The first thing you need to realize is that most companies in Japan aren’t interested in hiring you unless you are already in Japan. It can feel like a bit of a catch 22 at times, but if you hope to find work in Japan, you’re best bet is to come here first. Of course, that’s not always an option. Some people choose to come here and work as an English instructor their first year. Others try to leverage their skills and language abilities. Let’s take a look at which tools will be most beneficial to help find you work in Japan.
The Job Seeker’s Toolbox
Your tools to help you find work in Japan shouldn’t be too different than those available to you back in your home country. The process itself should also feel familiar. You typically start with a phone screening, followed by a test, and then a few rounds of interviews before they decide if you’ve got the job or not. In theory, it shouldn’t be too much harder than back home, right? Well, it depends on the type of job you’re looking for.
If you are applying to dispatch companies or eikaiwa, they will likely take anyone for any reason, as they make far too much money off your labor relative to the wage the will pay you. If you’re looking for a more stable job though, be prepared to bust out the toolbox and give it everything you’ve got. You’ll be competing with other foreigners or even Japanese citizens, with often hundreds of applicants or more, all applying for that one open position.
Your Resumes (Yes, plural)
Since you are applying to multiple companies, you most likely already have a variety of resumes at your disposal, depending on the field and position in question. When it comes to Japanese companies in particular, a great deal of them will want your Japanese resumes. Both your rirekisho and your shokumu keirekisho will be the first tools to help you find work in Japan. A quick google search can provide you with dozens of examples, but be prepared to have at least one of each, in addition to your English resume.
Your rirekisho is basically an overview of your life experience. It’s written in chronological order. At the top, you have your contact information and a professional photo (just your face, and usually not smiling). The next section consists of your schooling. As a foreigner, typically high school through your most recently graduated college or university will be sufficient. Following this will be a brief overview of your employment experience, typically including the name of the company you worked for, the year, your role, and your reason for leaving.
Next, you will have a small section for licenses or other qualifications, followed by more personal details, such as whether you are married and the closest train station you live near. The final two sections are for your personal skills and abilities and a brief reason for your desire to change jobs. Please refer to the image below as a template.
Moving onto your shokumu keirekisho, we start delving into the details of each of your past positions. With the date, your name, and email address in the upper right corner, this document begins with your oldest position first, up until your most recent position. You will have the date you were employed, the name of the company, which will be underlined, followed by the company’s industry, net worth, number of employees, annual sales, and your position. Below this will be a small table, above will have your title, and in the table you will write your tasks and responsbilities at the position. Below the table, you will write the date you departed from the company.
The next section will list your computer skills, followed by a list of your licenses and qualifications. The final segment will be where you write about yourself in detail. Try to specify your greatest accomplishments and how these will correlate to the new position you are applying for. This is your moment to sell yourself, so do your best, but don’t over-embellish.
Japanese Language Ability
If you have the skills to write your own resumes in Japanese, than you likely also possess a decent level of Japanese language ability. Otherwise, you will probably want to get some help writing your resumes. For those of you coming to Japan, or already in Japan, the language and cultural barrier can often leave the average foreigner feeling very lost or alienated. Keep this in mind, as your Japanese language ability is one of your key tools to finding work in Japan.
It’s in your best interests to do everything you can to soak in as much knowledge as possible. Even if your just applying to be an IT guy and happen to know your company won’t require an Japanese speaking on your part, it will still make your life a thousand times easier just by having a basic understanding. If you have already landed a job, it’s advisable to spend your free time studying and prepare the best you can. That goes double if you are already in Japan.
This one should be a given, but the image you project plays a major part in how you’re perceived by others. This rings true even for interviews in your home country. Before you apply somewhere, take time to research the company and position. Look at your past experience and see which key qualities you possess that they are seeking.
When they ask you about your past experience, you will be able to bring these points up and tie them to how you will benefit their company. Depending on what position you are applying for, you may be asked (or required) to interview in Japanese. This should be specified on the job listing, but be prepared to talk about what you need to say in both languages if asked.
Remember, an interview is nothing more than a conversation between professionals. The goal of both parties is to make sure you are a match for each other. Do your homework and walk into that meeting knowing what you plan to talk about and be ready to answer any questions. By being prepared, keeping your cool, and demonstrating your knowledge and ability, you will project the best version of yourself. You may be so lucky as to have first pick of who gets you and who doesn’t.
Knowledge of Japanese Business Culture
The language barrier is not all that should concern you during your employment in Japan. Language is a part of culture, and you’ll need to pick up on all the other aspects if you hope to mesh well with Japanese society. Learning the proper etiquette and standard business culture in Japan will earn you much respect from both your interviewers and your future boss and coworkers, so do your best to learn what you can beforehand.
Even if your Japanese is extremely limited, or non-existent, showing your effort to learn the language and culture will do wonders for your career in Japan. Ready yourself to be open, accepting, and understanding. Also be aware that your ignorance will often work against you. Japanese society is full of taboos, and while many Japanese people might look the other way because you are a foreigner, the last thing you want to do is unknowingly insult your interviewer, boss or coworkers. First impressions are everything, and your cultural knowledge is one of the major tools that will help you find work in Japan.
Patience and Persistence
Job hunting can often feel like a marathon at times; especially when the jobs have dried up in your area or there is an over-abundance of applicants in your field. The best way to handle this is to keep pushing yourself forward, no matter how disparaging. Never lose your feeling of self worth, and understand that when an opportunity doesn’t pan out, it’s usually not your fault.
Companies sift through hundreds of applicants and interview dozens of people, and often it is just not feasible contact each and every person who applies. Don’t let yourself get too attached to companies until after you sign the dotted lined. After you apply, or after you interview, leave your emotions behind, and move on. Focus on the daily grind and you’ll find the right match with time.
Give yourself daily goals
- Application submissions
- Job resources
- Resume revisions
- Japanese vocabulary
Keep yourself motivated and remember to take a step back every once in a while. Make sure you have hobbies to take your mind off the task at hand, but don’t let them detract from your job hunt. The best hobbies are the ones that contribute to your career. Invest in yourself and your future. Spending your free time studying Japanese or teaching yourself computer programming or another skill to list on your resume will be thousand times more productive than killing a few hours with an MMORPG.
Last Word of Advice
Just like in your home country, sometimes a having a reference can go a long way. Ask around. Talk to your friends and family. You never know if someone in your circle actually knows somebody looking to hire someone just like you. Having someone to vouch for you can sometimes help get your foot in the door in places who might otherwise not give you the chance. Together with possessing the tool set above, find your next job is really just a matter of time and preparation. Good luck.