Dec 13, 2012 - management, People, Society    No Comments

Finding a Job in Tokyo


Since I started taking care of the Swedish Youth organization YCN in Tokyo I get asked more and more “How to find a job”

This is of course not something that is surprising as many of us go to networking events for this particular reason. In fact it is common enough that if you are not looking for a partner at one of our monthly events chances are that you are there to either try and start or else further your career in some fashion.

I would say that the key to finding employment in any place in the world comes down to two basic things.

1. Know thyself

2. Know the market

3. Get your foot in the door


1. Know thyself

Knowing yourself and your value is something that can be quite difficult at times. Most of us tend to over-value our strengths and ignore our weaknesses when we look at ourselves in the mirror. We can do just about anything and more than likely better than most other people out there. Don’t worry though, everyone including me feel like this so even though you are wrong you are not alone.

Instead try and be honest with yourself. Perhaps you are better than most people in a social situation but you are just not really that stellar with numbers. If you can admit this to yourself then you are ready to either choose to go after something where you do not need this skill or start working on improving your weakness.

Knowing what you enjoy doing is sometimes an even harder thing. Some jobs have a higher social status than others and it is easy to fall into the trap of pursuing something that you are in fact never going to enjoy and therefore never be really good at. You might be able to fake enthusiasm at an interview but in the long run it will shine through in your performance.

What value do you really offer?

- Can you string together computers or make a program that reduces data input time?

- Do you speak Japanese well enough that you can handle all communications/translations with the foreign head office?

- Can you present products at trade-shows and to customers in a professional and convincing manner?


2. Know the market

Once you have understood yourself, your strength and skills it is time to study the market. Skills are valued differently depending on the market that you are in. If you have very high-level knowledge in a certain area (medicine, IT, mechanics, engineering) then weaknesses such as not being able to speak Japanese might very well be of less importance.

If however you are going after a more general position which involves a lot of communication then being able to speak Japanese will be a prerequisite to even apply for a position.

There are of course a number of jobs which do not require any Japanese such as English teacher or work in restaurants and bars. However since they do not offer much of a career path it is highly recommended that you study Japanese very very hard.


3. Get your foot in the door

I constantly get reminded of John Malkovich telling Witwicky in ¬†Transformers Dark side of the Moon “You want the job after this, but this is the¬†job standing in the way”

The perfect job, the one that you really really want is out there and yours for the taking. But what you need is a job, not a perfect job. So spread your search wider and go after opportunities in companies where you can move onto the next thing once you show them how great you really are.

It is up to you to decide if working in the mail room is an opportunity that if taken can be like a piece of coal turned into a diamond or if it is below your dignity.

It is easy to stand on the sidelines telling everyone how good you are but unless you take a chance and show with your sweat what you can do those are nothing but empty words.


As final words I would like to say that if you are planning to stay in Japan learn Japanese. I have been saying this to people for years and I can tell you from experience that those who take this advice and study are doing better and better while those who laughed at me are still in the same spot that they were when we talked all those years ago.

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