By staff writer Saki Nakane
Japan’s job hunting is unique in a brutal way, and it has become even tougher for job-hunters to find employment amidst the worst economic crisis to hit Japan in a century. News of unemployment and layoffs have become commonplace in the media, but the recent announcement that 1,845 students’ naitei (employment offers) have been withdrawn since the Lehman collapse last year made headlines throughout the country. This number exceeds the previous record of 1,077 cancellations in 1997, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
So what can the students do? According to the job hunting system in Japan, these students, who were forced to leave their jobs before they even began, will have to wait for the next job hunting season as most companies will not hire again for another year. Until then, they are left with the choice of extending their graduation for another year or worse, become freeters (part timer workers) with low paid, low skilled jobs.
Every year, thousands of books and manuals are published with the latest tips and advice on how to act and what to say in an interview, and seminars are held at schools with motivational speakers who talk enthusiastically about how they landed multiple naitei. Suit companies advertise the perfect “recruit suit”(plain black suit), and hand out pamphlets with information/advice on the correct skirt length, hair style, accessories and even how to stand and smile. Every aspect of job hunting has a criterion that has to be met, thus creating thousands of students trying to fit into the mold of a perfect “job seeker.”
“Job hunting is all about becoming the stereotypical model of what you should be,” says Megumi*, a 21-year-old university student who lived in the US for 7 years until she was 12. “I’m tired of going to group discussions and interviews and seeing everyone act and speak like robots. It’s creepy.” But she also admits that it is the only way to get through them. “At first I went to interviews and tried to be myself, but I didn’t connect with the interviewers at all and was sometimes lectured about how I didn’t belong in Japanese society.” She has given up trying to be herself and is now proceeding with what is perceived to be the correct way.
The Japanese job hunting process has lost its true purpose of matchmaking a company with the most suitable person and has instead become a business and an institution in itself. The number of people who quit their first job in less than 3 years is rapidly growing, as is the number of freeters who are trapped in a whirlpool of dead-end jobs that will not allow them to gain any skills to move up in society. The increase in employment offer cancellations serves as the cherry on top of the melting job-hunting system. The government should take this chance to make drastic changes to aid the unemployed and those in need of guidance and opportunities. There is no better time then the present to invest in a brighter future.
* not her real name
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