Employment in Japan

Read the following advice on employment in Japan.

The Job Market

  • The Japanese work ethos was once dominated by enormous companies that offered jobs for life. Changing jobs was once frowned upon. With the arrival of recent recessions, this is now changing.
  • Foreign workers generally fall into two categories: unskilled workers who do jobs that the Japanese would rather not do themselves (industrial manufacture, menial labor), and workers with special skills (language teachers, international businesspeople, technology specialists). However, Japan tries to regulate the arrival of foreign workers in order to protect native-job seekers from employment.
  • Despite this, English is very much in demand– especially as language teachers.
Finding A Job
  • If at all possible, you should start your job search long before you leave for Japan. This way you can apply for a work visa before leaving your home country, and you will not have to change visas in Japan. It is important to note that many companies will not employ someone who does not have definite permission to work.
  • Job portalsDaijob  and Gaijinpot  offer numerous job listings. Daijob also offers a number of advice-style articles on a range of work-related topics under its Career Support Heading.
  • Recruitment agencies: Depending on your previous work experience, you may have success with an executive recruitment agency such as Alex Tsukada International or East West Consulting. These agencies specialize in matching qualified management applicants with appropriate positions at Japanese companies.
  • Professional associations:  The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association  (JEITA) and the Japan Auto Manufacturers´ Association are both examples of major trade associations. Use these to your advantage; they often contain job listings and provide you with an opportunity to make personal contacts.
  • EU Executive Training Programme (ETP) offers you the opportunity to apply for 18 months of training and work in Japan if you are a member of a European member nation. This is normally aimed towards cooperative executives but is notable for providing language help.
  • Newspapers such as The Japan Times (English speaking).
  • Teaching English is an excellent way to start off your job search in Japan as it will improve your Japanese and will allow you to obtain a work visa. Websites with job listings and other resources for prospective English teachers include TEFL  and Aeon – Teaching English in Japan. Many positions do not require previous teaching experience but may require some form of a degree.
The CV/Resume (rirekisho)
  • normally 2 pages long but remember to consider the company you are applying for (is the company run by Americans, for example?). If the company is Japanese the CV and cover letter should be translated into Japanese.
  • First page: Name and contact information, Summary of qualifications (3 lines), academic background in reverse order
  • Second page: Work history in reverse order, Activities or interests relevant to your job, Potential references (or you can just state ‘References available upon request´ to save space)
  • Attach a photograph
  • Be honest and to the point. Do not over exaggerate.
  • As always you should submit a cover letter. As Japanese business culture values corporate loyalty, you may want to state your desire for a long-term future with the company.
  • Rirekisho templates can be purchased at many convenience store stores and almost all book stores in Japan
The interview
  • Be punctual
  • Avoid hand gestures when speaking
  • Avoid staring and eye contact for long periods- it is considered impolite
  • If you are presented with a bizarre question and feel unable to answer, state this politely
  • Perhaps express an interest in the Japanese culture
Working conditions
  • Japanese employees work long hours. In spite of the Labour Law, it is not unusual for employees to work 60 hours a week. One reason for the extraordinary number of hours that Japanese work is a promotion culture that is still rooted in a seniority system. The amount of time employees work determines their opportunities for advancement, and the quantity of their work is sometimes more important than its quality.
  • Fortunately foreign workers are not pressured to work in the same manner.
  • The office environment is usually open spaced and can often appear noisy for foreign workers
  • Also note that smoking in the workplace is legal in Japan
  • Despite this, management is based around the principle of group harmony (wa). Japanese managers place less emphasis on giving orders and focus instead on providing their employees with the information and supplies necessary to excel. They place emphasis on group agreement and consider embarassment disastrous, therefore group meetings are a good way to avoid such issues.
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