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Jobs in Japan for bilingual foreigners

Learning Japanese can open a wide range of career opportunities for you, both in Japan and abroad.

There is a lot of opportunity in Japan for foreign workers, especially those who speak Japanese!  Studying through the GaijinPot Student Placement Program should get your Japanese to a level where you can enter the workforce, and the GaijinPot Jobs site is always full of new job opportunities, but what kind of jobs can you expect?

English Teaching

The most obvious option for English speakers is to be an English teacher.  Definitely, there is no lack of demand in terms of studying English.  With the Olympics on the horizon a lot of Japanese people want to improve their language skills. Whether you want to work in the public school system, at commercial English schools, or in the business sector, it isn’t terribly difficult for native English speakers to find a job in the industry.

As an entry level English teacher, your Japanese skills might not be that important.  If you plan to move up into a higher position then some sort of Japanese ability will be beneficial. Chances are that if you’re an in-house teacher at a Japanese company, or working at a public school, your Japanese colleagues won’t understand much English.  Being able to speak Japanese will make the organization more likely to hire you!

Corporate Jobs

Although it’s possible to earn a good income working as an English teacher, career progression may be limited.  Therefore, many of those who can speak Japanese seek work in companies where Japanese is the main language.

According to The Employment of International Students by Japanese Companies in 2014, the top jobs for foreigners are:

  • Translation and Interpretation
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Commerce and Trading

Many large Japanese companies are trying to increase their presence overseas and become proper multinationals.  They’re realizing that the domestic market is not satisfying their global ambitions. These companies are recruiting foreigners into entry-level positions like never before!  Some companies have gone so far as to designate English as their official corporate language. In fact, it may be the best time ever for a foreigners to find work in Japan.

However when Japanese companies were surveyed about why they would not hire a foreign student, the biggest reason (by a fairly large margin) was “insufficient Japanese skills”. Study hard at your language school to reach a business-appropriate level of Japanese!  If you do so, you should have no trouble finding a job in Japan.

The actual level required depends on the company, but JLPT N2 is usually the minimum.  N1 will open far more doors. Of course, this is only a guide as you could have never taken the JLPT test, but as long as you can get through the application and interview process in Japanese, then they’ll be happy.  Likewise, if you passed the N1 but can’t hold a proper conversation, you won’t get the job.

Working in your home country

Even if you don’t plan to make a career in Japan, having good Japanese skills can still be beneficial to you depending on which country you currently call home.

Japanese companies have branch offices all over the world.  Just look around your surroundings and see how many Japanese products you see everyday!  Cars, electronics, food, games, etc…all those companies have offices in your country!  There are also newer business which are trying hard to expand in foreign markets.  Especially in sectors such as fashion, internet commerce, and smartphone software development.

If you know Japanese and have some experience living and working in Japan, you can find opportunities in your country.  Whether you get transferred from the Japanese offices, or you just apply directly at home, you’ll be right in front of the queue when it comes to getting the interview if your resume has experience in Japan!

In countries such as India and Southeast Asia, Japan is investing heavily in manufacturing and providing jobs for the local population to work at Japanese factories. Typically the managers of these factories get brought over from Japan and they usually don’t speak the local language. This is a good chance for you to work as a liaison between the Japanese management and your fellow countrymen in matter of language, business and culture. Your language skills can really pay off in these kinds of environments!

If office work doesn’t interest you and you consider yourself more of a digital nomad there is always translation and interpretation work. You can even be a freelancer for many of these jobs, letting you work anytime and anywhere.

There are many opportunities for those with Japanese ability, and if you have any extra skills, you can surely find a way to combine both to improve your hiring chances. Study hard, and you may be surprised at how far your language skills can take you!