Marketing/designer Job Hurdles Part Two: Ideas
I continue my article about the US graphic designer looking for a job in Japan before becoming fluent in Japanese...
This week I suggest some ideas to improve his chances of being able to land a decent job that earns enough to support his wife and young child.
Terrie: TH, to get the position that you are looking for, you may have to try and think out of the box. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself, developing an appropriate course of action as a result:
- Are there companies (e.g., exporters, web companies, vendors of luxury goods and services, travel agencies, etc.) in Chiba who want to reach out to foreigners in English, and who would be willing to use your services? Either freelance or as a new division of the company?
- Are there companies (including the one you just left in the USA) who would farm out work to you if you cut your rates? I know a number of foreign professionals who have been able to get a flow of work from their home countries. Indeed, I did this myself with the Australian technology company I was working for before I came to Japan in 1983. My initial business with them was to source semiconductors and export them to my ex-employer's manufacturing plant in Sydney.
- Is there an opportunity for you to run a small business that would earn you a decent income, doing peripheral work (for example: editing, and/or translation if your wife was involved) that includes design? I have a guy working for me now who for the last 5 years has run a very profitable soup-to-nuts Annual Report service - doing the sales, research, translation, copywriting, typography, design, printing, and overall project management. He eventually quit and joined me because after 5 years, all Annual Reports start looking the same! But it is something he gained excellent word-of-mouth references for and can always go back to if he needs to.
- Are there professional organizations inside Tokyo (e.g., SWET, FCC, and the Marketing Programs Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce) that could give you a lay of the land for design jobs in foreign multinationals? For example, I know that in the past, there has been some demand from some of the larger securities firms for individuals to assist their publishing teams with English-language IR collateral for clients, as well as deal presentations, investor and fund presentations, and much else besides. The recovery of the Japanese stock market has meant that the major foreign securities firms in particular are now working lots of overtime to keep up with the international demand for Japan-oriented investment information.
- Have you tried approaching smaller Japanese design firms directly and trying to get the CEO to consider the value of a designer with Western values? You will often find that large corporations get jaded with a standard approach from their long-term vendors and start putting pressure on them to come up with something fresh. I have seen a number of foreign designers get work on this basis that their Western sense of proportion, design, and typography is indeed fresh when applied to Japanese-language collateral. Finding such an employer is a numbers game.
Spread your net wide, be persistent and position yourself as a specialist in some particular field. You will eventually get lucky.