Finding a Job in Japan
Employment in Japan 仕事
If you are about to come to Japan, or are in Japan looking for a job, there are certain things you can do, and certain that you will have to do, to find the job you are looking for.
Here we will look at the three main considerations that will significantly raise your chances of getting the kind of employment you seek in Japan.
1. Japan Employment: Who You Know
The quickest and easiest route to a job is not so much what you know as who you know, and the Japanese employment scene is "who you know" par excellence. Therefore, although it may be a little late to say this here, the best thing you can do for yourself is network.
Join as many classes, circles, groups, clubs, and associations online or, preferably, in the real world as you can handle and afford. Make sure, of course, that they represent things that you are interested in personally or professionally.
Some associations, like the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, are explicitly for business networking. Others, like charities or language/art/craft classes, for example, maybe purely social or educational in intent, but can be every bit as effective in connecting you with people who can help you, while also serving to enrich your life here.
2. Japan Employment: Self Promotion
The first step in effective self-promotion is a good curriculum vitae (CV). Provide all the essential information about yourself, plus information tailored to heighten your appeal to a prospective employer in the field you are aiming at. Make it concise, and free of opinions about yourself and your abilities, which should be conveyed and illustrated as much as possible by way of your skills and achievements, and evaluations by others of those skills and achievements.
Depending on the situation, a CV in Japanese may be desirable. Make sure that you get it translated by a professional, or someone else whom you are 100% sure has well educated, native level Japanese ability. Paying the 20,000 or so yen it might take to get it professionally translated, however, is a good investment. Japanese that is not sufficiently polite and formal, and, needless to say, broken Japanese, does not open doors.
If you are canvassing for jobs far and wide, send your CV to as many likely employers as you can. Find the appropriate name and address lists, and do a mass mailing. Online applications are also a possibility, but if you really want to make an impression, snail mail is recommended.
3. Japan Employment: Presenting Yourself
Hopefully, your self-promotion will result in an interview or two. You have already impressed the prospective employee with your abilities. Now is the chance to display your dependability, dedication, and ability to get on with people.
Arrive at least 20 minutes early to the interview. Getting there in the nick of time will not make a good impression, and getting there late - forget it. Do your navigation homework. Japanese addresses are often very difficult to find. If necessary, do a dummy visit beforehand to make sure.
Dress "sensible," in a conventional, businesslike way. Neat hair, clean shaven or with trimmed beard for the men, non-glamorous make up for the women.
Be feet-on-the-floor in your approach. Don't go overboard trying to be "Japanese" (e.g. overly deep bowing, head-nodding, and an abject mien). Don't try and be "interesting." Your foreignness is enough - no further bells or whistles required. Maintain appropriate distance. Be affable without being effusive. Listen. Speak only when invited to, and keep your responses to the point. Stay completely focused on the other person. Never let your attention wander, least of all to a clock on the wall or to your watch.
Once you have gone through the interview process, you can only wait. The only thing left is to ensure that, in the event of being hired, the persona you presented at the initial interview remains consistent, and you vindicate your employer's choice.
4. Finding A Teaching Job In Japan
A. There are more opportunities in big cities for teaching jobs than elsewhere in Japan, and the conditions of work in big cities will often be better. If you want to teach English in Japan for the Japanese experience, then you probably won't mind where you end up. While big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka offer (often) better pay and more convenience, the countryside offers a more immersive Japanese experience and generally much cheaper accommodation.
B. Looking at ads on websites and waiting for something that looks good to come up won't, alone, do it. It worked better up to a couple of decades ago when the idea of coming to Japan was something of a rarity, but globalization has made its mark since then, and the ratio of supply to demand is higher than it used to be.
Scouring ads should, of course, form part of your job seeking effort (check our list of universities in Japan), but the major part of it should be undertaken on your own initiative. The best place to start is with your CV and a cover letter, preferably in both English and Japanese.
C. Prospective employers want to know you can write good English, and going the extra mile to write in Japanese can only look good, and can only help you when the administrative staff dealing with your application don't speak English. Then you should select your target area (whether geographical or vocational) and get lists of addresses and contacts of all the establishments you think you might want to work at, and then some more.
To do this, you will need to surf the web in Japanese if you really want to maximize your chances.
D. Once you have printed out all your address labels, you should launch a full-scale mass mailing of your CV and cover letter by Japan Post (you'd be surprised how many older Japanese don't use email) and/or fax. The greater number of CVs you send out, the greater your chances of landing the ideal teaching job (or any job, for that matter) in Japan. You will have to devote several days to this task - the sky is the limit, but as with anything, the more ventured the more gained.