Jobs in Japan: Use your time well and keep on going
When searching for a job, you’ll often have to deal with a fair share of rejections. We talked with Nizza about Japanese practice, work culture in Japan and the importance of not giving up.
Read on to learn about:
✔ Benefits of studying in Japan
✔ Becoming an English Teacher
✔ Using job portals
✔ Not getting discouraged
✔ Finding a job you love
and much more!
Q: Congratulations on your job offer! Before we get started, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Okay, I’m Nizza, I’m from the Philippines. I’m 25 years old and my major in the Philippines is Banking and Finance. I worked in a bank before for 5 years and then I decided to switch my career because you know, working in a bank there is a lot of stress, the work load is high and there are a lot of people coming to the bank every day. Aside from that traffic is a major problem in the Philippines which also added to my stress (laughs).
Q: What made you interested in Japan?
I was really interested in Japan. My family and friends were always aiming to go to Japan more than any other country because, you know recently, going to Japan is one of the trends, right. This is my third time to come here. My first and second time I came as tourist and reacted like most first timers here “Wow, Japan is so nice and so clean, and the food is really oishii and the people are so polite”. From that time I started to dream about staying here a bit longer than a tourist, so I applied for a student visa and I am happy that they approved my visa and I can be here.
Q: When did you start studying Japanese?
I studied Japanese for two months in my country, learning Hiragana and Katakana, and took the N5 before coming to Japan. The school required me to take the N5 to show that I know the basics of how to read and how to write in Japanese, because they do not teach that here.
I knew how to read and write but I was not good at it. It was like I was just playing around or something (laughs). I was not serious about it.
Studying in Japan
So, I came to Japan last year in April and this April I will finish my one-year program here at Linguage Japanese Language School. In other schools they usually offer two-year programs, but this school only offers a one-year program.
It’s good because we don’t have to pay for an extra year of tuition but they cover the same contents as the two year program so it’s really fast and it was quite difficult for me to keep up when I came to Japan – 全然わかりません – I couldn’t understand anything.
In Japan you can hear Japanese all the time and there are Kanji everywhere. In the Philippines we are speaking just English and Tagalog so it was difficult for me but coming here was really nice because I could practice.
Q: How did your Japanese improve in the year you have been here?
Now I’m at N3 level, conversational Japanese. I took the JLPT N3 last December and we are just waiting for the results (laughs). My Japanese is still not that good because most of the time I am speaking in English and cannot practice my Japanese very well.
I hope I passed but if not it’s fine I just need to study a lot more, more than what I am doing right now. What matters is that I can communicate with Japanese people and can read some Kanji.
I am teaching English part-time to professionals in Japan and kids and sometimes when the kids don’t speak English well I have to use Japanese. Often I can’t even understand what they are saying because they speak so fast. I can really practice myself there.
How the children speak is the normal way and at school, we learn polite Japanese. Both are really different but it’s good to practice how to speak casually and politely.
Not all Japanese people can speak English, so you have to adjust yourself to speak a little bit of Japanese. They will appreciate that. I am still not confident about the N3, but I’m really hoping I could pass.
Taking the JLPT
Q: What was most difficult about taking the N3?
The N3 was quite difficult for me. I had been studying Japanese for only 8 months here and at N3 level there are no furigana and its all in Kanji and I cannot read all those Kanji yet. At school the pace is really fast. Every day we study around 30 Kanji, so you have to memorize them but it’s really hard to balance work and study time.
Also, I am teaching English part-time and the construction of sentences in English is quite different from Japanese, so it’s confusing for me sometimes (laughs).
Q: How do you keep up with that workload?
You have to balance your time. Last year our class was 9am to 12pm and then after that from 2pm up to 9pm I was teaching in English, so I didn’t have much time for studying to be honest.
Nevertheless, I am aiming to have a high score here at Linguage because at this school they want you to have high score always, they want you to study, study, study because they think that learning Japanese is really important.
Which is true! You need Japanese to get a permanent job in Japan.
The teachers know that, so they want students to study hard.
Q: Do the teachers support students if they have problem or cannot keep up?
Yes. Sometimes we are only three students, sometimes we are many. In a big class it can be difficult to keep up with the lesson because some of the students are slow learners and some of the students can scoop up a lesson right away, so the average is not the same.
At times it is difficult for me to ask questions because I ask questions about the previous lesson, but other students already know it. So, the others have to wait for me because I ask such questions. But the teachers will help you and answer your questions about the lessons.
When it’s hard to understand and also I search online for an English explanation for a grammar point or the story behind a Kanji so I can memorize it. Some teachers speak a little English but many do not and they teach us all in Japanese from the start. Especially when I came to Japan assumed that they would speak a little bit of English in class. That came as a shock but now it’s fine and I’m okay with full Japanese.
The Job Search
Q: How did you look for jobs?
I always go to job fairs, and look on Gaijinpot, Jobs in Japan, all the websites here in Japan, I tried them all. Every day whenever I am free, I am searching for job offers online and submit my resume.
Last year in November I went to a job fair Gaijinpot held in Shinjuku. There I submitted around 10 resumes and three companies replied to me and I could interview with two of them. In the end, they said: “Unfortunately…” – I had a lot of rejections. It’s fine for me.
Q: How many applications did you send in total?
(Laughs.) A lot! Like every day 50-70 resumes. Because every day I submitted maybe 10 resumes on Gaijinpot, and I also used other websites like Jobs in Japan. They always replied to me, but every time it said “Unfortunately…”. But it’s fine, just keep on applying and passing your resume to companies and someone will reply to you.
Q: And you also went to job fairs?
Maybe 5 job fairs. Not all the job fairs were for teachers. I also went to a job fair in Shibuya that was for hotel, factory, and caregiving jobs. In total I interviewed with around six companies. Four for English jobs and two for hotel jobs.
Even though my previous job is different from what I am doing right now, I simply enjoy it. Whenever I teach kids it’s like we are just playing, and I feel happy. I am always trying to make nice lessons, enjoyable and informative.
Q: Did your school help you with your job search?
Yes, the teachers supported us a lot. After every examination they were talking to us students one by one, all in Japanese. They interviewed us about how much we studied Japanese, our part-time work, etc. From that they recommended us jobs based on our Japanese level.
Before, my Japanese was not very good so at first, they always gave me hotel or restaurant jobs. They even introduced me to an agency that helps student visa holders to get a permanent job. In the end, I didn’t use the agency because I would have had to pay them and they couldn’t guarantee that I could get a job.
The school is really trying to introduce us jobs, hotel or restaurant jobs if you don’t know that much Japanese, IT jobs for my IT classmates, etc.
During the trip we go to five companies and stay one hour at each of them. There we hear about the whole company and we can also submit our resumes to them. But it was difficult to get in because they require N3 or N2 level of Japanese and would choose the person who can speak Japanese better. If you pass the JLPT N2 I think it is really easy for you to get a job here, but if you don’t it’s really hard because they require you to speak conversational to business level Japanese.
Q: For you, all the hard work seems to have paid off since you have a job offer!
Yes! I got a job offer at a big English School that supports and sends assistant language teachers (ALT) to public schools. The interview process was quite difficult because you have a lot of competition. There are many people here in Japan who can speak more Japanese than I do, there are Americans and other people who can speak better English than me, so you have to fight to get a position.
I am now taking online training to prepare for my job. In February the Board of Education of Japan will announce how many ALTs they need for this April batch and the next batch will be in August this year. So, I am waiting to hear if I will be in the April batch or if I start in August. Either way, they are currently processing my papers and completing all my requirements, so I am happy about it.
Q: How did you find this job?
Linguage Japanese Language School always supported me with finding jobs, like my part-time job at the restaurant, but to this school I applied by myself. My Filipino friend introduced me to my new company, because she was hired last year and she said why don’t you try to apply, they are still looking for new ALTs and Japan needs many teachers.
I applied. I just tried it. I sent my resume to them and they replied to me.
Interview and Job
Q: How was the interview process for you?
It was really different from my country. At home we only have 1-2 interviews but here there are usually 3-4 interview rounds. The first interview was all in Japanese, the second interview was with the coordinator of the school and from then it was English. I did a grammar test, spelling test, a teaching demo for 5-10 minutes and I passed.
After that they told me all the requirements and documents I need to submit, like my passport info. They started to process my requirements last year, like two months ago and they keep updating me and regularly send me online training so I can prepare for my new job here in Japan.
The position they offered me is in Ibaraki, it’s around 2 hours from here so I think it’s fine. I always wanted to try to live in the Japanese countryside.
Q: Did the company expect you to speak Japanese?
At the first interview they interviewed me in Japanese as well because they wanted to know my Japanese level. When I talk with Japanese teachers, I will speak Japanese at work but with the students it will be English.
As an ALT I am not allowed to speak Japanese during the lessons because the students think that you don’t know any Japanese words, so you speak like all in English, the same way teachers here only talk in Japanese, I think. But I am not alone the classroom so if the students don’t understand what I am saying the Japanese teacher will step in and explain.
Japanese Work Culture
Q: Do you think you part-time job helped you get your full-time position?
Yes, it did but as ALT my job is to support the primary Japanese teacher so I think the work culture will be really different. They might be really strict and serious but I want I want to play around with the kids, be happy and make the class fun for them.
I also work at a restaurant in Japan and I know that treatment and expectations are different if you are just a tourist or a coworker. You have to adapt to it. When I came to Japan, I tried to adjust myself to the Japanese people, their culture, how they talk, and how they act.
I guess I am just really nervous.
Q: What do you feel is different about the way Japanese people are working?
The Japanese people are really serious about work. They are always はやくはやく. At the restaurant it’s always like that, especially when you have a lot of customers coming you have to be fast. Sometimes one Japanese coworker tells me to do one thing and another tells me to do something else. Then I don’t know what to do first.
I feel like some also don’t want to talk to you because you are a foreigner. I am not saying this is a general thing because I have Japanese friends as well. But I found it hard to talk to or be friends with some Japanese people I have worked with because they can seem really closed.
I think it’s easier to talk with young Japanese than with older people. They seem less strict and they want to learn English, so they talk to me. I wanted to learn Japanese, so I talk to them. Practicing each others language like that is really good experience. I learned about their culture and I got a lot of knowledge from that.
Q: What did you find the most difficult during your job search in Japan?
Mhh, difficult is that I have a lot of competitors in Japan. A lot of foreigners are from here and English is not my mother language so its really difficult to be an English teacher here.
But I worked with it and I put a lot of effort into my job search and prepared, so I am very thankful that I got this job. I am lucky to have one. Some of my classmates don’t have an offer for a permanent job yet.
Also, one of my colleagues here, he will start at Google in Japan, so he is really lucky because the interview was all in English. I think he is really lucky because he just finished college and got here and his first job is at Google, wow right.
Q: What was the biggest challenge for you?
I think the language. Japanese skills are the number one factor they are looking for, and experience. If you have a long experience especially in teaching, they will hire you right away. If not, they will ask you to come to a lot of interviews before you pass.
My teachers at Linguage Japanese Language School always help us to practice 面接 especially in Japanese. In our class they teach us and practice Japanese interview with us so it’s really good and they even help with writing a Japanese resume. That way, whenever we apply to a Japanese company, we already have the Japanese resume. They give us a lot of help.
They also offer many jobs to us. We have a bulletin here where they post offers. If you don’t have a part-time job, they will help you find one. If you need help for hospitals who can speak English, they will help you and any problem you can ask them anything and they try to help. That’s really good.
Q: What helped you the most during your job search?
My friend in the Philippines, because she always updated me about the interview steps, what comes next if I pass and she always told me to go for it and to not lose hope.
She said that it’s natural to get rejected, so apply and apply, because you are there in Japan. You are lucky! We are in the Philippines and its very hard for us to apply but you are there in Japan, so you have a big opportunity to get a job. She always said that. That’s funny.
Job Search Advice
Go for it
Q: What advice would you give to other job seekers?
I always told myself to not lose hope because you will get a lot of rejections. Just study well, especially Japanese because it is really important and if you want to have a job at a Japanese company here in Japan. They expect you to be able to read Japanese and to write Kanji and many companies won’t accept you unless you speak Japanese very well.
So, you have to put a lot of effort and time into learning Japanese. Also, try to go to job fairs, because there you can see how they conduct interviews in Japanese and get some practice, so it is a really good experience for you.
I think we all have to go outside of our box because if you cannot help yourself no one can help you, only yourself. So, believe in yourself and be confident. Maybe at some interviews they might think you are arrogant or something but be confident and pretend that you know already (laughs) everything about the interview and try to do your best to get the job.
Remember that we are lucky to be here in Japan. The Japanese immigration is really strict right now and there are a lot of people who get rejected.
Make it count
Also, there are many people that have to leave Japan because they did something illegal, so I want to say that please follow the rules here in Japan, its really important. I mean, we students are only allowed to work 28 hours and if you extend that it’s not good.
Eventually the police will know that you are doing something illegal and Japan is really strict so if they find out that you are doing something illegal, they will send you back to your country.
You spent a lot of money here, you spent a lot of time and effort to come here, so don’t waste your opportunity. You are in Japan, so do whatever you can to get a permanent job.
You want to work in Japan?
Find out how others got their jobs!
■ Job Fairs and IT, Earlwin from the Philippines
■ Online Application and Apparel, Clemence from France
■ IT and study schedules, Kevin from the Philippines
■ More job-hunting advice from your Senpai