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 like professional sports and that you are an amateur. Starting from this mindsight of humbleness will help you greatly in developing your networking skills and save you from years of overestimating your abilities, which may prevent you from finding the opportunities you want and need.
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 work 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 develop a network 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 network is time-consuming but a great long-term solution
Developing a network to find a job in Tokyo 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 going to networking events 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 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.
You do NOT need work experience to do networking
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.
How to network without work experience
Going back to the question of networking. 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.
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