Ultimate Guide to Jobs in Tokyo
By Tyson Batino | Updated October 3rd, 2019
This is the ultimate guide to jobs in Tokyo. You will find almost everything you need from the job interview and cover letter tips, visa advice, list of all the job boards in Tokyo, and much much more.
Shortcuts to Section in this Article
- The job market in Tokyo
- Full-time jobs in Tokyo for foreigners
- Introduction to part-time jobs in Tokyo
- Every job board in Tokyo
- English teaching jobs in Tokyo
- Networking in Tokyo
- Using a recruiter in Tokyo
- Doing proper research on a company
- Internships in Tokyo
Links to Separate Articles
The Job Market in Tokyo in 2019 and 2020
Job hunting in 2008 sucked...
When I was looking for a non-teaching position ten years ago it was tough. I had passed the N1 level of Japanese and had an N2 level of speaking but even then it was hard to find companies willing to hire someone who was not a fresh graduate. The same challenges that applied to Japanese people who wanted to change jobs also applied to foreigners and the belief of companies in their staff working the same job for life was still extremely present.
Although I was hardworking and willing to do 60 hours a week, very open to feedback and willing to learn, and very hungry to develop a career after teaching for 5 years, being 27 years old and looking for a full-time at a Japanese company was not a good position to be. This was despite my Japanese language skills and looking for a job in Tokyo, which you would assume to be full of opportunities.
Easier Job Requirements for Foreigners in 2019 and 2020
The great news was that was 2008 and 2019 is a completely new ballgame that is in your favor. Looking for a job in Tokyo in 2019 is really a job seeker market. You needed N1 in 2008 just to get the interview and N2 was not high enough unless you had a great connection in the company who was Japanese. In addition to speaking Japanese, you also needed experience or to be really sharp and be a Japanese culture ninja because Japanese HR managers were very cautious in hiring foreigners and did not want to be blamed if the foreigner did not perform or did not understand the “rules.”
In 2019, Japanese companies are hiring many foreigners straight from Japanese school, university programs that teach in English, and foreigners who are here on tourist or working holiday visa. I have been seeing a ton of foreigners who are getting hired by the 100s and whose Japanese level and talent was not at the unreasonable levels expected in 2008. The biggest problem now is that companies are hiring foreigners, putting them in charge or marketing, sales, or programming and really not knowing what to do with them in general.
What are some of the job market changes in 2019
The decreasing population and less Japanese talent to choose from, the increase in the amount of companies who want or are doing business, the desire to not get left behind competitors who are expanding to foreign markets both domestic and foreign, relaxation of immigration policies and regulations, and the big influx of foreigners studying Japanese and traveling to Japan are probably some of the big reasons for the change. I would also say that the Japanese in general know that they need to open up the country more. The bad news is that no one really has a plan for how this is going to work and are trying to figure things out step by step.
The good news is that Japan is providing more visas for foreigners and you can learn more in our guide to Japanese work visas.
Japanese is Less Necessary in 2019 for Jobs
The main point is that finding a position that does not require any Japanese is definitely possible because of the increase in foreign customers and this number will only rise for the near foreseeable future. My word of caution is to choose a company that you will gain experiences that are transferable to other industries, so if any of the boom industries go bust, you will have an edge on the competition for finding a position once things come to slow down.
More foreigners are starting companies in Japan
There are many more companies now that are ran by foreigners compared to 10 to 15 years ago. There were very few operations run by foreigners then but those were more on hiring people from Asian countries. There are now more English speaking foreign company owners from all over the world and this had lead to more opportunities for foreigners in Japan.
More Japanese are creating companies that target foreigners
Strong English Teaching Industry
The English industry for teaching children still remains strong and there are still many job opportunities in Tokyo for foreigners who are native speakers and non-native English speakers as well.
We recommended checking out our post on English Teaching jobs in Japan.
Full-time Jobs in Tokyo for Foreigners
There are tons of jobs in Japan for foreigners in the service industry for tourists, recruitment industry, tech industry, and the English language teaching industry.
Do you need a Japanese resume?
You will need a Japanese resume for any positions that require higher than conversational level of Japanese or if you go the recruiter route.
Do you need to speak Japanese?
Many jobs in Tokyo require Japanese skills, especially if your main customers are Japanese or you will be interacting with Japanese clients.
The main type of positions that do not need Japanese skills are those where your customers are foreigners and you do not need to speak with Japanese clients, very high level positions where you have a Japanese secretary or staff to handle all the interactions in Japanese, or teach English in Japan.
English Teaching Positions
Many full-time English teacher positions in Japan require that you have a University degree, but some small mom and pop places are fine without it. You also need to decide if teaching English to adults or an ESL job in Japan teaching children is better for you. Some people just don't have what it takes to teach children and vice-versa. You can learn more about both positions in our ultimate guide to English teaching positions in Japan.
I have never taught before but would I get hired?
Having teaching experience does help you get the higher paying positions, but you do not need experience to get your foot in the door. Many schools are willing to invest their time and energy to train or hire an English speaking fresh off the airplane. The most important thing for them is if their students will like you or not. You can have all the experience in the world, but if you are a burden to be with, no one will want to learn from you. Take a look at our guide on how to get an English teaching job in Japan and it will help guide you from the application process up into the interview itself.
Can I apply for jobs from overseas?
Searching for a full-time position from overseas is simply saying you will have to spend more than 15x the effort to find a position. You will have to go the same route recommended as for domestic job searching but go through hassle to check to see if they hire from overseas.
Before you start the job search, learn about the Japanese visa requirements to save some time.
The good news is that Jobs in Japan does have a section where you can check for positions that hire from overseas here.
What full-time positions are there for foreigners?
- English teacher
- Car export staff
- Study abroad staff
- Apartment and housing staff
- Hotel staff
- Hospital aid staff
- Relocation staff
- Tour guides
Before you jump hardcore into your research for finding a job in Tokyo, make sure to know what options you have for the Japanese visa.
Full-Time Translation Jobs in Tokyo
One new type of job is for translators but the unique thing about this type of translation is that it does not involve any Japanese. Since most things have already been translated from Japanese to English in the housing and travel industry all they need is for people to translate those articles and content from English to your native language. This is a recent phenomenon and I have seen this type of job appear in Tokyo.
This type of position normally applies to people from European countries because there are many travelers from those countries and not many people who speak Japanese and that language. Asian languages tend to have an abundance of translators, so most things have already been translated into those languages.
The best place to look for job postings for travel companies are craigslist and gaijinpot. Here is another company that actively hires foreigners.
English Teaching Jobs in Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo and the great news is that the most common and plentiful job in Tokyo for foreigners also pays decently as well. English teaching positions and career opportunities should be the first place you start searching for jobs in Tokyo. There are many different types of teaching positions available in this big city and they range from teaching toddlers and children, teaching your average Tanaka and Suzuki, or to even university students and business executives.
Depending on who and the company you teach for, the range in salaries for English teachers differs significantly, so doing proper research on what teaching jobs in Tokyo are out there for can save you from making a huge mistake by accepting a position because the salary is nice, but the working conditions are tough. The more common action is people not knowing about the higher paying positions and not setting themselves up to get those positions one year later.
Some preschools pay more than $3000 dollars monthly?!
For example, there are pre-school positions that pay over 300,000 yen a month, but they usually only want someone who more than 1 year of experience. How do you position yourself and where do you look for these positions? On the other hand, many of the large corporation pay around 230,000 starting for teaching children and doing essentially the same job but slightly less involved.
Choosing the right career path
Understanding the English teaching industry can also help you make the decision on what career path to take. For example, you are moving to Japan with your Japanese spouse and child and your are expected to be the bread winner of the family. You will probably need to consider jumping into the recruitment industry if you do not have a super high in demand position for non-English speakers or business Japanese skills to compliment your medium demand work skills.
The main reason for this is that the teaching positions that pay an amount of salary needed to support a family normally involves teaching at a university or private school or having one of the magical preschool or business positions that pay $3200 dollars or more plus doing private teaching on the side.
The contents here is a short version of our ultimate guide to teaching English Jobs in Japan.
English Teaching Jobs in Tokyo for non-native speakers
Even if you are not a native English speaker, there are many full-time teaching opportunities for you in Tokyo. Many preschools, public and private schools, and after-school English programs are looking for English teachers and there are not enough native speakers to meet the demand. Most schools have also had great experiences with non-native teachers and so there are way more opportunities for decent paying English teaching positions.
It is hard to find positions for University and high school as a non-native but is still possible and you would have to check a website like Jobs in Japan or rely on your network to find those higher paying opportunities.
ALT Positions : Interac and Borderlink
English Teaching Jobs in Tokyo for native speakers
You will have no problems finding a full-time position unless you are a strange goose. Having worked as a recruiter and knowing many other recruiters, you really have to go out of your way to make the recruiter uncomfortable to not receive a position as a native English speaker for non-competitive full-time teaching positions. The best place to look for full-time teaching positions in Tokyo are Jobs in Japan and GaijinPot
Here are some other alternatives for full-time positions more focused on native speakers
Shane Language School
Mom and Pop or Teaching Positions Outside of Tokyo
If you are looking for a job at a mom and pop school or you really want to experience Japan in a rural area or somewhere outside of Tokyo, we highly recommend you check out the Jobs in Japan - English Teaching jobs board. They also have jobs from major chains as well and have a good selection of jobs in Tokyo as well.
Let us help you research the English teaching industry
Not enough information on teaching jobs? We dive into much more detail in our ultimate guide to teaching jobs in Japan. We talk about all the different types of full-time teaching positions from kids teacher to a professor and you can see how much each position pays and general requirements they have for job applicants here in Japan. After discovering what type of teaching job in Tokyo you want, you can check out our guide on how to get a teaching job in Japan.
I will also take an opportunity to give a shout out to my English school One Coin English which provides part-time jobs in Tokyo teaching adult students. We charge our students less than other schools, so the salaries are slightly lower than average, but the work environment is great and students are very appreciative with having affordable lessons.
Full-Time Marketing Jobs in Tokyo
There were almost no marketing positions available for foreigners in 2010, but lucky for you marketing is a high demand position. In the past, Japanese companies hired Japanese to do marketing to the local market but that did not always work as well as expected. Learning from this experience, more Japanese companies are putting more effort into hiring people from their target country or region to do marketing.
From a business point of view, bringing in foreigners to do marketing at their headquarters in Tokyo has not worked as well as most companies planned, but for you, there are still many job opportunities out there in marketing. The problem with many of these small and even medium-sized Japanese and foreign-owned companies is that the management do not understand marketing and therefore no one can train the new employees on how to do marketing. They also tend not to hire experience marketers because they are not willing to spend the higher salaries needed to attract good marketers.
What often happens is they will hire foreigners who match their company culture or who they like and assign them to do marketing without any clear vision other than bringing in customers. If you ever interview for a marketing position, especially you new grads out there, always ask what is your budget for marketing. Avoid any companies who say they want you to do marketing purely through free channels and without a budget because it takes money to bring in money and doing organic marketing is very tough for a newbie.
Entry Level Marketing Positions in Tokyo
Mid to High-Level Marketing Positions
Full-Time Computer Programming Jobs in Tokyo
There are many programming positions available in Tokyo for folders do not speak Japanese. There is a huge lack of programmers in Japan right now and companies both Japanese at foreign cannot find the number of programmers they need to expand their company.
The amount of programming academies and schools designed to teach beginner level foreigners how to program has increased. The goal is to bring you up to a level where you can operate your own and find employment as an entry level programmer. These schools charge a hefty amount but provide intensive courses that you would have to quit your current job to attend. However, you are able to find alternatives that are less intensive and will take much longer but you could do it while keeping your day job.
Most schools have a connection with companies who hire entry level programmers, so make sure to consider both their ability to teach you and find you a job in Tokyo for programming. Most likely they will introduce you to companies that have received a nice investment from investors to expand their company.
Here is a list of programming schools in Tokyo
Here are some places to find coding positions
- Jobs in Japan - more than 40 positions
Great article on getting your first programming job in Japan
Let us help you learn Japanese
In addition to awesome articles, we also provide the most affordable Japanese lessons in Tokyo at our branches in Shinjuku and Gotanda, Tokyo.
Full-Time Sales Jobs in Tokyo
Export Business Jobs in Tokyo
There are many companies involved in exporting something from Japan to a country near you. The most common type of export business that hires non-Japanese speaking foreigners is the used car export industry where companies in Japan export used cars, trucks, and other vehicles to foreign countries. They are looking for staff to serve as customer support using your native language or English or salespeople to find clients in your home country who are interested in importing used Japanese cars.
These jobs are often tough because you have to learn about export law and immigration. You also have to work when your client is working, so you may be working some strange hours during the night. People who do customer support positions do not make much, but you can find places who are accommodating schedule-wise.
You can check Jobs in Japan and Craigslist for export job positions in Tokyo.
Full-time Service Jobs in Tokyo
Apartment and Housing Companies in Tokyo
Companies like Sakura House and Oak house hire foreigners for full-time positions and they even provide full-time employment to people on a working holiday visa. When I went there to see what they offered for housing I was impressed to see so many people from countries all over the world. Those employees were hired to handle general emails in English and handle customers in their native language. They did not need to speak any Japanese at all because they had a team of Japanese staff who could speak English. Since they are all receiving an influx of foreign residents, they are almost always looking for staff.
I have not done extensive research, but some of these housing companies tend to offer discounts on your housing for employees.
This type of position also applies for the study abroad industry in Tokyo where companies are looking to bring in foreigners to study Japanese in Tokyo at a Japanese language school full-time. As long as there are people from your country coming to Japan to study Japanese, there are companies that are looking to find these students and introduce them to Japanese schools. If you find the right company, they may even send you to your home country to attend a school fair to attract students.
There are also jobs out there for real estate sales positions in Tokyo where Japanese is actually not required. You will only be targeting foreign individuals, companies, and investors who want to purchase property in Japan. Some of these people will be purchasing for personal reasons while others are doing it mainly for investment purposes.
Relocation consultant jobs in Tokyo
Do you know what a relocation consultant is? A relocation consultant is someone who manages a large chunk of the moving process to an executive or high level person of a large company. The companies normally pay the relocation costs and these companies support with everything from getting a phone, gym membership, moving companies, utilities, the paperwork for visas and registration and anything else that is involved with moving.
The time of these high-level people is extremely valuable and so they want their mind focused on the company both before and from the moment they arrive in Japan. They want to make the process of moving to Japan as simple as getting on a plane and having someone pick you up at the airport and taking you to a fully set up apartment.
Moving companies help you move and are normally a one person operation and do not hire foreigners full-time. Relocation companies organize all aspects of the move and therefore need to hire full-time staff to manage the process. I have searched online for these positions and they pop up from time to time but are not consistently posted.
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Full-time jobs in Japan for foreigners in the health care industry
Hospital Aide or Caregiver Positions in Tokyo
I am very neutral and accepting that Japan has its way and is often not foreign friendly. However, despite that, I am unable to recommend the hospital aid position unless you really need the money or Japan visa.
A hospital aid is someone who does work that does require the formal education of a nurse to accomplish. This will involve more of the care aspects of health care like carrying and washing the patients. You will be working in an all Japanese environment and your Japanese will not be good enough where you will be able to operate on autopilot and you will slow down your Japanese coworkers and they will get frustrated.
I am not saying that yelling at a person is fine, but when you conflate a stressful situation which is the unfortunate environment of healthcare in many first world countries with communication issues, you will have a lot of conflict and anger issues between staff. The Japanese staff are under pressure and they take out that frustration on the hospital aids.
Recruitment industry jobs in Japan for foreigners
Getting a recruiter or a headhunter position in Tokyo as a new graduate is quite difficult unless you speak both Japanese and English fluently. Many recruitment companies in Tokyo are resistant to hiring some young guns because the pressures of meeting sales quotas are too overwhelming for young adults.
Young guns in the recruitment industry are normally in their late 20s and have multiple years of professional experience, preferably in the area they will specialize in. When you join a recruitment company, you will be assigned to the biotech, finance, or some other field and you will specialize in head hunting executives and employees in that field for your clients. People in their late 20s and early 30s usually have a clear idea of what they want to do for their career or they have dependents they have to take care of.
Recruitment companies feel less anxious hiring someone who has a strong and clear vision of their future because that vision will help them survive and continue in the competitive recruitment environment in Tokyo. If you have never done a sales position, it can be a nightmare or a blessing, it is one of the hardest positions to do because you’re constantly being rejected by people whom most do not want to speak with you because you are wasting their time in most cases. From time to time, you find the right person at the right moment and help them find the position that provides the challenge or responsibility they are not getting in their current company.
The recruitment industry anywhere has a very high turnover rate because you have sales goals and your performance is black and white. Recruitment companies have to pay your salary and if you are not bringing in clients and money, you are not paying for your own salary. In the beginning, they will pay for your salary and train you as an investment for the future, but they have to use the sales income brought in by other recruiters support your development until you can pay for yourself. Obviously, they cannot wait forever and you will receive pressure to perform.
If you are good at networking and making connections, you can make some very good money in the executive recruitment industry. However, most people cannot endure the stress and the pressure of meeting your sales targets and the need to do it again and again month over month is extremely tough for people just entering the field.
Companies that prefer several years of professional experience
Companies that hire fresh grads and sometimes non-native speakers.
There are over 100 executive search companies in Tokyo, so there are tons of options.
Tourist industry jobs in Japan for foreigners
Hotel Staff Jobs in Tokyo
There are a good number of hospitality jobs in Tokyo and around Japan. Some higher end hotels in Tokyo hire foreign staff to assist with their international guests. Some hotels ask for Japanese abilities, but in general, they seem to be fine as long as you have conversational Japanese skills and business level or above English language skills. Hotels positions outside of Tokyo are usually seasonal with winter positions in Niseiko and summer positions in Okinawa.
The challenge with these positions though is that hotels use different names to describe the position, so you will have to search for them all. Here are some of the names we saw: Front Staff / Hotel Staff / International Reservations Consultant
Full-time hotel positions
- Jobs in Japan - Hospitality Jobs
Mainly part-time positions
Tour Guides and Travel Planner Jobs in Tokyo
Similar to hospitality jobs in the hotel industry, there are also a decent number of tour-based full-time jobs in Tokyo and Kyoto. Many require that you have conversational Japanese, but nothing more than that. Positions in the tourism industry can range from travel guides to travel coordinators. Travel coordinators manage the whole process of a trip from pre-arrival to return flight making sure that everything goes right for the customers who are paying to having everything managed and taken care of for them.
Part-time Jobs in Tokyo
There are tons of part-time jobs in Tokyo for foreigners in the tourism and service industries that do not require Japanese abilities.
What part-time jobs are there for foreigners in Tokyo?
You can find positions as a waiting staff, cook, hotel receptionist, cleaning staff, fast food delivery, convenience store, retail store, modeling and as a travel guide. Some coffee shops and cafes are looking for foreign staff as well like Blue Jam Cafe in Daikanyama. If you can speak some Japanese, you might even be able to get a part-time job in Tokyo at an izakaya or one of the beef bowl places that pay more than $13 or 1400 yen a hour for those who work after 10 PM.
For those with unique skills, you can also find a position in translation, freelancing as a photographer, designer or programmer, or marketing part-time. If you are super lucky, you might be able to find a paid design or marketing internship. Our Caucasian and black male readers here can also get a nice gig as a wedding priest - I am Asian and I have tried my best but I accept I do not match the stereotype.
What part-time jobs in Tokyo pay the most money?
Freelance, translation, and wedding gig jobs normally pay the highest in Japan but require the most previous experience. For people in university or new to the workforce, your best options for high paying part-time jobs are in teaching children. You can find a job teaching adults, but part-time children teaching positions in Japan normally pay more than other types of positions.
What are the limits to doing part-time jobs
Depending on your work visa and company, you may have some limitations to the amount of hours and types of work you can do.
If you are on a student or dependent visa, you are only able to work up to 28 hours and you would need to get work stamp from immigration. If you are married to a Japanese person or are the child of a Japanese, you are able to work any full-time job you would like.
If you have a work visa, you are normally limited to work only in the area your work visa designates you to. If you have a specialist in humanities visa, you have more flexible compared to other types of work visas in Japan.
People on a tourist visa are not allowed to work in Japan.
Where can I find a part-time job in Tokyo
You can check out the lists of job board and companies who hire foreigners in our ultimate guide to part-time jobs in Tokyo. There are also a ton of Facebook groups for jobs in Tokyo and you can easily find them by searching on Facebook. Here are some of the bigger ones.
Interested in Teaching English
In addition to producing awesome content for BFF Tokyo, my company also runs an English school called One Coin English that focuses on teaching adults. We do not pay as much as children teaching jobs in Tokyo, but we do treat our staff really well and our students are great and you would have less stress with us compared to other schools.
Learn more about teaching English part-time at One Coin English.
Part-Time Teaching Jobs in Tokyo at OCE
In addition to providing great content and information for foreigners, BFF Tokyo also runs an English language school chain that hires teachers from all over the world - more than 25 countries represented.
What job boards do you recommend for Tokyo?
Did you know that there are more than 30 job boards for foreigners in Tokyo and Japan? I was surprised to find so many after doing some deep research into what is available.
Many of the sites can be found on google, but some do not appear with a simple jobs in Tokyo search approach. You have to get a bit creative.
Lucky for you, our team at BFF Tokyo did the hard work for you and put together a long list of job boards for you and organized it based on what type of position you are looking for.
Job Boards for all types of foreigners
Here are a list of job boards in Tokyo that lists a bit of everything. If you are not a target for start ups or mid-career positions, these are the places to check.
Start Up Positions
Start up businesses are normally looking for sales people, programmers and developers, marketers, and designers. They may feature some other positions, but these are the types of people most start ups need. Once they become more established than they tend to hire other positions.
These job boards and listings specifically focus on programmers and developers.
Teaching Positions Only
These jobs boards only cover English teaching positions, but cover for the whole of Japan.
Entry Level Positions for Bilinguals
These are job boards that feature jobs for foreigners who can speak and read Japanese at an N2 level and N3 level.
Medium and High Level Positions
The job boards are for people with 5 - 10 years in an industry and have a business level of Japanese. Please note that most of the positions are for Japanese native speakers who are fluent in English.
Jobs in Japan Rocks
On a side note, we highly recommend you check out www.jobsinjapan.com, we are great friends with them and they are awesome people and you can find jobs from both large companies and small and medium size ones as well.
Professional and Career Networking in Tokyo
Let me start this section by mentioning that you are probably not as good at networking as you think you are. I thought I was good at networking until I met people who are masters of networking and it made me realize that I was an amateur. Think of networking in Tokyo as a professional sport and that you are an amateur. Starting from this mindset of humbleness will help you greatly in developing your business networking skills and save you from years of overestimating your communication abilities, which may prevent you from finding the opportunities you want and need.
Networking is like a spider web, the bigger and stronger your web is, the more opportunities and chances that will come your way. That being said, although it takes time to develop a solid networking in Tokyo or anywhere for that matter, knowing the right person can save you several hours to hundreds of hours with one quick phone call.
Most of the best job opportunities in Tokyo can be found through your network if you know the right people. Companies are always looking for talented people and even if the person you met does not have a job opportunity for you in Tokyo, they may know someone who does. Worse case scenario is that you get a warm introduction for a job interview.
You do not need work experience in the industry to network with others in that industry. It is gonna be harder because people will avoid speaking to you, but if you try hard enough, good things will happen.
Networking in Tokyo to Find a Great Job
Finding a Job is Easy, Finding a Great One is Tough.
Finding a position in Tokyo is easy if you have a University degree and can speak English fluently, but the challenge is finding a company that you really want to work for. For the job seekers out there reading this article, you should really focus on how to find a company that you would like to work for as opposed to just finding a job and Japan visa. The challenge is that most interesting and unique companies tend to hire new people through word of mouth and do not have to rely on online job advertisements because they can easily find people. Unfortunately, if you limit your job search through using online ads, you are limiting your search to companies who need help to find people as opposed to relying on the word of mouth.
If you are here on a tourist visa, you will unlikely have enough time to develop and use your network to find a good position. However, if you are here studying on a student visa or on a working holiday you have enough time to spend on networking in Japan and find someone who could potentially introduce you to a nice position after six months. Here are some options you have for full-time jobs in Japan.
Developing a Professional Network is Time Consuming
Networking in Japan to find a job is the most time-consuming way to find a position but it provides access to opportunities that other people do not have access to. The bigger your network becomes the more opportunities come your way, so in the long run investing in developing your network is a great long-term solution to having stable and quality employment in Japan.
The next question is how do I develop a network and that is a very good question. Developing a network involves helping and meeting a lot of people both online and in person. There are many networking events on the website meetup.com that are business related and job industry-specific.
Think about what industry you want to work in
Knowing what industry you want to enter will help you narrow your focus and develop your network in one area allowing you to go narrow and deep as opposed to shallow and wide. Also, the more events you go to in a narrow field, the more often you will run into the same people over and over again and the more they will get to know you. Since there are so many networking events, you really need to know what you want or else you will be all over the place or going to events that will not help you find a position.
The questions I like to ask are “what challenge or problem do you hope to solve by coming to this networking event?” “What type of person would you like to meet tonight for business?” “What is your biggest pain point for business?” I often ask this question to all the attendees I met and would look for opportunities to connect people at the event and similar to karma, people often went out of there way to help after I helped them find the type of people they were looking for.
If you do not know what industry you want to be in, you should probably not be networking in Japan as it may not be the best investment of time. People are not going to introduce someone who is still in life purpose or goal search mode nor will they introduce someone who mainly wants to get a Japan visa. People are taking a risk on their reputation when they introduce you to a friend of theirs who is hiring. Introducing someone who does match what your friend is looking for will anger them and have a negative affect on your business relationship. The more you understand this concept, the more successful you will be in networking. Understand what the other person wants and then move on from there as opposed to what is your need.
If you have one consistent message about what industry, position, and company you are looking for, it will be easy for people to connect you and know exactly what you are looking for. Also, when you meet them again in the future, they will remember what you want and I have experienced times where people would ask me if I am still looking for a staff member and mention that they had a friend that is looking for a job that matches my need. Seeing me made them remember their friend who was job hunting. I have also received emails after networking events from people who wanted to introduce their friend to work at my company.
For more on the topic of serendipity. Here is the podcast from the owner Jobs in Japan who talks about this concept from a teaching position point of view. Most of the university teaching positions and direct hire comes through word-of-mouth and not through online Job at and he mentions how it often comes up as a light questions such as “do you know anyone who’s looking for a job?” And this is where most of the removal positions are at and it is also the reason why is near the hardest get from a short term perspective.
Experience is Not Needed for Networking in Japan
Having work experience obviously helps but there are many ways to find a job in Tokyo as someone who does not have professional experience. For example, let’s say you do not have any work experience outside of teaching but have listened to online videos about various industries and are interested in marketing. You could take some free online courses on coursera or start building your own channel facebook or instagram to around 1000 followers. This would show the people you are meeting that you are sincerely thinking about entering that industry and are taking action to make it happen.
I sometimes meet foreigners who have more than 5000 followers on YouTube or Instagram and no experience outside of part-time jobs. If they were to ask me for an entry-level job position in marketing, I would have no hesitation in introducing them to someone who is looking for an entry-level marketer because they have taken actions that indicate they are interested in the industry and show future potential for doing well in that industry.
Networking in Japan without work experience
Going back to the question of networking in Japan. The best way to network as someone who has no professional experience is to read articles like this one that give you a straight up view of the job market. The second way is to talk to as many people as possible about their company cultures, so you get a nice view of what is a great company to work for and what company would suck to work for. People love to talk about themselves, so you will have no problem getting people to share about their work experiences.
Make a list of the traits of good companies and the traits of companies or work environments that are not enjoyable or beneficial and use this going into an interview for a position. This will give you a basis and structure to find what you are looking for and prevent you from making a big mistake. You can search wide and talk to people from many different industries who are in entry level positions to see what is a good match for you and when you what you want, you can start attending more events for the industry that gains your interest. Additionally, the more events you attend in one industry, you will know what topics people talk about and that will make you sound more knowledgeable and easier to introduce for a position.
Another technique is to read about the speaker if the event has one, and ask good questions related to your industry and other people in the room will notice. More than 50% of the questions asked at events are really generic and could be read online, but if you can ask a question that online that speakers knows that you will set yourself apart from the other people in the room. Doing the above things will make a huge difference and distinguish you from the other job seekers in Tokyo.
Getting a Work Visa to Japan
The types of employment you can do depends heavily on what type of work visa you have. People with a work visa often can only work in one industry and one common example is for people with an instructor job in Tokyo. They cannot teach English outside of the education institute without a special exemption that you would need to obtain from Japanese immigration.
Below is a quick summary of the different work visa types that applies to most foreigners looking for jobs in Tokyo. There are many Japan visa types that are not work related and we go into much more detail about all your visa options to coming to Japan in our article on Japan visas.
Student Visa and Working Holiday
Additionally, did you know that someone on a student visa can only work up to 28 hours a week and a single minute more? This 28 hour rule also applies to a person on a dependent visa. However, if your spouse is a Japanese person, you are able to do whatever job you want and work as long as you want. People on a working holiday visa as well can work full-time, but will often notice that their options for full-time jobs in Tokyo is not as wide as someone on a normal work visa. I also forgot to mention that people on a student visa can work but need to get a stamp from immigration giving you permission to work in Tokyo
University Degree Makes it Easy
People who want to get a visa to Japan often get turned down for one simple reason. They did not graduate from a community college or do not have a university bachelor degree. As long as you have an employer who is willing to sponsor your work visa, you will have no problems with a bachelor degree. If you a 2 year trade or specialty school degree, you can only get a work visa if your specialty matches the industry of the job offer. So for those that have a specialty school degree, you will not likely be able to get a teaching position unless you studied teaching for 2 years.
There are many ways to come to Japan
The good news is that there is one way to get a visa without a university degree, but it involves teaching or working in the industry for 3 years full-time before coming to Japan. This is part of the skilled labor initiative, but you need good documentation to prove and have employers willing to mention and provide documentation. Come learn more about this and other ways to get a Japan visa.
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Can recruiters help you find great jobs in Tokyo?
Recruiters in Japan can help find some really nice jobs in Tokyo, but they cater to two types of work positions. The first type of positions are for those who have 8 to 15 years of experience in a certain field and are specialists in that area.
The second type of people are those who have just graduated University and are looking for entry-level positions. depending on which bracket you are in, the type of recruiter that you will talk to you is different.
Executive recruiters in Tokyo
Executive recruiters in Tokyo focus on hiring for positions four tiers and above. In other words your bosses, bosses, boss and above levels, which are usually vice president and director-level positions for marketing, finance, HR, and other specialized positions. If you are in an executive role in a company, you are already being headhunted and scouted nonstop and it is almost unavoidable because of how much money is involved. if you are not being headhunted or being contacted for these types of position then you are probably not an executive-level employee.
This is the high end and real cutthroat area of recruitment in Japan because the salaries are over 100,000 US dollars and the kickbacks for recruitment companies are often 30% of your first year's salary. Not your monthly but yearly salary which may sound like a lot but recruitment companies have to pay the salaries for training new agents and for nonperforming recruiters who are bringing in less money than is being spent on them.
The salaries for successful executive recruiters often surpass 10,000,000 yen yearly but it is a lot of hard work and takes many years to develop your network to the point that it starts to bring your new candidates through word of mouth. New recruiters may not even make one successful introduction in a whole year.
Just for the readers of BFF Tokyo, I did some investigative journalism and put myself on the job hunting market to do some research for you on what the process is like working with an executive recruiter.
Entry-level recruiters in Tokyo
On the other end of recruitment are recruitment companies who are looking for foreigners to fulfill entry level positions. If you are someone who is just graduating from college and looking for a starting position or if you are an English language teacher who has high Japanese abilities they may be able to find you a position in a Japanese company. Recruiters for entry level positions normally look for people to work at companies that have more than 10 employees. Companies under a million dollars in revenue cannot afford the introduction cost for new employees.
How the system works is that they charge the company for one month of your salary similar to how apartment agents charge you for one month of rent. Since companies have a set budget for salaries it usually comes from your first year salary and not from an outside budget.
These companies often hire foreigners from non-English speaking countries and if you can speak Japanese fluently these agencies are usually the way to go for quick introductions. The only flaw with their system is they get paid when a company hires you as opposed to being paid when finding you the right company, so your goals and their goals are not perfectly aligned.
One large benefit is that these companies often do seminars on job interviewing, job hunting, and working in Japanese companies and sometimes the training is very good because they want you to get hired as soon as and move onto the next person. Be aware that they sometimes charge a lot of money for seminars while others they offer for free. Some provide these training for free.
These companies focus more on quantity and have a wider net since they are targeting entry level positions. Recruiters here definitely make more money but since you net is wide you will not have to go through cold calling hell. If you can handle rejection and doing cold calling you may able to get a recruiter position in the executive end of recruitment. Here are some companies that assist with entry level jobs in Tokyo.
Recruiters do not provide introductions for entry-level corporate positions
However, these companies will not introduce you to large Japanese corporation because large corporations usually use job ads to find employees on their own. Companies who use recruiting companies for entry level positions usually have more specific needs than a corporation. corporations often do not know what the division they will introduce you to until months after hiring you and will try to just gather large amounts of people applying to non-specific positions and then assigning people afterwards. Additionally, they already have a team to do recruitment for entry level positions.
Corporations often use recruiters for higher level positions because most executives are not using job boards and are often very comfortable in their position and are not actively seeking a position. Your job as an executive recruiter is to try to sell them the benefits of jumping ship.
Recruitment Industry in Tokyo
We go into more detail about recruitment agencies and the recruitment job market in Tokyo and this may help you in taking the next step in your career by showing you what opportunities you have for jobs in Tokyo through a recruiter.
Finding the Perfect Recruitment Consultant Agency
Now that you understand the difference between an executive and entry level recruiter, the next step is to find the perfect recruitment agency for you. Many people do not realize how equally big the decision of changing their job is compared to other things like buying a home. For this reason, we have noticed that many job seekers who approach recruitment consultants and agencies are completely under prepared for finding a job in Tokyo through a recruiter.
Finding the right recruitment agency involves knowing what type you need their help brekaing into and doing a deep self-evaluation to find out what you want. We discuss about the different type of recruitment consultant agencies in Japan and provide a checklist of self-reflection questions to ask before reaching out to them to help you find jobs in Tokyo.
Finding the Perfect Executive Consultant in Tokyo
Step 2 in using a recruiter for finding a job in Tokyo is to choose the right recruitment consultant. Now that you have done the personal deep dive into what you want for your career using the questions in the article in the previous paragraph, you are now ready to interview recruitment consultants to find the right person who will help you find the right opportunities.
We prepared a list of questions to help you distinguish between a good recruiter and a bad recruiter and another set of questions to determine how knowledgeable they are which you can use to compare recruiters before you decide to choose one. They are more than a few bad apple recruiters in the Tokyo area, and we understand how annoying they can be. However, we request that you treat the recruiters time with respect and you never know, they may help you find a job in Tokyo in your time of need.
Jobs in Tokyo - My Experience with Robert Walters Japan
What I do for the readers here at BFF Tokyo... If I am going to help you find some jobs in Tokyo, I will have to practice what I am preaching.
I had been declining interviews to meet with recruiters from Robert Walters Tokyo for years. They continued to send me job offers throughout the year and received one just as we were preparing our using a recruiter in Tokyo guide. I decided why not and I share my journey meeting a Robert Walter's recruiter in person and some tips on how to prepare for your first meeting with a recruitment consultant.
Why Robert Walters Japan? I have had friends who have worked for them and some friends who have just started working there. They are one of the most famous recruitment agencies in Japan and are well known for their professionalism. You never know, they may recruit me to do their PR with all this promotion.
Doing Proper Research on Companies
You do not like your job because you did not do enough research before you signed the contract
I often meet foreigners who really dislike the position and company they are in. In most cases, they found their job in Tokyo through one of the traditional ways of finding employment such as through an agency, jobs fairs, or through online ads or other platforms where companies need to pay to find people. The most common reason I found for a person not liking their job was because they did not know what type of position they wanted before signing the work contract and was more concerned about finding a position as opposed to finding the right one.
This is a mistake you will make a lot in your 20s because you often do not know exactly what you want yet because you have not experienced enough work environments. After experiencing multiple and hearing from people who had great and bad experiences, you have a clearer idea of what type of boss and company you would like to work for. I discovered that most people who disliked their job did not know or understand the company culture they were getting into before signing the contract.
What ended up happening was that their main goal was to find a company that would sponsor a work visa and in the end they got what they thought they wanted....a work visa. Their main goal was not to find a company that offered interesting or challenging work, so they ended up finding a position that was neither not interesting or challenging unfortunately. Tough love from an older brother here, but you often get what you are looking for.
To summarize, finding the good jobs in Tokyo is first knowing exactly what you want and then thinking backwards to guide your research to focus on things that are relevant for you goal. Portraying one clear message about who you are and what you are looking for in your resume and LinkedIn profile creations and networking. Many companies will say no to you, but when you find one that is a match, your needs and their needs will match more strongly than with other candidates and you will more likely find the position you can grow in and will want to remain in for multiple years.
Finding a workplace that is inspirational is tough
Many Westerners and especially Americans want to work for a workplace that is inspiring. A place that is inspiring is by definition a place that knows exactly who is the lawyer and where they want to be and that excites other people and wanting to join them in the journey. People who are inspirational are not going to want to hire someone who does not know want to see what they want to do because not knowing when you want to do is not inspirational. That is the unfortunate paradox of the work environment where the people who need inspiration are unable to attract the attention of the workplace that is inspirational. I am sharing this information with you because I do not want you to waste months years and maybe decades of your life working for a place that does not bring you joy.
Finding an Internship in Tokyo
Internships are hard to find in Tokyo because they are not actively posted on job boards unless the company is serious about hiring an intern and is willing to pay money to post it on a job board. Most of the internships I discover in Tokyo are those being done by friends or running to random posts on the internet.
Know What you Want from the Company
In my experience interns do not do enough research about the industry they will intern in and often approach it with a I will figure things out attitude. There is nothing wrong with the exploratory approach, but I often feel that interns would get more job experience if they provide the company a clear idea of what they want to work on. Examples of this could be the branches of marketing mentioned above, but narrowing it down even more would be more effective.
To show what I mean by having a clear idea of what work skills you would like to develop, here is an example.
"I want to do paid ads marketing. I would like to do research on the target audience, create an ad, and test multiple variations. I would like to launch ads on Facebook, google, and Instagram.
If an intern requested something like this, it would be easy to coordinate a plan where they could get work experience that would help them achieve their goal while helping me build the business at the same time. However, this has almost never happened and we have to figure out together what they are truly interested in after bringing in an intern. This usually takes over 60 hours because they are not sure what they want to do as well and we have to test various areas out. Having someone who knows what work experience they want from the internship would make it much easier for the company to choose an assignment.
Why Should I Do an Internship in Tokyo?
For someone who is interested in business or marketing, you cannot get real world experience as a university student and your only option to get hands on work is to do an internship. Some university programs have a hands on approach to learning work skills as opposed to academic, but these types of programs are not the norm. I wish universities would provide this type of education, so students would not have to do an internship in addition to taking university courses. However, until that happens, an internship would have to fill the need for practical experience.
Should I join a large company or a startup?
The great thing about startups is that they will allow you take more risks and explore a wide array of social media channels because they do not have to worry about doing everything on brand. They will let you do things from the bottom up and you can test what works and what does not. The only downside about startups in Tokyo is that they may not be able to mentor you either because they are busy or because they may not know much about marketing themselves!
I often see people doing marketing internships and ending up having a friendly company, but not one who can accelerate their marketing learning. You can ask the company about what training they provide and this will pretty much answer your question about how much support they can give.
Not surprisingly, the opposite would apply for a company bringing on an intern to join their marketing team in Tokyo. They have several full-time staff working on marketing projects and can provide feedback and guidance on learning marketing. They may even pay money or provide other benefits compared to a startup. The only small downside is that they will have a specific area they would like you to focus on and if they are paying a salary, you will probably be doing work that no one else wants to do!
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We provide the most affordable Japanese lessons in Tokyo at Japan Switch. We have branches in Gotanda and Shinjuku.
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