Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Written by: Abbey Kruska
Publish date: November 20th, 2019
You can follow these simple steps to navigate career building and job hunting during your time in Japan - No matter what point you're at! Start here!
Especially in a country as unique and structured as Japan, job-hunting isn’t easy. Filled with unspoken rules, subtle cultural nuances, and strict ideologies, it can feel like a never ending maze. But we’re here to guide you through the hardest part. No matter what stage you’re at in your job-hunting journey, we have suggestions you can start doing today to make a better candidate tomorrow.
First Year 一年生
Regardless of age, you’ve just entered your Japanese university. For you, job-hunting is still a distant worry, but don’t let it creep up on you! Get started now by participating in fun activities that won’t only help you make friends and enjoy your college life, but also boosts your resume for later!
1. Join a student group!
In Japan, student groups are a huge part of university life. From sports teams to volunteer work, it’s likely that your Japanese university will have a student group for just about anything. Whatever you like, there’s something to match. Ask your student center for a copy of all of the registered student groups, and take the leap!
The word サークル or "circle" refers to a less intensive, hobby club. These clubs are more flexible and My first month in Japan, I immediately joined the acapella circle at my university, and became really close with my band mates, as well as had a super fun experience performing with all of my circle-mates.
2. Get a “baito” part-time job!
You’ve been in Japan for a few months, and you’ve gotten used to your classes and your schedule. Getting a part-time job in Japan is a great next step for building your resume.
It can also be a great first-time practice for interviews, filling out Japanese resumes, and interacting in a business setting with Japanese people. Depending on your Japanese ability, the jobs you’re likely to get hired for will change, but being able to say that you have worked in Japan with Japanese people is a huge plus when it comes to job-hunting.
The minimum wage in Tokyo is 1013 yen per hour. Here we’ve gathered the most popular positions for foreigners in Japan and their average wage range.
3. Have Fun!
The most important part of your first year of university is just to settle in. Enjoy life, get the hang of living in Japan, and try to fit in lots of tourism and adventures while you can!
Second Year 二年生
You’ve survived your first year in Japan! Your Japanese is improving, and you’re completely at home in any train station. You’ve moved up a few positions in the club you joined last year, and you’ve tried a few different part-time jobs. Second year is still a busy time full of core classes and studying, but it’s the perfect time to really start thinking about job hunting. In just one more year, you’ll be on your way to starting your search for a career in Japan. It’s the perfect time to challenge yourself, try new things, and really self-reflect.
1. Study Abroad
Yes you’re a foreigner in Japan. But as an official student, you’re also liable to study abroad. If you’re not a native English speaker, this is your chance to get your native tongue, Japanese, and a third language under your belt.
If you already speak proficient English, consider Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Thai. These are countries that Japan does business with the most, and will likely continue to increase in the future. Having one more language will give you an edge when it comes to the hiring process, and the experiences one gains while abroad are priceless. You would know, you’ve already come this far!
Yun Giwon, a South Korean International student of Aoyama Gakuin University, lived in Japan for 2 years before going abroad to Canada her 3rd year of university. She speaks Korean, English, Japanese, and Spanish.
"Being from South Korea, a country with a culture and environment similar to Japan, living and studying in Canada was new for me in many ways. Seeing the other side of the world helped me not only widen my perspective to but also to understand the struggles (like homesickness and culture shock) Western international students experience living in Asia."
2. Get an internship!
In Japan, internships are currently on the rise. Getting real job experience in a Japanese company can help boost your resume, help you gain confidence in a Japanese business environment, and prepare you for your future endeavors!
There are many different types of internships to get in Japan, so be sure to look into all your options! To learn about the different types of internships in Japan, and get a side by side comparison, read our article Short Term vs Long Term Internships. To learn the best way to look for, apply, and land an internship in Japan, read our article How to Get an Internship in Japan.
3. Identify Your Skills
In Japan, soft skills and experiences are valued over hard-skills. What is a "soft-skill" you ask? It's you! The characteristics who make up who you are. In Japanese culture it is believed that while hard skills like mastering excel, or knowing how to balance books, are things that can be taught over time, personal morals and values cannot be taught. This makes them more valuable, and therefore prioritized in the hiring process. Some of the soft skills most valued by Japanese companies include:
Knowing your skills and how to market them during a Japanese interview is your key to selling yourself as a good worker to your future company. Now is a good time to start thinking about your own skills, so that they can be put down when you start writing your resume during your third and fourth year.
Third Year 三年生
You’re in your third year of university, and now is when the clock starts ticking. The good news is, you still have plenty of time! This is the season when Japanese students begin preparing for job-hunting, so you're right on time. As long as you get to work now, it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.
1. Get a winter internship!
Before job-hunting season starts in the spring, find a winter internship for the chilly months. Japanese companies offer various types of internships from 2 day to 2 years, so know what you're looking for before you begin. Not sure where to start? Check out our article on Short Term vs Long Term internships in Japan
2. Connect with Senpais!
Many schools hold events for students to learn more about job hunting and different companies. These events will likely be held in Japanese, but if your Japanese is proficient enough it may be worth going. Especially since it will give you the chance to meet your job-hunting Senpais, also known in Japanese as OB or OG.
If the words OB and OG make you think of something medical, you’re just like me. OB/OG is actually an acronym for old boy/old girl. This is Japanese slang that refers to alumni from your university that are now working for a particular company. In Japan, you can use these connections to learn about how to get into the company you want, and what its like to work there.
Meeting with your local OB/OG can help you decide what companies you want to work for, and get some real advice from someone who has experienced job hunting first-hand.
Sato Junki, 22, a student at Meiji Gakuin University has recently begun working at Suntory in Nagoya prefecture. He recommends reaching out to your OB/OG to get a first-person perspective on working in the company you’re interested in.
“The old boy I talked to had been working at Suntory for 3 years. He helped me prepare for my interview and told me what kind of questions I would be asked. It really saved me!”
Below we've listed three popular connecting apps for meeting with your university's OB/OG!
Matcher, Bizreach Campus, and OB Visits
*Note: Always be careful when using applications to connect you with strangers. Meet in public locations such as cafes, and do a check on the person you're meeting with before meeting them.
3. Get ready from Autumn!
Job hunting comes with a lot of preparation. The sooner you start, the more ready you’ll be when the time comes. Check out our articles on writing a Japanese CV, preparing for your job interview, what clothes to wear when job hunting, preparing for job hunting, and check out our career guide section for helpful resources for job hunting and finding a career in Japan.
Fourth Year 四年生
You’re a fourth year! You may be panicking because you’re late to the job hunting game. The good news is you’re not too late. You still stand a chance at getting a job at a good company if you get to work now. Most Japanese companies prefer to hire straight out of school if not before graduation, so start as soon as possible.
1. Get ready for off season job hunting!
Your first place to stop would be our article on off-season job-hunting. Off season job-hunting can be very different from your typical job hunting season that begins in March, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job! After you’ve read up on off-season job hunting get some advice from those who experienced it, like William, who landed a successful job as a traveling salesman for a Japanese insurance company.
2. Enjoy your Naiteishiki!
Once you’ve done your interview and landed a job, brush up on your Naiteishiki manners and get ready to start life at your new company!
Find events to extend your networking and friends group!
Becoming a shakaijin can be lonely, especially if there are few foreigners in your workplace. It’s important to connect with others who have also just entered the workforce. Using events apps like meetup or even Wantedly can ease the loneliness and make the adjustment period go by faster.
3. Make it to the finish line!
You've developed some great skills, had a lot of fun experiences, learned Japanese, and now you're on your way to a successful career in Japan. The journey may be long, and tough, but with perseverance and the right tools, you'll get there.
Job hunting doesn’t have to be a maze! Take the proper steps, take your time, and remember the most important thing is just to get started!
The most important factor for successful job hunting in Japan is to build up your story and your soft skills to illustrate who you are. If you want help building and telling your story, click here to submit for free career counseling session with us in Tokyo or Online.