My internship in Tokyo is slowly coming to an end but I’m not ready to go back to Finland and leave my life here behind.
I know job hunting in Japan might sound a little intimidating for a foreigner (it sure was for me) and if you can’t speak Japanese your options might be quite limited, but if you really want to work here, there’s always a way!
Since it’s such a timely topic for me, I thought I’d share my experiences before and after coming to Japan, because those two experiences were like day and night for me. But let’s start with the basics:
As a foreigner you are already the underdog from the point of view of the system; you look different, most likely won’t know all the nuances of the culture and language and don’t have much if any work experience in Japan. Although it might sound unfair, this will already put you under the Japanese university graduates in the eyes of most employees.
And that’s fine, because you’re not Japanese and you might not even want to work in a traditional Japanese office. It’s up to you to decide what kind of workplace you want to work in and how you can appeal to these places.
What I’ve realized in my experience is that it’s easier to appeal to international companies within Japan, and usually gives you an advantage as an English speaker (even if you’re not native). Obviously knowing some Japanese makes you a whole lot more appealing to foreign companies, but you’ll definitely learn on the job if you’re willing to put yourself out there.
As a foreigner applying for jobs in Japan a good place to start is to have a university degree (Bachelor), since that seems to be required in most jobs and it will give you a better chance in getting an interview. Working experience is also a big help in finding work, since Japanese companies do look at your history. For me working at a big (Japanese) company for two years before coming to Japan opened up so many opportunities for me. But any kind of job will give the employees a look at your character and skillset, so I’d include all part-time jobs or internships if you have them.
Funnily enough, the biggest problem I ran into while looking for a job in Japan from Finland was that I wasn’t here… and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Japanese companies and most foreign companies in Japan are very traditional in their talent acquisition. This means that they won’t even look at your CV if you’re not here, not to mention any talk of interviews.
Even with my university degree and work experience and Japanese skills not even one company replied back to me. So I turned to an international student organization to help connect me with my current company in the form of a six-month internship. I’m so happy I did, since without them I’m not sure I would be here now, although the job was something new to me.
Nowadays there are dozens of services that connect companies with foreign talent and help out with the process, ranging from facilitating interviews to helping out with the working visas etc., but having work experience is usually key in getting to these opportunities. Especially industries like marketing and IT are quite open for foreign talent, even if you don’t speak Japanese. You just have to find these opportunities, which is the hardest part).
Fast-forward to the start of 2019.
I woke up to the new year realizing that I don’t have much time left in Japan. I had asked if my current company would like to keep me, but hadn’t gotten any solid answer back, so I decided to take matters in to my own hands. I had already looked at some positions within digital marketing in Linkedin and saved some of the most interesting ones for times like these.
For me Linkedin has proven to be the most natural channel for job hunting in Japan. It’s quite funny since I didn’t even realize that this was an option back in Finland (since my settings were only looking at jobs in Finland), but the moment I changed my settings to looking for jobs in Japan, I could find so many exciting opportunities. It might be the industry that I’m in, but most digital marketers (especially foreign talent) can be found from Linkedin and the companies’ HR managers know this.
It might seem that I’m advertising Linkedin, but I’m amazed how smoothly my job hunting process has gone thanks to the website; After revamping my profile I have gotten multiple messages from companies looking for digital talent and finding opportunities has been super easy.
It is also from Linkedin where I found my dream job here in Tokyo.