If you're a native English speaker then working as a language instructor in Japan can be a good option. The demand for English trainers is high and some of the large Japanese language schools even have recruitment offices abroad. If you’re qualified in translation, IT, modelling, gastronomy, or in a field of the entertainment industry, then you have a good chance of finding work in Japan. Knowledge of the Japanese language will of course increase your chances of finding a job, and it will also be an advantage if you’re already in the country.
According to Japanese labour laws a written Labour contract must be signed when an employee starts work. This document sets out working conditions, wages, working hours and retirement conditions. Should an employer fail to abide by the terms of the labour contract, the employee has the right to terminate the contract at any time.
The internet will be an invaluable resource in your search for work and is the standard way to find a job in Japan. The following recruitment websites will come in very useful:
When you're eventually invited for interview it's important to prepare properly. Bear in mind some of the differences between Japanese culture and the West. You are much more likely to impress your potential employer if you’re able to demonstrate that you’re a great team player, and have had sufficient contact with Japan, its people and culture, to fit in. You are less likely to impress if you try to show how your own individual skills and talents can improve the company. Your education, work experience, interests and hobbies are therefore relevant. Make sure you get to know the company well before the interview, by fully consulting their website for example. Be there ten minutes before the interview is due to start and dress conservatively. This means wearing a dress or suit and minimal make-up and jewellery for a woman, a dark suit for a man.
Don’t forget that Japan remains a very hierarchical society and this translates directly to the workplace: irrespective of their actual competence, an older person deserves more respect than a younger one, and men generally have higher status than women. The Japanese attach a great deal of importance to avoiding unpleasantness and confrontation, so it’s important to respect the hierarchy.
A handshake is an appropriate greeting in a business environment (not too firm!). A slight bow will also be appreciated.
Wait to be invited before sitting down.
While looking someone directly in the eyes is usually taken as an indication of confidence and trustworthiness in the West, in Japan it will more likely be seen as provocative and a sign that you don’t know your place, so avoid too much direct eye contact.
Keep a respectable distance and avoid touching.
It is important for the Japanese that you appear attentive when spoken to, so you should give an occasional nod or other sign to indicate that you are listening and understand.
Avoid interrupting the interviewer and don’t criticize your former employer.
Show your interest by asking questions about the job, the lines of authority within the firm, and what your future responsibilities would involve.
Exchanging business cards is a normal and important element of professional meetings in Japan. If you’re given a business card by a colleague or potential employer take a moment to look at it and treat it with respect, never bend it or write on it.
After your interview it can be a good idea to send some sort of thank-you letter.
This will be seen as a further indication of your interest in the position.
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