Working in Japan

10 Tips For Changing Careers in Japan: Job Hunting while Employed

Thinking of changing jobs in Japan? These practical tips, from interview timing to how to tell your current company, will help you land your next opportunity.

Considering switching careers in Japan? You aren’t alone––tenshoku (転職), or changing jobs, is more common than ever, contrary to the days of Japan’s stable “lifetime employment” system, where loyalty to a single company was key. While there are hurdles for foreigners, the job market is brimming with opportunities for a happier and more fulfilling career. It is easy to search for new opportunities, interview, and land a new job, even while working full-time. Use the tips below to help start a new chapter in your professional life in Japan seamlessly.

1. Update your Resumes in English and Japanese

One of the first steps to starting your job search in any country is to update your resume. If you are seeking a position that uses your multilingual skills or are going to be working at a Japanese company, you should do this for English and Japanese.

You will also want to create up-to-date versions of your shokumu keirekisho (職務経歴書) and rirekisho (履歴書). There are many online resources with templates and suggested formats for these documents. Keep in mind that creating a new rirekisho will require a recent photo. Take advantage of a photo booth or ask a friend to take a professional-looking picture to make the best impression.

2. Decide your Timeline

While you document your latest qualifications and experience, you should also determine a realistic timeline for your job search. You can typically expect to take between three and six months to find a new job, depending on the job and industry you are in. In addition, determine any special factors that may affect you.

Do you want to wait until a certain project at your current work finishes? How much notice do you have to give at your current employer before quitting? When does your residence card expire?

Keeping track of your job search goals and progress in a private notebook or spreadsheet on your personal computer will keep you on-track and feeling motivated. If your search takes longer than expected, you can always adjust the timeline, but having a basic idea of when you want to be working your new career will give you the determination you need to keep moving forward.

3. Check Procedures for the Japanese Immigration Office

If your stay in Japan is tied to a work-related visa and you are a non-permanent resident, you must keep the Immigration Bureau of Japan informed of your employment status. This includes when you quit and start a new job, and any career changes that require your visa status to be modified, as well.

If you have a work visa in the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services and are looking to stay within this field of work, your paperwork to submit is short and easy. If your new work will require a different type of visa, you will have to turn in more documents and paperwork, and get your visa changed. Keep in mind that if you quit your job before you have found new work, you may need to apply for unemployment and obtain a job hunting visa.

Read on the official Immigration Bureau of Japan website to find out the procedures and the paperwork you need to submit. Most procedures should be done within 14 days of starting your new work.

4. Search Online Regularly

The Internet is a valuable resource for job hunting in Japan. With job-listing sites, bulletin boards, and social networks, there is more information online than ever before, and it’s easy to access. One of the most convenient sites is Jobs in Japan, which is filled with listings and leads ideal for internationally-minded job seekers in Japan. The website’s search function allows you to narrow down listings by job type, prefecture, Japanese level, and helpful filters so you can find the right opportunity. You can register your email address to get updates on new openings in your field of interest when they appear, too.

Jobs in Japan also offers a helpful on-demand video interview service that you can add to your resume. Consider taking advantage of this service to set apart yourself from other applicants when employers view your profile.

5. Use a Recruiting Service

In addition to searching by yourself, you can also consider using a recruiter. A high-quality and free recruiting service will help you manage your time as you remain employed throughout the career-change process, locate harder-to-find opportunities that fit your preferences, and prepare for interviews.

Your recruiter may also provide general and specialized advice on your career in Japan, providing professional insight. This is a tip that will save you time and help you find new opportunities you may never even get to consider if you’re doing your search alone.

6. Let your Friends know you’re Job Hunting

Similar to the tip above, don’t be afraid to get your friends and family involved in the job search. While your friends may not have the specialized recruiting knowledge a professional possesses, you may be surprised by the leads and information they have to share.

Also, if you know a friend or acquaintance who works at a company you’re interested in, your relationship can make it easier to get introduced and start interviewing.

7. Do not tell your Current Employer

While it can be motivational and helpful to let certain people in your life know that you’re searching for something new, keep it quiet from your coworkers, bosses of your current employer. Loyalty and commitment is a priority of any workplace–especially in Japan. Telling your employer that you’re looking for a new job will likely hurt feelings and the employer may try to convince you to stay.

To keep a positive and productive relationship at work until your last day, keep your sharing desires for a new career quiet until you have accepted a new offer.

8. Schedule your Interviews Online

Most hiring employers in Japan are accommodating to job seekers who have existing work commitments during the day, and will allow candidates to interview in the evenings and/or online, so don’t be afraid to ask for an interview online via Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet. Some companies in Japan even conduct their entire interview process online, making the process very easy for busy individuals.

Keep your attire and mindset professional, and don’t forget to practice and test your Internet connection before the interview. However, making the interview process remote can help subsite the stress of an in-person interview at the end of a long day of work.

9. Turn in Your Letter of Resignation

After you’ve interviewed and accepted an offer, it’s time to convey the news to your current employer. Depending on your company’s contract, you may have to create a formal letter of resignation (退職願 and/or 退職届) to submit to your supervisors and bosses. Turn in your letter only after accepting the new offer and determining your start date with your new employer.

To break the news peacefully, schedule a meeting with your supervisor during a quiet time if possible. Depending on your relationship with your boss, they may be upset, and they may try to convince you to stay, offering your higher pay or a different position at this point, but stay calm and be firm. This is also a good time to convey your gratitude to make a final positive impression.

10. Sort through Necessary Procedures and Paperwork

As mentioned earlier, foreigners in Japan need to keep track of a number of documents and procedures when changing jobs. Consult with the HR departments of your current and future employers to keep you on-track. Some of the procedures you may have to complete are listed below.

  • For tax purposes, you will need to get an income tax statement (源泉徴収票) and obtain a formal letter recognizing your resignation to turn into your new employer.
  • If your health insurance was provided through work, you will have to turn in your old health card and apply for a different one with your new employer.
  • For the Immigration Bureau, you will need to send in a form detailing your career change within two weeks of switching employers. If you are changing visa types, you should ask your new HR department to provide official documents and help you prepare for the application.

Changing from one workplace to another in Japan is a long process with many potential hurdles. However, with determination and knowledge of the Japanese job market and cultural customs, it is possible to successfully and smoothly transition from one career to the next. Use the tips above to aid you in your process and make your dreams come true in Japan!

Originally from California, now living in central Tokyo after the JET Program and wandering around Japan. Trying to experience and learn as much as possible. Passionate about travel, vegan food, and music.

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