Year-end Job Hunting

If you’re a non-Japanese job seeker that has just arrived in Japan, you’re no doubt looking for a job. The fact is, though, that most foreign companies have virtually no decision makers in town from the second week of December.

Decision-making in most multinational companies usually involves at least 3 or 4 people. Involved in the decision will be the business manager making the hire, several other people on the same team, an HR person, and the overall Division manager. At least one of these people is likely to be a senior foreign person, and by the second week of December they’re planning a trip to headquarters which will dovetail into being home for the holidays. Your hire will be well down their list of priorities.

In addition to decision-maker vacations, there are also the hurdles of year-end budget shortfalls, and the company’s desire to avoid having to pay for your holiday time in December and early January.

January is also a slow month, but it’s because many Japanese people need time away from running business to go out and see clients and wish them a prosperous new year in true Japanese style. This is not just a 1- or 2-day affair, but can actually last most of the month with senior people from the company going out to personally greet customers. Add to this the obligatory New Year parties (“Shinnenkai”), and you’re not going to get a lot of attention until the third week of January – after which, it’s all systems go until April.

What do you do in the meantime? Well, it doesn’t hurt to start applying for jobs – at least you’ll get some practice in interviewing and resume writing – but my recommendation is to join a full-time crash course in Japanese language and be ready to hit the job search circuit in mid-February. You may not learn a lot of Japanese in 3 months, but language lessons are not just about being able to speak with the natives. It’s also about learning a bit of culture and how things are done here. That way, you become more aware of how to act in given situations and therefore increase your chances of getting and keeping your first job here.