So, you’ve decided to hang up the title as “sensei” after years of distinguished service to the worthy cause of teaching the Japanese children to actually speak English. A thankless and near impossible task but now you are ready to make the leap into the business world here in Japan.
You feel confident, because most of the successful gaijin businessmen you know were former JETs or English teachers. What makes them any different from you? Not much but here is where you are going to fail and why I am not going to hire you:
- You didn’t grow while you were here: You had the easiest job on the planet for one, two or three years and your Japanese is still garb. How could you immerse yourself in the culture and not pick up at least a N2 on the JLPT. What you’re telling me is that you are not going to work on improving your skills much if hired.
- The JET Programme doesn’t count as work experience – Your parents and friends back home might think that working for a board of education in Japan is worth bragging about, but you’ll want to explain how you used this for more than a working holiday.
- You believe you are unique: Yes, you are special, but you are going to have to explain to me how your unique self is going to make my life easier or help the company.
- You didn’t proofread your resume: While this is obvious, or so you would think, but we get resumes and cover letters with mistakes on this all the time. If this is your attention to detail on a document intended to appraise your value, then I know how much care you are going to put into your other activities, so that spelling/grammar error just lost you a chance to work at my company. Seem a bit excessive? What will I expect from you if I need you to communicate with my client
- You Don’t Have a LinkedIn Profile (Or, Even Worse, It’s Not Complete): I appreciate that you don’t have much to fill out your profile, but we check this.
- You Didn’t Prepare For The Interview: For heaven’s sake, don’t just sit there nodding without having any intelligent questions prepared. If you do not have a pen and pad out taking notes during the interview, you’re not getting invited back.
- You Wrote a Thank You Note (But Only to Say Thank You): At least you were considerate enough to write a thank you note; however, you didn’t grasp what the thank you letter was for. This is an excuse to contact me again to: a) Add things that you forgot to during the interview (that “oh, I should have mentioned that” feeling after an interview. Use the Thank You Note to follow up; and b) Remind me why you wanted the job. I want you to sell me on why you’re the best. Ease my concerns and re-assure me that you want to work at my company for reasons other than a paycheck.
- You are selfish or clueless as to my needs: See number six above again. I’ve seen so many cover letters of job seeker saying they want the job to improve their language skills, and what they can get out of the company.
- You want any job – Many of us were in similar situations. We want to stay in Japan but teaching is not your calling. Maybe you do not know what you want to do with your life (or what you want to do doesn’t pay the bills). You had better come to the interview. speaking in terms as to why I would want to invest time and resources in you, as I don’t want to waste my time with you figuring out you want to do something else six months later.
Being in the JET Programme (or similar), you probably have all the skills you need to make a jump to a Japanese company or foreign multinational but you are not selling yourself right. You’ve demonstrated that you are “Japan Ready”; what I mean by that is that an employer is not going to have the same hesitation as hiring from overseas or a foreigner right off the boat…..you can deal with a certain level of Japanese bureaucracy, gained some language skills, presentation skills, communication skills, etc.
The last time I was at the JET Programme’s Career Fair at Makuhari, Chiba, I met a lot of qualified people that I actually wanted to ask to join my company if not for one of the reasons above. Be prepared, be personable and show why you would make a good addition to the company and you’ll have that job before you know it.