Journey to Japan 4: Putting the Work into a Working Holiday
By Lisa Woods
As the name of the visa implies, during a working holiday you will almost certainly have to find work at some point. There is no restriction on how many hours you can work, and few restrictions on the kind of work you can do (the embassy website forbids working for “businesses which may affect public morals” – pretty vague, but you can safely assume that host and hostess clubs, pachinko parlours and the like are out).
The specific options available to you will vary depending on your age, experience and language ability, but teaching seems to be by far the most popular job choice for English-speaking working holiday makers in Japan. With this in mind I had done a short TEFL certification course prior to leaving the UK, although the majority of entry level teaching positions in Japan offer their own in-house training so this is by no means a necessity.
teaching seems to be by far the most popular job choice for English-speaking working holiday makers in Japan
Once I’d decided that teaching is something I wanted to do, I decided to apply directly to a couple of the big eikaiwa (English conversation school) companies directly through the recruitment pages on their websites – some of the best known are GABA, Nova, ECC and Berlitz. They will usually ask you to send a copy of your CV/resume (which need not be Japanese style – I used the same format that I used back home in the UK) along with a covering letter explaining why you want to work for them.
Sometimes they may have an application form on the website itself which you can fill-in and submit. In all cases, I found that I got a pretty quick response and was invited to either telephone screening or a face-to-face interview. For applicants outside of Japan, a Skype interview seems to be the standard procedure. I ended-up pursuing one of the face-to-face interview invitations.
As interviews go, it was a pretty straightforward one (although a little strange in that, while I had to go to the company’s office, the interview itself was done over a webcam). Because it was for a teaching job, there were naturally some teaching-related questions (how would I explain this word? How would I manage this classroom situation?) and a short role-play. The interview took place on Christmas Eve and I received a job offer the following day – not a bad Christmas present!
If you are a little more adventurous and would like to try something completely different, you could try applying to BooBooSKI, as I initially decided to do, and get yourself a resort job. They offer various seasonal placements at ski resorts around Japan during the winter (December-March) and beach resorts in Okinawa during the warmer months, which include free dormitory accommodation and sometimes free meals too.
The kinds of jobs available are usually customer service positions, such as restaurant or hotel work, so it’s a great opportunity to improve your Japanese. Their services are available exclusively to holders of the working holiday visa, and you can apply from your home country – if you have not already applied for your visa they will even help to guide you through the application process.
Interviews are conducted via Skype and if you are successful you will be given a resort placement and position – while you can specify your preferences, they have the final say in where you end-up, so if you have your heart set on working in a certain area this may not be the best option for you.
Regardless of what kind of job you decide to go for, there will naturally be lots of choices to make: if you want to be a teacher, do you want to teach adults or children? Group lessons or one-to-one? Will you work for a larger, more well-known company or take a chance on a smaller business? Try to keep such questions in mind while doing your research before starting the application process, as you may be asked about such choices at your interview.
If you want to keep your options open while looking for work, the GaijinPot job search feature allows you to search hundreds of job listings by industry, area and other factors such as whether or not there is any language ability requirement. If you want to get your search started before leaving for Japan, it also makes it easy to find jobs which accept overseas applications. Definitely a good first port of call.
Once I had secured teaching work, however, I found myself facing a new challenge – how would I go about improving my Japanese language proficiency while spending the majority of my waking hours in an English-only environment? Find out in next month’s article, where I will discuss the highs and lows of Japanese language self-study.