While I don’t think I’m your first I’d rather be your last. No this post is not a confession of love to you; my readers. Hopefully this can serve as my insight so far into applying for jobs in Japan when you don’t yet live there and also what to expect.
Let’s be straight here, it is not easy. If you have ended up here wanting to be super kawaii sugoi desu, or what ever you are smacking onto the end of your English sentences and think you will be able to just roll into Japan and continue your jobs at the local supermarket, you probably will be expecting some bad news. Think of it realistically, most countries want to provide jobs for the natives first, you need to be bringing something a bit better than your love of ramen and Naruto if you have a chance of getting something that will help you long term.
“do you have any skills that are a) transferable b) needed?”
The biggest worry I hear from people looking to work in Japan is that they don’t have a degree and they don’t think that their Japanese is good enough to be able to compete with everyone else. In some ways that is true, there is a big emphasis in companies for foreigners to have degrees and at the minimum a N2 / Business level of language proficiency but this does not mean in any way that your up shit creak, there is still hope (at least I think).
Let’s break this job hunt down in to smaller parts. Firstly do you have any skills that are a) transferable and b) needed? Now I get it, you are thinking “Duh Chris, I have already told you! I am good at eating ramen and I know every Naruto episode! Jeez!”
Okay great but I’m talking about things a bit more obvious such as, can you speak English? I’d be concerned if you got this far reading this post and now realize you can’t. Unfortunately for you, this is not always the easiest thing to get into and it can also be poorly paid, it’s the price we pay for spreading English across the world (a lot of people can teach it), that is not to say that it is not a viable option and if you are stuck for what you are actually good at, I would definitely start with the whole, teaching the language you are fluent in…
The second part of this is skill. At the time of writing from my research, Japan is having a bit of a labor shortage (this is good for you…well, what I mean is; this is better for you).
I did not get my degree, I too share the worries around this, however this is more of a bump as opposed to a brick wall. Like anywhere in the world sometimes what you know can be more important than what education certificate you got from University.
Just over 3 years ago, I was lucky enough to be offered a job that changed my life. I had no prior skills in the IT industry but I took this opportunity to arm myself to the teeth with the knowledge to be able to compete with the colleagues that did have degrees. You need to be prepared to show someone why you are better at what you do than the others that want it too. (that’s life advice, not just for this article: Another Chris James top tip)
The point I’m trying to make here, is that if you have the skills, it will still be hard but it’s not impossible. I have seen so many videos on youtube and articles that will straight up tell you NO it’s not possible. The truth is, with many global companies there are opportunities to work with your skills at their foreign offices. Don’t just stick to the major cities; Tokyo, while it sounds amazing, should not be the only place you look and you might find that there is less competition the further out you look.
I would heavily suggest that you get your google on and job hunt in a similar fashion to how you would in your home country. You are going to be disheartened, believe me. “Sorry you cannot apply for this job without a current valid working visa” or “Sorry we wont be taking this application further”. I want to talk about the first one.
“Sorry you cannot apply for this job without a current valid working visa”
I have found with a lot of the jobs I have applied for so far that having a visa is a requirement. I get it, it makes sense, employers probably don’t feel that comfortable having interviewed you, to then discover that you can’t start for a couple of months. So this is where you have to decide whether to take a risk. You can apply for a working Holiday visa in your own country and then apply for jobs at home until you get the job and are ready to go. While I am considering a variation of this option, There is a big ol’ issue with this though. when you have applied for your working holiday visa, the Japanese embassy expect you to be in the country with in 3 months of your application of the visa. In my situation, I am going to be in Thailand for 3 months and the application rules state that you have to apply for the visa from your own country. If you are in a circumstance where you will be traveling you can ask that you be allowed 12 months from your granted visa date to enter the country. It’s because of this I find myself thinking that I need to apply before the end of the month, this will trigger the ticking clock, where I need to enter Japan to make use of my visa.
The other way to do it (probably the most sensible but more costly) is to take your working holiday visa, go on your working holiday and then apply for jobs while you are in the country. You have the added benefit of being physically available to go to an interview in person and also network. The downside is that while you are looking for work you are going to also be burning cash that you may not have wanted to.
So look I am going to provide some links in this article at the end and I think that you should definitely check them out. Happy hunting