Working in Japan

Visit Japan

James from the ALT Insider gives his advice to help people with their efforts towards working in Japan.

My best chance to help people with their efforts towards working in Japan is by answering questions. A couple questions I get asked with some frequency are:

“I really want to work in Japan. I’m working on my degree but is there anything else I can do in the meantime?”

 “I’m been striking out on my job search for the past six months. Is there anything I can do to improve my chances?”

There are a ton of options for these situations. Some of them are obvious:

  • study Japanese;
  • join some Facebook groups for people already in Japan;
  • pursue further education;
  • perfect your resume and cover letter; or
  • get paid or unpaid experience in your field.
  • Those are all fine options. But there’s one that I’d put at least as high as any of those:

Visit Japan!

On top of just being an amazing place, jam-packed with incredible experiences, it really is the best place to prepare yourself (and your application materials) for a career in the country. Whether you’re already eligible to work or still need to finish your degree, it will increase your odds of getting hired by approximately six million percent.

Why? Glad you asked.

First, the simple fact that you visited the country makes your cover letter better than those who didn’t take the trip. Think about it; thousands of people apply to work in Japan from all over the globe, but how many of those people laid down the money to actually buy a plane ticket to visit? Having that fact on your cover letter shows any organization that you’re serious about your desire to work in the Japan.

Next, it allows you to get a better taste of what living in the country will actually be like. While the specifics will depend on where you decide to go, I’ve heard from many people relate that they felt much more ready to start their career in Japan after actually seeing it with their own eyes. There is a ton of value in not being so wide-eyed and slack-jawed when you actually do find employment and make the move.

Another key thing is that it will allow you to actually talk to actual employers. Even if you haven’t graduated yet, visiting employers is a very valuable exercise. If you already are eligible to work, this allows you to hand your resume to them in person, flash them your amazing smile, and let them know you are ready to interview on the spot to further explain why you are perfect for this position (and make sure you are ready when you go).

But even if you haven’t graduated yet, it still allows you to show how serious you are about landing a job in Japan. Here’s how you I recommend you go about it in this situation:

Find a list of some schools in the area of your visit. During one or two days of your trip, stop by a few of them and ask to speak to the person who handles the hiring of employees. You can call first as well, but be aware that the phones will usually be answered in Japanese – good practice though if you’re ready of course.

When you meet them, tell them you’re hoping to work in Japan in the future and would love to learn more about their school. Some people will say they are busy, but most will be willing to at least chat with you for a few minutes. Once you have their ear, just be real. Ask things you really want to know, what a normal day is like, just have a normal chat about working in Japan. After about 5-10 minutes (or earlier if things start to go stale), be sure to get their email and social media information, and keep in contact! This will ensure that you’ll rise above all the faceless resumes they receive, and you never know when a contact will turn into another important contact. Networking is a real thing.

Once you get your degree, these should be your first targets for application, and your first leads for possible positions. Do this as many times as possible during your trip, and you’ll have supercharged job leads in your back pocket just waiting for you to utilize after you graduate.

Finally, and most importantly in my opinion, visiting Japan is just plain fun. If nothing else, it will increase your desire to find a place to work so you can truly be more than just a visitor to the country. Maybe it will inspire you to step up your efforts of finding a job, studying to finish your degree, learning the language, or whatever else you might be doing to get your career started in Japan.

In short, if you want to work in Japan, go visit the country beforehand. The potential rewards are astronomical.

Peter Lackner is the Managing Partner at and has had management-level positions at major job boards in Japan including:, GaijinPot, CareerEngine and currently the managing partner at

Running a job board gives Peter the opportunity to speak with employers and job seekers every day and find out why some are successful and others are not. Speaking to both employers and job seekers has given Peter the ability to be able to see both sides of the hiring process. This is why exists - to help job seekers find the jobs they want and employers to find the candidates they need.

Peter is active in the ETJ (English Teachers in Japan organization), a member of JALT’s School Owners SIG and currently on the Executive Board of the Tokyo Association of International Preschools.

You can often find Peter speaking to groups on how to get a new or better job, and to employers on how to avoid making a bad hire.

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