Tokyo Dev

by Paul McMahon

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Entry Level Jobs in Japan

Since writing this article, I've written Getting your first programming job in Japan, which goes into a lot more detail than this one.

When I was first looking for a job in Japan, I was surprised by the lack of entry level positions. In fact, I think the job I got was the the only position recruiting a “junior developer”. After understanding how Japanese companies recruit university students, I now understand why this is the case.

Japan has a peculiar system known as 新卒一括採用(しんそついっかつさいよう) where university students are recruited on mass. Rather than being hired for any specific position, students are hired under the special banner of “new graduate”. The first three months of employment normally entail learning the company culture, after which they’ll be dispatched to specific positions.

Companies will recruit students while they are still in university. Students will normally begin the job hunt during third year, with the hope to secure a job offer by the end of academic year. If they receive a job offer, normally the only thing they need to do is ensure they graduate, which in Japan is basically guaranteed.

However, if they don’t secure employment by graduation, they enter something of a no-man’s land. They are neither “new graduates” nor “mid-career”, the two acceptable designations when job hunting. So extreme is the bias against these people that students who have not received an offer may delay their graduation or go on to graduate school simply to give them another chance.

Given this situation, it’s not surprising that I wasn’t able to find entry level positions: by in large they simply didn’t exist. So if your not Japanese, how can you land your first job here?

Come to Japan

Being in Japan is pretty much a prerequisite to getting a job here. There are many opportunities to be had here that you won’t find on any job board, and even if you do manage to find a position online, anyone who is already here will automatically be more attractive than you.

Academia

Compared with the corporate world, it seems to be relatively easy to get a research position in Japan. This is out of my area of expertise, but if you currently have a field of research you are in, you might try asking any professors in Japan in the same field if you can get a position with them.

JET Programme

This is a government run programme that brings international people to often-rural areas of Japan to encourage cultural exchange. Most positions are for teaching English, but depending on your Japanese and other skills, you might be able to land an administrative position. Most of the people I know with fluent Japanese started out on this programme, so it could be a good springboard into Japan.

Internships

As far as I’m aware, Japanese companies don’t offer internships to students after graduation. The internships that are available to students tend to be part-time office work. Even if you were eligible for such an internship, I think there are probably visa-issues that would arise from doing it. So unless you are doing an internship through some special programme offered through your university, I’d steer clear of them and instead focus on finding normal employment.


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