How to land a job in Japan

Do you want to work in Japan? Have you always dreamt of living in the land of the rising sun? It may seem daunting at first due to the language barrier and cultural differences, but it is possible for you to land a job in Japan! Let’s take a look at the most common ways foreigners end up in Japan, some obstacles that you might face, and how to prepare yourself for the job-hunting experience here.

Ways to Get a Job in Japan

1. Teach English

This is the easiest and most straightforward way for foreigners to work in Japan. You might think that the Japanese prefer the stereotypical “blond hair, blue eyes” English speaker. However, in recent years there has been a move towards understanding English as an international language and not a “Western” one, giving you a higher chance of securing an English teaching job!

There are several ways to go about this:

  1. Join the JET ALT programme.
    1. ALT stands for Assistant Language Teacher, and depending on the school you’re in or the teacher you’re paired with, your duties could cover anything from grading essays to helping plan lessons. The JET programme, supported by various governmental ministries, is highly competitive, receiving thousands of applications each year but only accepting less than 2000 ALT. However, the number of Singaporeans accepted to the programme has been increasing steadily, and you might be able to add to that number!
  2. Apply to specific schools.
    1. International schools are growing in popularity in Japan, especially in the city areas such as Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. A quick search on Google should show you the schools that are hiring!

While it may seem straightforward, possible issues such as licensing exist. Even if you have a teaching degree or licence in Singapore, chances are it won’t be accepted in Japan, and some schools may not accept you. If you cannot find a school that doesn’t have a teaching licence requirement, the JET programme would be your best bet!

Another obstacle to keep in mind is that the pay in Japan is relatively low compared to Singapore. You might have just enough for your living expenses, the occasional trip, and a small savings account. If saving up isn’t a major concern for you now, consider working in Japan!

2. Start with an internship

It can be hard to enter a Japanese company as a full-time employee from the very start, as there are workplace norms and customs that you might be expected to know. However, as a foreign intern, you will be given more leeway, and it will also be a great opportunity for you to learn about and check out the work environment. Companies will also be more likely to hire you after your internship if they feel you fit their company culture.

You can look for an internship at the Japan Internship Program run by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and read up on the different arrangements they offer, from in-office work to remote work.

3. Join foreigner-friendly companies

In Japan, there is high demand for workers in the tech field: software engineers, computer engineers, and so on. Some companies, such as Rakuten, are known for being foreigner-friendly and not requiring you to speak Japanese. Others, such as Continental, hire foreigners regularly but require business-level proficiency in the Japanese language.

One thing to keep in mind is that company culture in Japan is very different, and there are many unspoken rules and norms, such as not leaving immediately after your official clock out time and always bringing a gift back when you go on a business or personal trip. People might also have more expectations of you if you are a woman. You might accidentally offend someone and not even know what went wrong! However, foreigners are often exempt from these expectations and norms, and companies like the above-mentioned that actively hire foreigners also tend to stray from the norms a little.

One thing all Japanese companies seem to have in common is their longer work hours. So, be prepared to work 9- or 10-hour days or even be expected to stay back without getting overtime pay.

4. Work at a Japanese company in Singapore

While this may not guarantee you a spot in Japan, it does provide you with at least a slight possibility of getting an assignment in Japan or even going to Japan on a business trip. This might be the best option for those who value stability and saving money.

So, what should you do to prepare?

  1. Learn Japanese (especially business Japanese). It is a good way to impress your employer and show them you are serious. It will also make your life in Japan much easier! Remember that learning Japanese isn’t just about learning vocabulary and grammar, but also learning HOW certain things are said or requests are made.
  2. Research the company that you’re thinking of working at. In interviews, Japanese employers typically look for someone who fits in well with their company culture and may prioritise that over other qualifications. So, the more you know about the company’s work culture, the better!
  3. Invest in a formal suit. All university students or fresh graduates in Japan are expected to don a simple black or navy suit regardless of gender. Women should have their hair tied back in a neat ponytail, and suits should not be too tight. Men should wear a simple tie.

There are many pros and cons of working in Japan, and getting there may not be very easy. However, if you understand it beforehand and set your expectations accordingly, it can be a rewarding experience. Gambatte!


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