You’ve studied Japanese up to a comfortable level, and now you’re ready to take your Japanese to the next level by taking it out into the work force! Here are some things you’ll need to succeed:
A visa, and permission to work
This is probably the hardest thing on the list to get. If you’re not already in the country, it will probably be hard to get a visa just so you can work at a part-time job. Most part time places just aren’t prepared to deal with immigration to hire an 800 yen/hour worker. Therefore, your best option is to get some other type of visa, and then acquire a “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted,” or 資格外活動許可書 (しかくがいかつどうきょかしょ) certificate from your local immigration office. This certificate allows you to perform some sort of activity — in this case, working– outside the limits of your current visa, and is perfect for students and dependents.
If you’re an English teacher with a Specialist in Humanities visa, and somehow have time for a part-time Japanese job as well, find out if you’re allowed to work in a field besides teaching English. Visa specifics will change and vary from person to person, and I’m certainly no expert, but my point is that you shouldn’t assume that you can’t work a Japanese job because of your visa status until you do some digging, because there are options out there for you.
A 履歴書 (りれきしょ) or Japanese resume, is formatted differently from a traditional English resume. The information is spread over two pages, and includes fields such as personal contact info, work and educational history, expectations for the job you’re applying for, and hobbies. When I was starting out, John Turningpin’s wonderful rirekisho guide over at Mad Tokyo was a big help. Some job magazines provide paper for you to use, so all you have to do is fill one out in ball pen. It’s also easy to find templates online. You’ll also need a rirekisho-sized photo of yourself (about 3x4cm) to attach to your copy, which many photo booths or photo shops will do for a small fee.
Basic life skills
Being able to speak Japanese will help you navigate the Japanese job market, but to get a part-time job, you’ll need every other life skill you have to tip the scales in your favor. For a restaurant job, your familiarity with kitchen tools will be a huge plus. In fact, ads for some restaurants, including yakiniku chains, often go out of their way to specify that applicants should have at least basic skill with a chef’s knife. You don’t need to know any uniquely Japanese cooking skills, but you should at least be familiar with:
-how to use a chef’s knife, paring knife and peeler without removing chunks of flesh from yourself or the people around you
-how to use a gas range, electric stove, and microwave without setting anything on fire
-how to use pots and pans
-how to safely handle meat, fish and other ingredients without cross-contaminating or spreading bacteria
-how to wash dishes efficiently
If you’re searching for a non-food-service job, employers seem to love proficiency in office software and general competency with computers, but make sure that you can handle a Japanese computer before you bank on those skills. Being able to drive is also a huge plus for some jobs.
A belief in your Japanese ability
Of course, all this preparation will be for naught if you undermine your job-seeking efforts by doubting yourself. No matter how not-ready you feel like you are, your Japanese ability, and all the training you’ve done, will carry you through. You will surprise yourself with how much you can handle! And if you do mess up your interview or a phone call, you’ve still learned something valuable for next time.
A belief in your ability to get better
When you get a job, you’ll be humbled multiple times. There will be a lot of stumbles, awkwardness and failure on your part as you try to adjust to the unique language and situations of Japanese restaurant work. You need to be able to take these in stride and use them as opportunities to learn without getting too discouraged. You will adjust, and you’ll probably be surprised how quickly and easily you’ll improve! But you have to trust yourself, and believe that you really can get better than you are now.
Getting a Japanese part-time job is a rewarding experience and, as long as your visa paperwork is in order, isn’t at all difficult as it might first appear. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone! With some persistence and confidence in not just your Japanese ability, but your ability to grow, you can score a job that will put you on the path to long-term Japanese success.
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