Principal Consultant, Career OverDrive!
How can I gain employment in Japan, specifically in Tokyo? I have a Bachelor's degree, 30 grad hours earned and a TESOL certificate (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). I am not a native English speaker and I am over the age of 35. I tried in 2012 to find a job while I was in Tokyo for 9 months and lost a lot of money that way.
What are the chances of teaching German there?
TN's Skills Inventory:
1. Bachelor's Degree
2. Graduate School: 30 hours earned
3. TESOL Certification
(a) German: Native speaker
(b) English: Native Level Fluency
(c) Japanese: Advanced Beginner
Thank you for your question. First please allow me to explain a few things about the Japan employment market for foreigners (gaijin / 外人).
1. Unlike the US, if you are coming from a Western country of origin and you hold a 4-year bachelor's degree, it is fairly easy, fast and straight forward to receive a working visa. The working visa, though, will require the sponsorship of a company along with a minimum monthly income. This can vary based on various factors, but simply Y250,000 is enough, which is what you can get at most full time teaching gigs as just a point of reference.
2. The trick then is finding employment. In general, unless you have specialized skills that are in demand and/or business level Japanese, your employment options in Japan are extremely limited. These often fall into the categories of English teacher, recruiter/executive search consultant, restaurant / hospitality and so on. There are obviously many exceptions, which can be leveraged based on both your skill at packaging and presenting yourself, your ability to locate, surface or create a job and timing and luck.
3. In general, for the English teaching jobs (or foreign language teaching jobs - French, Chinese, Italian, German, Spanish, etc.), the schools prefer someone who is young -- under 35 years old and often the younger the better. They also prefer or require a native language speaker. Again, there are always exceptions if you know how to play the game.
4. Because these schools get some many inquiries they want to reduce their time in shuffling through resumes. In addition, over the years, countless people have talked about coming to Japan and then when the time comes when they get the offer they bail as they say it's too low a salary or too much of a hassle to move, etc.
5. The people that do join the school or company, many times will leave quickly or find that they aren't happy, as their expectations are misaligned with market realities and the companies needs.
Okay, now back to your point. From everything you have told me, getting a job should be easy for you if you focus on your strengths, overcome any objections they have and you package and present yourself well.
You didn't mention the details of how your job search went when you were in Tokyo nor what companies or industries you focused on and applied to? So it's hard to answer details, as I would have to know that + did you land interviews? Did you take interviews? How did they go? Did you get second interviews (invited back)? Any offers? If you were rejected, why? What was their feedback? What was your opinion on why and so on?
In any event, let's go over a few quick strategies.
1. To hire a foreigner outside of Japan is a major hassle for Japanese companies because of all of added logistics and so on and the risk that you won't take the offer after all of that hassle, and if you do take it you still may not show up, and if you do show up maybe you won't stay long -- so over come that.
2. To hire a foreigner even in Japan is a hassle for all the issues as number one, as they still need to go through the paperwork and responsibility of sponsoring your visa, getting you acclimated to Japan, and often serving as your housing guarantor -- but by being here you show passion, commitment and skin in the game.
3. If you have additional skills as you do, you can also leverage your native language skills by working for a company that does trading or business with a country that uses your skills. So you could join a Japanese trading or industrial company that needs to work with Germany or German-speaking countries. You would be the bridge or interface.
4. You could also teach German, but the opportunities will be far, far more limited than English teaching -- it's a niche, but it could be lucrative.
5. You age can be a pro or con depending on how you spin it.
Okay, here is the strategy I would pursue. The quickest, easiest way to get a job and your work visa and to get setup in Japan is to teach English -- so go that route. Once you are here, on the ground, get setup, settle in, save money and build up your skills, you can move out of teaching if you like or stay in it.
Specifically I would do this:
1. Plan to physically be in Japan to meet these companies face to face -- the English schools. But don't come. First, identify the schools, both big and small, and send a short email explaining your desire to teach at their school.
2. Open a dialogue, then get then on skype for your interview.
3. Once you've done that, repeat with up to 10 to 15 schools.
4. Then once you've figured out who seems serious, etc. let them all know you'll be in Japan on your own dime and want to meet them face to face -- if you are cash-strapped and can't do that, then get them to commit over the phone and close them that way. You could then wait until all of sponsoring paperwork is done and only come to Japan once your visa is granted.
5. Prior to this, you need to set up your resume and interview framework. Don't focus on your not native speaker, you're older and so o. Rather reframe like:
a. I'm mature, experienced, I know exactly what I want and I'm professional.
translation: I'm a problem free employee.
b. I have US degree and a TESOL certificate. I'm highly qualified to teach this, more than most people. If they bring up you are German / have German as your first language say, "That's why I'm qualified to teach -- I taught myself English at a native level and have a TESOL certificate, I can do the same for my students.... and so on..."
c. And then focus on your interesting in Japan,you'll be hear a long time and that it's nice to work with a school that values mature teachers....
There are many other ways to do it, but that's a way to reframe any perceived negatives as positives and also put to bed their worries.
You can also do the same thing by contacting non-schools that may need a German speaker -- they won't list so those jobs, so just cold-call the company directly.
These resources may be helpful as well:
1) Can't Get A Job (or The Job You Want)? Master The Job Search Lifecycle
2) The "Young, Educated & Unemployed" - A Major Misunderstanding
3) Career OverDrive! Solutions