A lot of us know what it’s like to clock in for work each day and think, “I don’t know if I can make it through another day here.” Needless to say, this is a good sign that it’s time to consider finding a new job.
For the mid-career professional, however, deciding to job hunt again can be a hesitant choice. Combine that hesitation with being a non-Japanese resident during a global pandemic, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for some serious anxiety.
This list is designed to help you organize your thoughts if you have recently been thinking about changing jobs in Japan.
Do I want to do the same thing I am doing now? This is an important question if the reason for your job change is a dislike of the industry you are currently in. However, although not impossible, reinventing yourself is easier said than done. Companies in Japan don’t often take hiring risks, which leads most job changers to keep doing what they are doing — just for a different employer. Still, you need to know the source of your dissatisfaction in order to make the right choice for your life, and it could be your current field.
However, horizontal moves to other job fields can be more difficult than moving vertically in the company or field you’re already in. So, if you’ve spent seven years as an English teacher but recently took a coding course, the Japanese job market is likely to disappoint you if you’re wanting to move into IT — especially if you don’t speak business-level Japanese.
The takeaway here is that you should understand your market value and understand your limitations. Be patient when seeking employment outside of your current career track.
What is out there? During the pandemic we’ve seen reports saying Japan’s job market is down one moment and recovering the next, only to later read that recovery is slower than was previously hoped. This may have you wondering when the best time would be to enter the job-hunting market.
Worrying about “when” is far less important than educating yourself about “what,” however. Scanning job boards, filling out spontaneous applications, taking casual interviews in your free time and asking around your network for job leads are entirely harmless, and experts say they’re actually a healthy part of having a professional career. Always having an eye open for the dream job is the only way to spot it. “Now” is always a good time to look.
What job-hunting tactics are right for me? If you’ve been in Japan for a while as a professional worker, you know that when engaging in tenshoku (changing jobs), recruitment agencies reign supreme. The human resource offices of thousands of top companies have deeply entrenched relationships with recruitment agencies in Japan, and for high-skilled, experienced, fully bilingual workers, recruiters can bring you job opportunities on a silver platter.
However, many workers naturally fall outside of many recruitment firm’s coverage, usually by being a professional in a creative or artistic field. It may be less beneficial for musicians, artists, journalists or actors to ring up most recruitment agents in Japan. These kinds of professionals tend to rely on traditional networking and want-ads on the many Japanese internet job boards, which, when used correctly, can be just as effective in seeking new employment. They include: Daijob.com, Bizreach, CareerCross, CareerCarver (best for Japanese natives), LinkedIn and Indeed.
Consider what is right for you.
Is rural Japan an option? The reason you may not be feeling good in your job might be that you’re just not that into Tokyo anymore. Depending on your industry, and your financial means, it can be entirely possible to relocate to the countryside as a remote worker, and the government even plans to encourage it through hefty subsidies.
Beyond remote work opportunities, which are fewer in number than you might think in Japan, it’s common for English-language teachers and mechanical engineers to be able to find work in the far flung regions of Japan that need foreign-language education personnel and industrial professionals to help their shrinking communities stay relevant in the ongoing Japanese migration to urban areas.
Do I even need to be in Japan? This is a difficult question for many of us. If you have lived here for a long time then you will likely find it hard to entertain the idea of leaving. For some of us, though, Japan has a shelf-life. If you are miserable at your current job and struggle to find many other job opportunities in Japan — particularly if it’s because of your language skills — then it may be the case that an overseas company can offer you the next step in your career.
Sure, deciding to leave Japan comes with its own headaches: moving during a pandemic with all the new regulations that entails, sorting out your visa, pension, taxes, apartment, bills and potentially much more. Changing jobs is a serious life choice with lasting implications for your future, so these headaches could be worth suffering though if it makes the most sense for your career. When considering a job change, the question of leaving Japan should always be on the table.
And, it’s not out of the question that you’ll be able to return. Many expats come back to Japan after some time abroad and a lot of them tend to appreciate it even more after they’ve been away for some time.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.