If you’re drawn to Japan and looking for ways to work there, there is no better time to be on the job hunt than 2019. The Japanese government has recently made changes regarding visas and immigration policies that are making it easier than ever for foreign workers to come to Japan. As you plan your adventure working abroad in Japan, here's what you need to know about how to get a job in Japan.
New Visa & Immigration Rules for Japan
Before April 2019, strict immigration policies and foreign labor controls made it difficult for foreign workers to find work or obtain documents that would enable them to stay in the country long term. However, in order to meet the challenges of an aging population and shrinking domestic workforce, the government is now looking to foreign workers to ease the burden on Japanese companies.
In addition to this, with the world turning toward Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, many companies are considering hiring new employees to represent the “English” face of their companies. And business is just one of the many sectors opening their doors to foreigners. Agencies predict these new immigration policies will encourage an influx of workers, the majority going into nursing or blue-collar jobs such as construction.
Things to Consider Before Starting Your Japanese Job Search
Whether you know what kind of work you’re looking for or just starting out, here are some factors you should take into consideration before you pack your bags.
Type of Work
With any job, it’s important to decide what kind of work you are interested in. Unique industries and markets thrive in Japan, offering a wide range of opportunities that might not be available in foreign workers’ home countries. Keep in mind that many jobs will require you to have experience or specific skills in order to join the industry as a professional.
Japanese Work Culture
This is an important aspect to consider, especially for international job hunters. Foreigners are a minority in the workforce (less than 2% by most accounts), and you will be stepping into a work culture with very rigid expectations.
A healthy work-life balance can be difficult to maintain. The Japanese value teamwork and a group mentality over individualism, and this means work is done with the whole business in mind rather than just one person’s job. The company comes first, and workers put in long hours to make sure everything is done well. At the end of the day, you may be expected to go out with your coworkers for drinks, karaoke, and other nightlife activities, so long days can easily turn into long nights as well.
Politeness and courtesy are highly-regarded traits in business, contributing to a more formal workplace than you might be used to. Foreigners may also be frustrated by indirect communication styles and seemingly vague directions. While the Japanese approach to work is meticulous, thoughtful, and well planned, it can be slow-moving and even slower to embrace change.
Japanese Language Proficiency
No matter what job you’re considering, you should evaluate your Japanese language skills. For higher-level jobs, companies will require you to demonstrate your mastery of the language. An easy way to do this is to take a standardized test such as the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test). There are five levels of tests for the JLPT, N1 being the highest. Many jobs require an N2 certification, indicating that you should be extremely confident in your language skills before applying.
No Japanese language skills? No problem! There are jobs available that require little to no language ability. Just remember that while you live in Japan, you will be immersed in the language 24/7. You’ll still encounter a language barrier in everyday activities such as shopping, meeting new people, receiving medical care, and getting around.
How to Get a Job in Japan
If You Have Little-to-No Japanese Language Skills: Teach English
Teaching English is one of the easiest ways to get a job in Japan. Programs and schools all over Japan are eager to hire native English speakers. Most will provide all the support you need to get there, including arranging visas and housing. Since you are placed in a school, you will have a built-in community to help you adjust to living in Japan.
One of the most well-known organizations that do this is the JET Program (Japan Exchange and Teaching). This highly competitive program is a Japanese government initiative that seeks to place college graduates at schools as assistant teachers. Private schools are also actively looking for teachers and may be less competitive than public school programs.
While you don’t need to have any teaching experience, most schools and programs will require you to have a four-year college degree. Some may also ask that you have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification. The good news is that you can be certified in as little as three months, and classes are available online and in-person.
Even if teaching isn’t your passion, many job seekers in Japan recommend taking this route as the work is relatively easy and low stress. When you are more comfortable with your language skills, you can start networking and look for other jobs. Since you already have a visa to work, changing jobs is much simpler.
With any teaching job, be sure that your employer has taken all the steps you need for your visa before you arrive! It is highly difficult to obtain one once you are in the country.
Looking for a place to get started? Explore your options through these helpful websites:
- Go Overseas: Start with our very own job board, where we post new opportunities every day.
- The JET Program: This is one of the largest organizations for people looking to teach in Japan.
- GaijinPot: This website is a job board for English speakers and also provides helpful information for people to know before moving for work.
- Jobs in Japan: This website allows foreign workers to refine their job search by providing them with filters for a variety of language levels.
If You're Proficient in Japanese: Full-time Work
If you have a high level of Japanese, you can find your full-time dream job.
Companies looking to increase their clientele are interested in hiring employees who can manage the English-speaking side of their business and engage with their English-speaking counterparts all over the world. Get connected to video game companies, consult with fashion brands, oversee guest relations in the tourism industry, and support international trade by managing finances. These companies and more are waiting for you!
Businesses are offering better support than ever to foreign workers by providing assistance with accommodation, childcare, medical services, and even language study. It takes a lot of investment to bring a foreign worker over, so they are interested in helping new hires settle in as much as they can.
Most, if not all, full-time work will require a high proficiency of Japanese. In these kinds of jobs, being able to understand and communicate clearly is crucial, so you will probably need to pass the JLPT N2 exam before applying for these jobs.
Some IT, software development, and other technology-related jobs do not require business-level or fluent Japanese, but a strong working knowledge of terminology related to those fields is necessary.
If you’re confident in your Japanese, here are some sites that might help you discover your next job:
Tips on Applying for Jobs in Japan
The sites I’ve shared are great starting places for job hunting. These are established organizations that are devoted to helping people start new chapters of their lives in Japan. Many of them were founded by people who moved to Japan for work and decided to build specific resources to make the process easier for others.
When searching these boards, be sure to note the specifics for each job, including the required level of Japanese, location, and salary. Some might require that you already live in Japan or a particular city.
Your resume is your introduction to a Japanese company, so it’s important to make a good first impression. Rather than sending out a flood of applications, target specific companies and tailor your resume to highlight the skills you can contribute to their business.
To ensure your resume stands out from the crowd, you can name the file with a more specific and eye-catching title. Emphasize your skills with a title such as “experienced-bilingual-teacher-resume.pdf” or “skilled-professional-resume.pdf.”
In Japan, it’s common practice to include a photograph of yourself with your resume so the hiring manager can put a face to the skills. You can use a passport photo or another official-looking image of yourself.
Interviews will most likely take place online through Skype or other video chat tools, but the same rules apply as if you were physically going into a business.
- Dress up for your interview
- Don’t eat or drink anything during the call (this has been noted as a huge negative factor by many Japanese interviewers)
- Don’t slouch in your chair
- Make good eye contact
- Act professional
It is important to give the interviewer a good sense of the value you can contribute to the company. Keeping Japanese work culture in mind, be sure that you don’t focus too much on yourself or what you hope to gain by joining the company. Above all, the interviewer is interested in learning if you can do the job, if you will like it, and if they will like you.
Next Stops for Getting a Job in Japan
If you are offered a job, be sure to work closely with your potential employers to make arrangements regarding the kind of visa you’ll need and any other necessary documents or certifications. Depending on what kind of work you’re looking for, there are other steps beyond what I’ve gone through here, but these are the basics to get you started.
It involves a bit more legwork than simply hopping on a plane and knocking on doors in Japan, but it’s easier than ever to find your dream job in the land the rising sun. Japanese companies are searching for people like you. If you’re looking for adventure and invaluable cultural experience, consider looking for your next job overseas.