March 29, 2018, Posted by: James

Finding a job in Japan

It's sakura season in Tokyo this week. Colorful bunches of sakura flowers blossom on the trees, giving normally level-headed Tokyo-ites a reason to gather their friends for picnics and drinking at any park that isn't already overrun with people.

I had a proud tradition for the last 7 or 8 springs of going to several "hanami" parties, which literally means flower watching in Japanese, but this year i've been taking it relatively easy. One picnic last weekend, and another this weekend and i'm off to Taiwan for a short vacation. The flowers will be gone by the time I get back the weekend after, but the transience of the cherry blossoms is part of their appeal.

The end of the sakura season will also bring me to the end of my tenure at my current company, and usher in the new era of "freelance" working from home.

I've always hated job hunting, and when looking for work in the past, I ended up getting jobs through acquaintances and business associates. I always avoid burning bridges when possible, and it's worked pretty well for me thus far.

My latest job search was purely through online job hunting websites, and contacting recruiters that specialize in technologically capable applicants.

For most job hunters, your best bet for finding work in Tokyo is contacting a recruiter and letting them do a big chunk of the legwork for you. They tend to get paid off of a commission, and it seems to be the most common technique among my friends for finding jobs.

The real question becomes, what are you looking for?

A huge swathe of foreigners that come from north America to work find jobs as English teachers, before transitioning to other careers. I was one of the lucky ones that did phone interviews while in the states, and found a job at a normal Japanese company before even setting foot in Tokyo - but that was because I had a friend that was leaving the company and offered to forward my resume for me.

Most expats will agree that the ideal way to get a job in Japan is to work for a foreign country and have them send you to Japan on a short, or more lengthy, stint abroad at a foreign office. These are the expats that you will often find living in the "foreigner" areas of Tokyo, with apartments arranged and paid for by the company. This also allows a person to completely avoid the pain and suffering of finding an apartment.

But, really, what are you looking for? People often ignore the more philosophical or abstract questions about their lives, and worry about that they can get, but not what they want. If all you want is money, that's okay, and you should find the best paying job you can find. If all you want is freedom, find a company that will sponsor your visa, and then work the shortest and most flexible hours you can.

It's really all about balance. Although, I shouldn't be giving any speeches, because I haven't had a particularly ideal work-life balance since I arrived in Japan.

Hopefully that will change now that I will be skipping the daily commute to the office.

The first step for finding a job in Japan is signing up for every recruiter and job hunting site you can find. Finding a new job is a job in and of itself, and should be treated with the same amount of effort. Then ask every friend you have that's already in Japan if they know of anything. If you're already in Japan, ask any random person at the bar. It's really just a numbers game, and sometimes the dice falls in your favor.

Hopefully you will find a good job that suits you, if you're looking for one.

Hopefully we can all find a little more balance and a little more satisfaction in our lives.

Also, get your fax machine skills up to date, because they still fax documents here. Seriously.


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