Job Hunting - From Overseas
This column is usually written for people already in Japan, both Japanese and non-Japanese alike. Today, however, I'd like to give some guidelines for people who haven't gotten here yet. If you have a friend fitting this category, clip it and fax it to them, or get the electronic version at www.workinjapan.com, under "Terrie's Job Tips".
If you're overseas and looking for a job in Japan, you probably fall into one of two categories: someone who has friends and a personal network in Japan, or someone who doesn't. If you're networked, you already know what to do. Have copies of the Japan Times Monday edition sent to you, trawl the job web sites, and have your various friends stay on the look-out for opportunities.
But, if you're completely unaware of what's up in Japan, the task is much, much harder - but not impossible, Again, the web sites are a good starting point. Of course, you should know that not being in Japan makes it very difficult to get job offers, unless you possess some amazing technical skills . Therefore, don't go applying for positions just yet. You simply want to use the web sites to get a feel for opportunities and salaries.
Next is to start networking in your own country with organizations that are involved with Japan. If you're in the US, UK, Australia, and similar countries, you'll probably be close to a Japan Society or similar organization that has members who are either Japanese or have lived in Japan. The idea is, of course, to network with these people and talk to them about opportunities, job-finding techniques, and other practicalities.
A number of people have emailed me asking if joining a Japanese company will increase their chances of getting a job in Japan. In my experience, unless it's a small technology company where you will have the chance to meet and ask the CEO personally, the answer is "No". Nor, in my opinion, will you have much opportunity to learn Japanese. It's better to come to Japan and learn the language here.
Whether you have a network or not, the next step, after you've assessed that you can actually get a job, is very important. This advice is a bit controversial, in that when you start applying for positions, you have to pretend that you live in Japan. International hiring - even of people with key, abilities - is still unusual here. This is particularly true now that the market is flooded with local qualified candidates. Therefore, when you apply for a series of jobs, you need to explain that you are "home on holiday" when you call internationally, or else you will never get an interview. You will also need a Japanese address to receive company information packed at, and that is what your friends (earned through your earlier networking) are for.
As the interview appointments start to come in, the next step is to get a tourist visa and get yourself to Japan for not less than 2-3 months. During that time, you will be interviewing intensively, following up with phone calls, and making sure that the impression that you're local is firmly implanted in people's minds. Part of building this impression is getting a local cell phone, and making sure that you scope out the location of interviews so that you're never late.
Needless to say, make sure that you've attended some Japanese classes in your own country. If you've been reading my columns, you'll know that I recommend that you learn Japanese to at least the 2-kyu level before coming to Japan.
Lastly, I haven't covered the fact that there are some jobs that can be found quite easily from overseas: teaching, opportunities through working holiday offices, advanced research in universities, etc. I will cover these opportunities in later columns.