Finding a non-teaching job in Japan in limited time
June 19, 2012 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Searching for a job in Japan... Can speak Japanese, but have only gotten job offers from low-paying ALT dispatchers so far. Visa running out. Other venues to search?

Hello all,

Former JET Programme ALT here. I posted a similar question to this about a month ago, but the situation has changed a bit.

I've been in Tokyo since earlier this month, on the job hunt. I can speak/read/write business level-Japanese, and if possible would like to be able to use it in my job. Learning a new skill would be nice as well, for future employment purposes.

The kicker is: My work visa will be expiring the first week of August, and thus I need to find a job in the next 3 or so weeks. And I have only gotten bites from dispatch ALT recruiters and eikaiwas (I hear few positive stories from these companies - the pay is low, and the opportunity for advancement is apparently close to nil). I'd like to find more substantial employment if possible. I would not be against direct-hire ALT'ing as well, but have not been able to find any hiring yet.

I have two conferences for bilingual speakers that I will be going to later this month, but who knows how they will turn out. The expiring visa thing is really leaving me crunched for time.

I'd love to know how other people in Tokyo or other areas of Japan found jobs(ideally of at least 30man a month). I've been mostly going through gaijinpot/daijob, as well as the sites for the conferences coming up. If anyone has any advice/information (or job hookups?!), it would be much appreciated. I have been sending a Japanese cover letter, as well as a Japanese 履歴書.

If this doesn't work out, I'm thinking of going home to the USA recouping my losses, and attending the upcoming Boston Career forum. But if I can find a semi-decent job while over here, that would much preferable.

Crossing my fingers that something comes up - Let me know what you guys/gals think!
posted by Kamelot123 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I found my post-JET job in the paper edition of the Japan Times in Feb/Mar, and left my JET job early for it. (Not to be a downer, but a couple friends who waited out their JET contracts instead of aiming for a April 1 start date were not able to find jobs, even with strong Japanese proficiency.)

If it comes down to taking a crappy ALT job vs. returning to the US: if you don't have a career you'd like to get started on back home, the exchange rate has never been more favorable for those earning yen, especially if you can live frugally.
posted by homodachi at 11:09 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don’t know if it was your question or not, but I remember answering a similar question recently. My advice is the same now as it was then: take an ALT or Eikaiwa job temporarily. Sign on for as short of a period as you can, and use that time to find something better paying/more suited for your career goals. You’ll have a lot more opportunity applying from in-country than you will if you’re doing it from the US.

I think you know this, but most companies in Japan only hire for positions starting in April, the beginning of the fiscal year. If done, mid-year hiring is usually in September. The only positions you’re going to find this time of year are positions that have been left suddenly vacant from people who have quit mid-fiscal year for some reason or another.

Ideally you’ll be able to get a contract only until the end of March. Then you’ll be free to start whatever new position you’ve hopefully lined up in the meantime.

Good luck!
posted by Kevtaro at 12:05 AM on June 20, 2012

P.s. Don’t be that guy and break your contract after a month of work. It’s a pretty f’d up thing to do you an employer who has likely spent significant time (and possibly money) hiring you, sponsoring your visa extension, and training you. Not to mention that it reflects badly on us American ex-pat professionals in Japan in general.
posted by Kevtaro at 12:15 AM on June 20, 2012

If you have "connections" (family friends who might know people in Japan, etc.) you should leverage those if you can.

Realistically, the Boston Career Forum is a good option to shoot for. The challenge will be 'what do you do if nothing pans out at BCF?'
posted by gen at 12:18 AM on June 20, 2012

While it is pretty shitty to jump ship after the visa comes through, realistically, the hiring season or April starts in late November and is pretty much wrapped up by early February. If you don't have a good job by then, you're not likely to get one.

As for 300,000 a month, that's just something that's usually out there anymore, let alone for an off-season (which is almost guaranteed to be a replacement hire because of some kind of snafu, either an employee didn't work out or health issues popped up) hire. You might need to adjust your goals here.

As for going home, while I'm not familiar with the Boston job fair, of all the people I have known looking for work here, the people here and searching have always had a better time of finding work, sometimes through newspapers/job sites (a good number of ads say they are only interested in current residents), sometimes through random chance (friend of a friend type stuff). If you go home, you're looking at the costs of divesting yourself of all your stuff here, your flight home, the expenses you're going to incur at home, the expenses to get back here and get started up again. A sub optimal salary might still bring you out ahead of going home, plus you'll be here while you're searching.

In other words, take a job, get a visa, make the most of the job, keep your search up, and give ample notice if you find something better.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:53 AM on June 20, 2012

Having been in this position before (but not coming from a teaching job), and because your question says "let me know what you think!"
- Seconding what everyone else said about the hiring schedule, being "that guy" who takes the job for the visa and leaves after a month, or taking a job for now to hold on to your visa.
- Work your university alumni connections. Do you have an online alumni directory? Find out who is in Japan - Japanese or foreign - and talk to them about their companies and whether they have any positions available. Focus on smaller companies (needs develop out of the regular hiring season) and foreign companies (often not as rigidly tied to the Japanese hiring season).
- Though things are tough in the US, job hunting is also really tough in Japan right now. In 2011, the percentage of graduates from Japanese universities who were finding jobs hit a record low. Though the 2012 number was up a little, it was complicated by the tsunami aftermath with lots of manual labor jobs opening up in reconstruction. You can see a nice 5-year chart at Yomiuri Shinbun. I point this out because it means you have a lot of hungry competition for any job that doesn't demand your native English speaking abilities.

When I was in your position a couple years ago I reluctantly left Japan and moved on to stay with my employer in another place. I miss my life there a lot, but the decision to leave was a rational one given the employment situation and some other personal factors... We'll look forward to your update, whatever you decide to do.
posted by whatzit at 3:12 AM on June 20, 2012

I read some of your previous posts and it sounds like you want to live in Japan permanently. Go for it! I love dedication like that.

If you want job opportunities like the Japanese do, then you may want to consider attending a Japanese university. Many schools offer student VISAs which allow you to stay in the country as long as you enrolled at that school. There may be some restrictions on working in Japan while enrolled as a student, however, when I studied abroad in Japan, I had a student VISA and I vaguely remember being allowed to work part-time, as along as certain requirements were met. You may want to investigate this further it you want to go this route.

I'm pretty certain attending a university would open up more local opportunities and business contacts for you. Plus earning a degree in Japan tends to appear more legitimate to the Japanese than an overseas degree. While at school, you will be interacting with other Japanese students/teachers, so you will have an opportunity to improve your Japanese language skills. Additionally, going to school in Japan would also give you the opportunity to gain some real-world experience doing internships at various businesses.

If you've paid off all your student loans from the US, going back to school might be a viable option for you. However, to improve your opportunities of employment, I would suggest that you major in a subject that is in high-demand in Japan. Realistically, majoring in the subject of Japanese in Japan is probably be just as useful as majoring in English in the US. If you're content with just earning $40K a year, then go for it, but if you're looking for more advancement opportunities (which I think you do, based on your post) then you may want to carefully consider your degree a bit more. Furthermore, you might have better luck getting accepted into a Japanese university if you choose a degree that's high in-demand, versus one that is not.

Good luck!
posted by nikkorizz at 5:47 AM on June 20, 2012

Checked your other questions, but one thing I can't figure out is whether you have any experience or skills besides teaching Japanese - without knowing that, recommendations are a little hard, but:

- Daijob, Gaijinpot are fine but I'd guess a low success rate
- Get in touch with alumni from your university
- Talk to recruitment agencies in person
- Decide now if you'll take a less-than-ideal ALT job rather than leave Japan so you can tie that down without bumping against your visa deadline if you need to

Do you have your resume (English or Japanese) somewhere online?
posted by 23 at 9:43 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take the survival job to get the visa and remain in Japan. It will be practically impossible to get a job in Japan from overseas.

To get your dream job (and, come to think of it, to get your next ALT job) you're going to have to be proactive.

Research the ACCJ, both its website and on LinkedIn. Contact obvious "connectors"... You can do it!
posted by KokuRyu at 2:43 PM on June 21, 2012

Response by poster: Same reply to a similar thread I created:

Thanks for the advice, all. I will most likely be taking a half year teaching gig (3-days, part-time) which apparently is able to sponsor my visa. I'll be looking for a way out of English-teaching in the meantime. I have a few more job conferences coming up, but time is running out so I am running out of options.

If anyone has any leads, please feel free to let me know!
posted by Kamelot123 at 8:33 PM on July 4, 2012

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