When applying to jobs in Japan, you may have noticed that a majority of the jobs offered for foreigners are for teaching English as an ALT or in an Eikawa setting.
Fortunately, there are other options for those with a technical background who are interested in Japan but do not have a visa. Companies such as Lighthouse Global act as a middleman in the process to connect you with a Japanese company to start your career. However, it is quite different from a normal application. This process will be an internship to potential hire rather than a direct hire. This might sound bizarre or risky, but it allows an employer to have time with you before having to spend time and effort in providing a visa for you. This in turn allows companies to connect more frequently with foreigners, providing more opportunities for you.
In my case, I applied through the Japan Career Program that has a partnership with Lighthouse Global and was contacted within a month for an initial interview screening. During this interview, depending on the Japanese level that you indicated in the application, you will be interviewed in English or Japanese. You need to sell yourself to the recruiter as he is creating your profile that will be made public to your potential employers. If you have previous work experience, explain what you do or did and how that has benefited your previous employer, and co-workers. Discuss any skills that you have developed on your own or outside of work that may be of interest to potential employers. If you are fresh out of university, explain what you did in school, your skill sets, and technologies that you are interested in. Most importantly, explain to the recruiter why you want to work in Japan. Say more than, “I like Japan.” or “I am interested in Japanese culture.” to show that you are really interested in working and living here.
After the Interview
Once the interview is concluded, the hard part starts, waiting. There is not much you can do at this point other than contacting your recruiter to see if there is anything else that you can do to speed up the process. One thing I found is that if you had mentioned that you only want to work in a specific area, say Tokyo, for example, you may have a harder time getting contacted. Let them know what you are interested in and where you are interested in to get the best match but if you are not getting any emails, try broadening your potential options. Personally, I had stated that I only wanted to work in Tokyo, but about 2 weeks later, I contacted my recruiter and said that I would be fine anywhere in Japan to get my foot in the door. About 2-3 weeks from there, I was contacted for a position outside of Tokyo.
When your recruiter contacts you about an internship offer, they will provide the company’s information and some information about the position. You can either accept or reject this offer. If you reject it, you will simply be put back into the pool without any demerits. If you accept, the recruiter contacts the company to continue the process. Your recruiter will request several time frames in which you can speak with the company. For now, all the communication will be done with the recruiter as a middle man so you may not receive responses daily. I accepted my internship offer and began the interview process. I spoke to the CEO for my first interview and my manager for the second interview through Skype. Like the first interview with the company, the language is determined by the level you indicate. Keep in mind the time difference and don’t be late. Take a look at this article we wrote about presenting yourself well at interviews in Japan.
If you are fortunate enough to get a finalized offer for an internship, congratulations! Get ready to pack up your bags and head out to Japan. I cannot speak for all of the programs, but I was compensated for my flights and received stipends for living costs. However, depending on your spending habits and what you are used to in your home country, this may not be enough. Check out our article here for more information on how much money you should bring to Japan. You will not have a residency card or bank account in Japan yet so you won’t be able to rent an apartment. Usually, the company will assist you with finding temporary housing during the duration of the internship and provide support for anything that you may need.
As with all internships, work hard and learn as much as you can. You will need to prove to the company that you are worth hiring and the effort and time required to obtain a work visa. Make connections with your co-workers and make friends. Once the internship is over you will either receive an offer or not. If you receive your offer and want to continue working there, again, congratulations! You will receive your work visa through your host company and be able to start looking for more permanent accommodation. If you do not want to continue working there or do not receive an offer, don’t fret. Let your recruiting company know and they will search for a new company for you and you will restart the process.
Whether you come to Japan as an English teacher, an IT worker, recruiter, or salaryman, you will be able to experience the uniqueness of Japan and see if it is the right place for you to stay a little while. Just keep in mind that there are quite a few options that you can try if you are not having any luck with a direct-hire position. I haven’t yet completed my internship at my current company but I am staying positive that I will be receiving a full-time offer.