Japan Entry Program – Part Three
So now, NL is about 19 or 20, and she has been working for a Japanese design firm as a virtual slave for the last 18 to 24 months. This is the real test of physical and mental strength. I find that most people move from the honeymoon period to literally hating Japan within the first two years. Take my word for it, if you stick things out for longer than 2 years, and if you speak reasonable Japanese and have Japanese friends, it progressively gets easier and more fun to be here.
At this stage, and with both language and experience under her belt, NL has two ways to go. The first option is that she can stay with the Japanese design firm and do a full apprenticeship. I can only imagine that this might take another 5-10 years, not necessarily an exciting option, but once you're firmly embedded in a good working group, time flies. Probably she'll be having fun doing ski trips with work colleagues, fashion shows, enjoying the thrill of big deals by the company, and the general buzz of working in a big city. I've met a number of people who realized that in coming to Japan they just wanted somewhere they could belong and a career that they could call their own. Over time the initial surge of ambition becomes tempered into something longer term and just as rewarding. This of course can lead to settling down, getting married, and a whole new life.
The other route that NL can take is to move to a foreign firm. While it is probably unlikely she would get a design job (I assume the designs are typically done overseas by somewhere mandated by headquarters), she could nevertheless land a job as a liaison person, researcher, advisor, presales consultant, or some similar position. Without a doubt a job with a foreign company would be much better paid and could open up the door for an international career.
The fact is that foreign firms LOVE fluent bilingual foreigners with deep local experience in their given market. This is especially true if they are still young by the time they apply. To improve her attractiveness, NL needs to remember to network as much as she can within the Japanese firm and its customers and suppliers while she is there. It is this human network that will translate into pay raises and business success once she gets in.
At 17 and already thinking about coming to Japan, it is highly likely that NL doesn't intend to get a degree. Is this a drawback? Obviously if there is a similar job applicant with a degree, that person is more likely to get the job first. I would therefore advise her to stay at school and get a 4-year degree - specifically including some component of Japanese study into the course.
Not having a degree also impacts her in one other way. She may not be able to get a working visa. The rules at the moment are such that you either have to have 3-10 years of practical study/work experience in your given profession OR a degree, in order to land a work visa here. NL could probably co-join a variety of activities in Canada and Japan to get the minimum 3 years experience needed to get a Humanities visa as either an English teacher, translator, PR or marketing person, or similar job. To learn more about the Humanities visa requirements at: http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html.
What activities could she co-join? Well, for example, 1 year of work experience in Canada, after that, a one-year working holiday visa in Japan, followed by one-year student's visa... Now, I'm not an immigration consultant, and so she should clearly get some professional advice on this topic, but I have heard of younger people being able to connect their experience like this. Clearly it requires you to keep good documentation on your activities and proof that you actually have this experience. Of course, one never knows what the reaction of the Immigration Bureau will be in marginal cases.