Finding a job is not easy. Sometimes it feels like you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than find the job you want. The truth of the matter is that it takes a little bit of luck and a great deal of patience to find a job you are truly happy with, especially when you are looking to find a job half-way across the globe. Below are several tips to help you find a job in Japan.
Understand the Japanese language
Probably the most challenging skill required to work in Japan is speaking the Japanese language. Now, the next question you might ask is to what extent? How fluent must I be? Sure, knowing simple things like ordering food or asking how to get to the train station are important but your skills need to be beyond that.
Working in Japan means interacting with Japanese co-workers, hashing out issues, and striving towards a common goal. Even in a tech-based job where you spend a majority of time programming, in a language that resembles English, you still have to understand the requirements of the project. These requirements are passed to you from your client or your company in meetings, which require speaking Japanese.
When looking through job listings you will notice that many positions will state in their job requirements “JLPT N2 language level or higher”. The Japanese Language Proficiency Tests (JLPTs) are tests to gauge your knowledge of Japanese kanji, grammar, and listening comprehension. The JLPTs are held worldwide, twice a year in Japan and once a year in other countries.
Know your resume
This is one of those items that is true in any country. Where western style resumes are very fluid, and allowing you to rearrange experience and education to emphasize one’s attributes, Japanese resumes are designed much like spreadsheets, standardized and organized, allowing interviewers quick access to information needed in order to find the right person.
But while the different cultures have different resume formats all meant to show one thing: past experiences and what you have learned. Whether it is school or work experience, interviewers want to know what you have done with your time. If there is a gap in your employment prepare to answer questions about it, if there is a lack of information about one of your previous jobs, prepare to elaborate about what you did at that company.
Make sure you have a true working knowledge of the skills listed on your resume. Most resumes list skills that we may have only used in passing, like COBOL. For an IT position you should know the programming languages and frameworks listed on your resume. It would be embarrassing if an interviewer asked you about something only to admit you don’t really know it.
The investment in time, money, and energy to hire unknown talent within the country is great. The investment increases greatly when hiring from outside the country. Japanese employers, like others around the world, will make every effort to ensure the candidate has the skills and experience listed in their resume.
Tip: If you are a recent college graduate, the projects you did in school do count as experience so use that to your advantage.
Know the market
The job market is always fluctuating and job markets vary country to country. As someone looking for a job you need to know what jobs are available and what skills companies want.
Recently, with the growing popularity of smartphones, mobile developer jobs have increased, particularly in Japan, the emphasis on mobile gaming. With all the time spent traveling by train commuters are always looking for a way to kill the time. This trend lends itself not only to iPhone and Android programmers but also to other fields related to the mobile market: Quality Assurance, Mobile Marketing, Front-End and Back-End Engineers, etc. As the consumer base keeps growing companies are resorting to hiring people with little to no experience in mobile programming just to stay competitive in the market.
This may be only a short-term trend. Possibly in a few years the mobile job market may decline, but as the old saying goes “strike while the iron’s hot”.
So you feel comfortable in your Japanese language skills, your resume is polished, you have the credentials, and there are companies in Japan that seem like the perfect fit. Everything is good to go, but before you start applying you should come stay for a bit. Take a week or two and visit Japan’s major cities and the normal tourist attractions. See the sights, visit the local eateries, ride the Yamanote Line during rush hour, interact with the locals.
Tokyo is very large and spread out. Most tech jobs are in the city, well, most every job is in the city. One thing that people looking to come work in Tokyo don’t realize is that many people commute from outside places like Saitama, Kawasaki, and Chiba Prefectures, which is an important fact to keep in mind.
Visiting is also a good way to show perspective employer that you are serious, that you know what you are getting yourself into. It will also give you the chance to test out your language skills. Even if you determine that Japan is not the right place for you, I guarantee that you will receive a very welcoming experience here in Japan.
If everything goes right, this will be your town, your new home, in “The Land of the Rising Sun”.