Archive for November, 2005


Job searching in Japan

Posted by on Saturday, 5 November, 2005

Well, as I promised in an earlier post, I will try to tell you a little bit about my experiences in searching for work in Japan, and perhaps give a few pointers to anyone who is interested. (Warning: Very long)

Basically, if you’re looking for a professional career in Japan there are a few choices, and also a few things that are pretty much beyond your control. First of all, I will not talk about how to become a traditional “ex-patriate,” i.e. sent out by a company in your home country to Japan for a limited time. Personally I am locally employed and have basically the same type of employment contract as any Japanese. Whereas your choices as a non-native Japanese might be limited, a company will probably be more interested in hiring you on a local basis compared with ex-pat basis due to the lower cost incurred.

How good is your Japanese? If it’s anything but “Very Good” to “Native level” than your choices immediately slim down to English teacher and….yeah… that’s about it, unless you are considering a “career” in being a hostess. Maybe I’m being overly harsh here, but in my experience, the only foreigners in the Japanese society who DON’T know Japanese are either ex-pat contracted personnel, English teachers and hostesses. Everyone else will have to know quite good Japanese for them to be competitive and qualify for “real” jobs. (No offence to all English teachers out there!!)

If you have any way of securing a job *before* going to Japan that is a great plus, since it’s hard to be in Japan with no job. Naturally, having a job before you arrive in Japan can be hard, unless you fall into the ex-pat or English teacher categories (JET programs etc.) so chances are you will be in Japan searching for a job while living officially as a student or something like that. Living costs being as high as they are, naturally this is a process that you’d want to short down to a minimum!

Personally, I have been in a job-searching position twice since I came to Japan in 2003 (before that I was only here on holiday or as a student). When I first arrived, I thought getting a job in Japan with my qualifications would be easy – but I soon found out it was far from a walk in the park! All jobs I found required “fluent” to “native” Japanese level (my Japanese was a bit rusty at the time) and having no prior work experience in Japan also didn’t do my case any good. Thankfully, through my family I knew a lot of people, who got me a few interviews, and finally, after two months I found a job working in a Swedish company. The company was active in an industry I had no interest in or knowledge about, but I couldn’t be picky so I took it.

The second time I was job searching was this summer/fall, when I was still employed – so the need to quickly find a new job was less immediate, but still stressful. This time around I was much better prepared! I prepared a traditional Japanese “work history” document which is often submitted together with a resume, detailing prior job experiences, I contacted two recruitment firms who I let search for jobs for me, and in the meantime I searched the various Japanese job-sites on the Internet. FInally, one of the two placement firms I had been in contact with managed to get me an interview with a highly interesting company, and after a few interviews the job was mine!

So, in summation, if you are going to be looking for a job in Japan, here are a few pointers:

* Study Japanese! In my experience, anything less than fluent (at least speaking) will count as a big negative in interviews. Often your Japanese will be tested by either having the interview in Japanese, or, if the interviewer is foreign, by bringing in a Japanese colleague to have a short conversation.

* If you’re not desperate for full time work, a good place to start is temp agencies. There are many temp agencies that will hire specialists for various tasks, ranging from secretarial work to IT-implementations.

* Use a recruitment company. Many of the good jobs go to professional recruiters only, and going thorugh one of these agencies is the only was to get to them. They will also do the actual job applying for you, so it’s also helpful in that aspect.

* Think twice before applying to a Japanese company. If your Japanese is not excellent, and you possess some unique skills, there is no reason for them to employ a foreigner. And a Japanese company WILL hire a native Japanese over a foreigner everytime unless you have something really special up your sleeve.

* Foreign companies in Japan is usually your best bet – often there will already be foreigners at the company, so they have showed that they are not totally against hiring foreigners. Further, if the official language within the company is anything else than Japanese, it will make your life much easier!

* Proper documents are a must, you should prepare a Japanese resume (履歴書), an English resume, and a Japanese work-history (職務経歴書). The English one can be written basically any way you want, but the Japanese ones follow rather strict guidelines. You can by templates in bookstores, or download Word/Excel ones from the Internet.

OK, I think that’s about it for now. If you have any questions, just leave it in the comment section. I will probably do a follow up post with some useful links in a few days, too.


Swedish Style in Tokyo right now

Posted by on Saturday, 5 November, 2005

Well, since I’m a Swede, I guess I have sort of an obligation to promote any Swedish event happening in Japan, or more specifically, Tokyo.

RIght now, the so-called, “Swedish Style” is being held at different venues around Tokyo, with the center of things being at the Swedish Embassy in Roppongi. Check out the website for more information.

For a quick run down on what Swedish Style is, I quote from the introduction:

We are happy to welcome you to Swedish Style 2005 and the wide range of Swedish events taking place in Tokyo between 2 and 12 November. This year, we invite you to enjoy Happy Style! We want to highlight the fun and friendly aspects of design and we want to celebrate the different ways that design, art, food and music make us happy. And we hope that Swedish Style will bring you happiness.

At the Embassy of Sweden in Roppongi-Itchome, we present Swedish Conceptual Design. Six young exciting designers and design groups are represented, as well as a ground breaking art institution. You will also find the Swedish Style Café, a place for a relaxing break, and a number of workshops


Adventure lies ahead!

Posted by on Friday, 4 November, 2005

Yesterday was the last day at my job, and because of some outstanding vacation days, I now how roughly three weeks vacation before I start my new one! Hooray!

Well if you’ve followed my posts for some time, you’ve seen that I hardly mentioned my work (except for the coffee post) and I plan to keep it that way. No way am I going to blog about work and risk getting dooced. People who know me personally know where I work (and will work from December 1st) and those who don’t… well, if you REALLY wanna know, just drop me an e-mail! 😉

Anyway, I would like to post about job searching in Japan – which is no walk in the park, that’s for sure. I’d like to share my experience and offer some small tips. But I will prepare a proper post for that, and write in within the next few days. Stay tuned!