From 2015 to 2016, the number of foreign workers in Japan virtually doubled to 1.8 million, according to a Labour Ministry study. Certainly, hiring foreign talent has become a top priority for industry and the government, and foreign graduates of Japanese universities and colleges are looking increasingly attractive to Japanese companies for their global, multilingual skills and Japan life experience.
For its part, the Japanese government has, since 2008, embarked on a plan to double the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000 by 2020 and is introducing a range of incentives to encourage foreign graduates of Japanese universities to remain in Japan. These measures include subsidised company internships, improved help with finding work after graduation, improved Japanese language courses and a less cumbersome process for graduates applying for work visas.
Finding Work After Graduation
The procedures for finding full-time employment are essentially the same for both foreign and native Japanese students; though some employers may require a high level of Japanese language ability or, indeed, English and other communication skills of their international graduate intake.
In many ways, job seeking involves a close relationship between colleges, employers and students. However, one should explore other avenues as well.
The key to securing a position as soon after graduation as possible is preparation well in advance. Using whatever reference material is available to you, thoroughly research those companies that you are interested in and which may suit your specialisation, then contact them.
It is usual for many Japanese firms to recruit students while they are still at college, and both students and companies will go through a recruitment process that may involve seminars or job fairs, etc.
Although it is usual for new jobs to begin in April, there is no hard and fast schedule for the recruitment process; this will depend very much on the way individual companies do things, or upon a particular season. It is important, therefore, that you are aware of a potential employer’s recruitment practices and prepare yourself accordingly.
Finding More Information About Jobs
I think these days most of us turn to the internet first for information on anything, not least career opportunities. There are various services available in Japan for English speaking graduates, though it may pay to expand your search to include sites for Japanese graduates as well, assuming you have sufficient Japanese language ability. For example, seminars, joint enterprise briefings and career presentation information is typically published on company websites and you can search for these using job information and listings sites. Participating in such events is essential!
Naturally, finding work after graduation can seem daunting, so what students really need is support with the process. This might include general employment guidance, or career counselling; information on internships for foreign students; arranging interviews; job placements; or help with changing immigration status. Two organisations that can offer this kind of support to foreign students in Japan are JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization), and the Employment Service Center for Foreigners in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. Here are some useful links:
https://www.jasso.go.jp/en/study_j/job/guide.html• Tokyo Employment Service Center for Foreigners
• Osaka Employment Service Center for Foreigners
• Nagoya Employment Service Center for Foreigners
• Fukuoka Hello Work for Supporting New Graduates (Japanese Only)
If you have good Japanese ability, you may find the following sites or articles informative in expanding your job seeking horizons:
Changing Your Immigration Status
Obviously, any foreigner studying in Japan will require a student visa, and this will become invalid when he or she leaves full time education and a new immigration status will need to applied for. There are something like 27 separate status-of-residence categories for foreigners living in Japan, and each will determine what activities or work one can be involved in. What is common to all these categories is a requirement to prove that you can support yourself while in Japan, or will be supported by an existing resident, such as a parent or spouse.
For foreign students who secure employment in Japan after graduation, an application will have to be made in person to one’s nearest immigration bureau for a change of resident status to one that permits full-time work in the country. For most graduates, this will be the grandly titled “Specialist in the Humanities/International Services or Engineer.”
Currently, the documents one needs to present to the immigration bureau for the above change of status are: passport, residence card, change of status application form (filled in), and a resume of educational and work history.
In addition, one will require: a copy of one’s employment contract or written hiring notice, copies of the company registration and balance sheet, and a corporate guide or brochure describing your employers business.
For foreign students who have not secured employment by the time they graduate, a different status can be applied for: “Designated Activities” (allowing the continuation of job hunting for one year). Again, one needs to provide a passport, residence card and change of status application form, along with one’s photograph, a document certifying one’s ability to support oneself financially while in Japan, and a document to authenticate oneself.
Again, the excellent JASSO PDF linked to above has a very concise section on immigration status changes for foreign students.
More information regarding status, documentation and exceptions can be found by referring to the Japan Ministry of Justice website: http://www.moj.go.jp/ONLINE/IMMIGRATION/ZAIRYU_HENKO/zairyu_henko10_21_10.html
Encouraging Foreign Students to Stay in Japan
In part, the government’s Japan Revitalization Strategy of 2016 aims to increase the employment rate for foreign graduates of Japanese universities to 50% by 2020. To this end, the Japanese Ministry of Education is establishing support offices in 30 regions countrywide to help encourage the most talented foreign students to stay on after graduation.
These offices – backed by municipalities and local employers – are intended to act as intermediaries between foreign students and small businesses in the regions. Under this scheme, some graduates may qualify for one month, conditional internships with companies, subsidised by the ministry, or have the cost of advanced Japanese language courses covered.
Of course, the scheme offers a welcome and useful resource for those foreign students who want to live and work in Japan after graduation, but the trend is already well established, with the number of work visas issued to overseas students by the Ministry of Justice having more than doubled in the past 10 years. Furthermore, universities are seeing a steep rise in the number of their foreign graduates taking jobs in Japan, as well as more recruiters soliciting applications from international students.
A Final Thought – The Downside
By whatever route you arrive at working for a Japanese company, your job is unlikely to be a picnic at the best of times; Japanese corporate culture is extremely demanding of one’s time, patience and stamina. But for foreign graduates of Japanese universities and colleges, this is sometimes compounded by the unrealistic expectations of some employers, such as assuming graduates have Japanese language skills equal to native speakers. Foreign graduates are also often at the back of the queue when it comes to promotion to managerial, decision-making positions.
Then there’s the “Specialist in the Humanities/International Services or Engineer” status that, in lieu of a simple work permit, is so specific in determining what kinds of work a foreigner can do, it is little more than a means of protecting local employment. I don’t think I’m being unduly cynical either, considering how many disaffected graduates have found themselves pigeon holed into jobs as interpreters, airport duty-free clerks or IT specialists. Apparently, the Ministry of Justice aims to streamline procedures required to change student visas to working visas, but currently has no plans to broaden the eligible types of work.
If expanding the foreign workforce is genuinely of vital importance to the Japanese government, and Japanese companies want to hire the very best foreign graduates, the same opportunities and benefits afforded native Japanese graduates will have to be available to all company recruits.
By Bill Ambler
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