, and it makes no sense to move in unless you have the job. Once you got hired, however, and know when you will start the job, you should move in at least a week before starting in the company, or even earlier (some people suggest a month).
This is your chance to take an extensive Japanese course with the locals (six hours a day of Japanese), and to get used to the new environment and culture. Your employer will often pay for the course, and one of your new colleagues may take you out a few times, to help you blend in, and feel more comfortable in new suroundings.
Many people dream of working in Japan, changing their lives, or simply experiencing something new and exotic. And while some things certainly differ, you should think twice whether your choice will meet your expectations.
Tokyo is not really different from any other modern metropolis of the world, and if you get a job in a big international corporation in the capital (or in other big city), your life may not differ much from the life you led back home.
Long day in job and the same routine
You will spend time in traffic, long hours in your office, staying overtime (becasue everyone in Japan works overtime), have a drink with your colleagues in the evening, and go to sleep to a modern apartment–just like back home.
Sure, you’ll drink sake instead of beer or vodka, and the conversation will be different, but think twice whether this is the new life you were dreaming of.
Obviously, if you get a job on a countryside, or on one of the the smaller, rural islands of Japan, you will experience a drastic change, and may find the exotic life you were originally hoping for. Needless to say, these jobs do not pay that well, and are hard to get for a foreigner (you need to speak Japanese almost fluently to have a chance to get any such job).
But if you are sure about your plans, patient, and ready to learn Japanese, following our guide will almost certainly guarantee you a new job in Japan.
We wish you good luck on your journey!