Easing Your Way in by Interning
Tokyo is a small town for most foreigners. There are only about 2,500 foreign companies who really have a foreign atmosphere and a need for foreign employees. Getting in to some of these companies can be a real challenge, especially if youﾕre newly arrived and/or youﾕve just finished a course of study. One sure way to get in though, and to get exposure to the job market and something on your resume, is to intern.
These days, budgets are tight, and the prospect of getting a no/low-cost intern for 3 months has become more attractive for many companies. On your side, interning allows you to trade your time for exposure to a professional work environment. Yes, you may prefer to hold out and get a job which pays cash straight off, but if you can, I advise you to consider interning ﾐ the experience will open doors normally shut to a fresh graduate or new arrival to the country.
Even though you are offering your services for little or no charge, the company taking you on still has the costs of training, making a desk and PC available, HR administration, etc. So, some companies, particularly larger ones with very rigid administration systems, just donﾕt want to bring on interns under any circumstances. You can mitigate this resistance by offering skills that improve general operations. Almost every company I ever came across has needed some small database (e.g., in MS Access), some translation work, some cold calling of new clients, or some design work for brochures done. These are all good ways to get in.
Needless to say, if you speak Japanese, this will also significantly improve your chances.
The companies to target are the middle to small size ones, where budgets are tightest and needs greatest. The way to get in is to contact one of the business managers, just the same way that you would if you were applying for a regular job. If you contact HR, and the company has no intern program, you will get filtered out straight away. Even if they do have a program, itﾕs probably only set up for people from a particular university and with a particular background (i.e., they should be Japanese nationals). Contact a business manager, and at least you will have a chance that they need some extra help and are willing to create an intern program on the spot.
Why interning? In Japan in particular, people like to work with people that they are familiar with ﾐ which is why Old Boy networks work so well here. This is a community-based culture, where familiarity equals trust. Youﾕre either in or out of the community. So, if youﾕre in a position, even just for 3 months ﾐ then when a part-time opportunity comes up and you ask for it, you will stand a greater chance of getting that position than someone from the outside.
Furthermore, even if there isnﾕt a formal position opening up, if youﾕve really been putting in a sincere effort and people can see that (sincerity of effort and spirit is very important for the Japanese), then just asking for some part-time work to ﾒcontinue with the teamﾓ may result in your boss making a decision based on emotional factors and making a part time position just for you.
A few months later on, as youﾕve started understanding the company and have spotted an opportunity that hasnﾕt yet been formalized, you can ask for a full-time job and chances are that you will get it. You may have heard that most smaller Japanese companies hire through introductions from employees. This is the familiarity concept (and budget consciousness) at work. Interning fits in really well with the Japanese psyche and really works. Use your new host countryﾕs cultural inclinations to your advantage.
As always, my contact details are simply:
Looking forward to getting some enquiries...