Nine months ago when I started this site, one of the primary subjects I planned on covering involved the trials and tribulations when finding work in Japan, while still living in Canada. Although I haven't written anything about the subject thus far, it's time I start sharing some of the things I've learned, and some of the plans I have for future endeavours.
So first a little background:
I'm currently engaged to a great person who lives and works in Japan. She's 100% Japanese and has an incredible grasp on the English language. We'll be title="j2fi.net - Wedding Date Set">getting married on May 1st, 2008, and staying in Japan for at least the first few years after the wedding. Because so much is involved in planning and preparing a wedding, and it would be very beneficial to have employment before and after the big day. I also want to be living and working in the country at least six months beforehand, which gives me a December 1, 2007 personal deadline. Just to add some fun to the equation, my primary employer of five years knows that I plan on leaving at some point, so we've arranged my last day with them to be July 13th, 2007. This date was a few months earlier than I had expected ... but what fun is life without a little pressure?
Since returning to Canada from my last trip this past Christmas, I've been looking for work in Japan as well as devising some possible options that would grant me a little freedom in the country should I not immediately find work. Since I'm still in Canada and writing about "Finding Work in Japan", it's clear that my current efforts have yielded little fruit. But, like anything worth having in life, some things are worth trying harder for.
I am a computer programmer and database architect by trade, and I love the work. Over the last two years I've been moving more towards database design and administration because title="j2fi.net - A ZetaByte By Any Other Name ...">I absolutely love data, and turning that data into useful information for people. If I can, I'd like to find work in Japan doing the very same thing.
How To Find Employers:
As with everything in life, you need to know who to talk to. There are five options available to most of us, and I have them sorted from most promising to least promising (in my own opinion, of course).
- People you know. This is the most promising option as it involves talking to people who know (and hopefully like) you for ideas on how or where to go during your search. This may very quickly result in an ever expanding network of contacts of people who know people who know people, where you can always come recommended. This can be perfect if you're not exactly sure what type of job you're looking for. This method tends to work best anywhere in the world, not just asia.
- Placement Companies. Here you're dealing with professionals that will advise you, guide you, and match your skills and goals with the requirements of their contacts (usually for free). This is perfect if you know exactly what you're looking for, but even if you don't, these people can help you determine what you want in a career. One of the things I've recently learned is that you must really understand the local job market in Japan. Some great agencies to work with are Panache IT Solutions and Robert Walters Japan.
- Internet Job Banks. One would think these are the perfect places to find work anywhere in the world. However, with (potentially) the entire planet as an audience, employers often recieve too many resumes per offer. That said, it's often a good idea to register with a few just to see what kind of jobs are available. GaijinPot and title="DaiJob.com - Work in Japan (English)">DaiJob are two of the best I've found when looking for work in Japan. Both sites offer pages in English.
- Newspaper Classifieds and Company Web Sites. Here you are essentially talking directly to the employers looking for people. This is good because you are targeting a specific audience. If the current job market has lots of offers for a few demands, then go for it. If not, you'll be in competition with so many people that you'll feel as though you're wasting time. Also, if you're looking to work for a Western company, many will not post any skilled positions in the local papers. The Japan Times publishes their classifieds on Mondays.
- The last option is to print out countless resumes and mail them off to companies, not knowing if they're looking for anyone. This is usually a waste of time and resources unless you're in a market that typically has high turnover.
In the past six months, I've been working almost exclusively with internet job banks. I have no idea how many jobs I've applied for from Sapporo to Osaka and everywhere in between, but it's clear that I'll likely not find anything this way. 99% of all employers want people to already be in the country and legally entitled to work. This involves having a Work Visa, which can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to obtain. Some employers will help people get the visas from the government, others will not. So knowing ahead of time what the company will and will not help you with is important.
Also, when you receive a work visa, you are limited to work only for the position it's written for. That is, if you were awarded a working visa as an instructor at a language school, you could not take that visa and work as a software engineer (though working at another language school would be acceptable).
One of the options I had considered for some time was to obtain a Working Holiday Visa, which is good for one year and we can do until 30, then find work while in the country. While this seemed like a great idea on paper, it carries an incredible amount of risk. The solution is not completely unworkable, but the risk involved is just too high considering I have a wedding to plan and pay for.
Over the next few months I hope to provide some useful tips, links and other bits of information for anyone that is looking to live and work in Japan. There are several online that discuss things from an American perspective, but Canadians tend to have a different set of rules to follow. Hopefully I can help provide some direction.