How I Found Work in Japan
I often get asked about finding work in Japan, especially by fellow developers. How did I do it? How long did it take? What did I study? Are recruiters in Japan ok? The list goes on and on. Any developer will tell you if you are doing the same thing over and over again you should probably automate it. Hopefully this story, my story, will help some readers gain some insights into their own job search in Japan. Consider this an attempt at automating my response to the same question.
My (abbreviated) Story
I have a background in technology. I started out as a self educated systems hacker messing around with a lot of illegal stuff, which I won't go into details about. Through a strange turn of fate I was accepted as a NACMEscholarship recipient. (It's a program that focuses on getting minorities into STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. If you've got a a high schooler in your family I'd recommend you check it out. NACME changed my life.) Through my scholarship I went to Drexel University and obtained a degree in Information Systems and Technology and became an applications and web developer, Later I went onto a systems and networking job, then QA/QC, then a systems analysis before falling in love with Japan and deciding to move here. I'm leaving a lot out in between but what I wanted to describe was how I initially came to Japan as an English teacher and then, after a year, returned back to a technical position with my work history as motivation.
Just Get Here
I came to Japan for vacation and fell in love with the country or more specifically, how different Japan was from America. But how to get here? For me, at the time, the easiest thing to do was to get an English teaching position. (There are tons of English teaching companies in Japan, I don't want to give them shine cause I don't like any of them, but if you want more info about some of the more popular ones google them or shoot me a message.) This would get me into Japan as quickly as possible with a working visa. It only required a 1 year contract at an undetermined location (which would end up being Ibaraki, think 'country side'). I made a promise to myself that no matter what, after a year, I would focus 1000% on getting back into tech. And thats what I did.
What I did leading up to moving to Tokyo doesn't really matter. It was a good experience, but to be honest, no one is going to take you seriously until your in a major city (Tokyo for example) so as soon as you can move to where the jobs are. That would be the pre-requisite.
After my year in Ibaraki was up I quit full-time English teaching, moved into a share-house (a kind of group housing, you get a tiny room in an shared apartment, its cheaper and has less restrictions than an apartment, renting an apartment in Japan is horrible but I'll save that for another post.) and switched to part-time English teaching. What I realized from part-time English teaching was, not only did I work less hours (3.5 days a week) but I made more money than teaching English full-time. With my extra day and a half I focused more on job hunting and would eventually get a job within 2 months of living in Tokyo. I got the job probably mostly due to luck, but here's how I did it.
The first thing I did when I came to japan was have my CV converted to the Japanese style CV. I went online and found a translation site. A site filled with individuals who will translate your document for a price. (It's worth the money). With both my Japanese and English CVs I applied to every job that I could handle the position. I applied through 2 web-sites mainly:
I found my current job through find-job.net so obviously that's my first choice but careercross provided me with a significant amount of interviews and seems well put together.
The reason I said it was mostly due to luck is because the position I interviewed for was a support position for one of the companies web services, called Jimdo. As they support the Japanese community of Jimdo, they were looking for a fluent Japanese speaker. Apparently because of my super cool Japanese resume, which i had translated, they thought I could speak fluent Japanese. It's not my fault ( ^ ^ ). But because of that I got an interview.
Through that interview and my description of my past life as a Japanese samurai who loves umi-bozu (and I guess because of my experience) they thought I bought be a good fit for a developer position as they were focusing on increasing their foreigner staff levels. And here I've been ever since.
If You've Read This Far
I'm sure you still have some questions, but I'm half asleep so I'll summarise the answers to the questions I know you have and I'll write about them in more detail later.
- The best place to look for jobs as a foreigner is in a startup or international company. The second best place would be a Japanese company with a focus on increasing their foreigner staff levels. (Think rakuten)
- If they think you're technically qualified you'll get an interview. During the interview the most important thing to show is your ability to communicate in Japanese. Second would be how personable you are.
- Focus on the skills you need to do the job. If your a developer theres no need to study a bunch of frameworks or programming languages (unless thats what you want to do.) Focus on doing one thing well. And then improve yourself with that as your base.
- It took me 2 months, but it could take years, especially if you have no real-world work experience. (Another reason why I said I was lucky.)
- If you have savings, I would recommend moving to Japan, living in a share-house, and job hunting while potentially working part-time. But obviously the more experience you have the better.
If you fall behind, run faster. Never give up, never surrender, and rise up against the odds.Jesse Jackson
love life to live, live life to love
Caven Cade Mitchell