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Getting a Job with JLPT N3 (from outside Japan)

giraffe

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Originally, my plan was to start work in Japan by the end of 2017. But after reading some stories, I'm not sure whether my plan is anywhere near realistic:

By Summer 2017 I will have finished my bachelor's in Game Design. I picked up learning japanese a couple of months ago. I put in 1-2 hours of study everyday. My idea was to reach jlpt N2 by summer next year. However, after reading stories of people who had been studying for years until they got to that level of proficiency, I kind of got rid of that idea. Right now, my plan is to at least make it to N3 by next summer.
The reason I want to work in Japan is because I want to work on japanese games - they are what I grew up with and they are the reason I started pursuing a career in this field in the first place.
I will be 26 when I have my Bachelor's in Summer 2017 - by that time, I'll probably have JLPT N3 as well.
Can I expect to land a job in my field in Japan by that time? I'm very good in my studies and I have worked on actual (award-winning) game projects in the past. But does it matter if I'm not proficient in Japanese?
After reading all kinds of (mostly un-)success stories of people trying to find work there, I'm somewhat disillusioned.

So my alternate strategy was to find a small job to support myself in Japan until my Japanese proficiency reaches at least N2 so I will have it easier finding a job in my area of expertise.
My native language, however, is German - not English. I'm not sure whether teaching english would be an option for me. I'd be able to do an English proficiency test showcasing my (more or less) Native Level proficiency (C2). But is that enough? I had a quick look at some recruiting sites and it looks like even the ones accepting Non-native speakers expect their applicants to at least have visited bilingual schools/ have received education in english for 12+ years. I don't fall into this category.
German teaching jobs are supposedly rare (I mean who would want to learn it anyway haha) too.

On the other hand, I can't really imagine that finding any kind of job in Japan is impossible.
I'm really uncertain right now and this is why I'm making this thread. I really want to start my career in Japan as soon as possible. Does my plan to go to Japan by late 2017 and support myself there (with any kind of job, really) sound unrealistic? Did I overlook something? Or did I just read too many negative stories for the last couple of hours and it's not half as problematic?
 

Glenski

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I will be 26 when I have my Bachelor's in Summer 2017 - by that time, I'll probably have JLPT N3 as well. Can I expect to land a job in my field in Japan by that time?
I seriously doubt it. Look at the Career Cross forum or daijob.com site to see what sort of qualifications (including language requirement) you face.

So my alternate strategy was to find a small job to support myself in Japan until my Japanese proficiency reaches at least N2 so I will have it easier finding a job in my area of expertise.
My native language, however, is German - not English. I'm not sure whether teaching english would be an option for me. I'd be able to do an English proficiency test showcasing my (more or less) Native Level proficiency (C2). But is that enough?
Not likely. English is a foreign language to you, so you will probably have to show that 12 years of your education have been all in English just to qualify for the work visa. That probably explains what you've read on employer sites.

Look up Berlitz for the most likely German teaching jobs. Otherwise, yes, it's a rare thing to get, and you'd probably have to teach it in Japanese anyway.

Look, you're 25 and not yet done with a college degree. That means lack of work experience, too. Another negative point against you. Why are you thinking of Japan instead of other countries? Have you ever even visited here? Got a girlfriend here? Come for a visit first to see what the place is like. Or look for an internship to test the waters.
 

Mike Cash

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Forgive an impertinent question, but at what point in the pursuit of this four year degree did you decide you wanted to work in Japan?
 

nice gaijin

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If you want to work on games, don't waste your time trying to find other kinds of work. The odds of you being able to just pop over to Japan and find work fresh out of graduation are pretty poor. The odds of you getting a job at a Japanese game studio without bringing something special to the table are equally poor. The odds of you enjoying Japanese working culture are slim, particularly in the gaming industry. Getting what you want might be a curse in the end.

I would say finish your degree and work on some projects wherever "home" is, and build up your experience, portfolio and reputation. Then you have some leverage to get yourself hired. Come up with groundbreaking game concepts, or make awesome models/animation, or code really efficiently. Pursue your skills to the highest level possible. Basically the opposite of trying to come to Japan and teaching while you try to moonlight your way into one of the most competitive job markets.
 

giraffe

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I seriously doubt it. Look at the Career Cross forum or daijob.com site to see what sort of qualifications (including language requirement) you face.
I do have the qualifications to start a job in Game Design right after my studies in Europe or the US. I'd assume the needed qualifications aren't very different in Japan. In fact, I probably exceed the required minimum qualifications for Junior positions due to a lot of prior project experience. I'll start a half year internship next month at a renowned games company in Europe. The only thing I can't bring to the table is Native Level skills in Japanese and residency in Japan. But anyway, as already stated - and after reading that internships aren't really appreciated in Japan and multiculturalism isn't really a thing - I'm not expecting a very high success chance either. I'll try anyway.

--
What I've been wondering is whether there's a startup culture in Japan similar to all the Silicon Valley inspired stuff happening elsewhere in the world. I was hoping to maybe join a fairly new/small company that maybe embraces this philosophy of employing people from different ethnic backgrounds and/or with actual skills instead of bulks of meaningless certificates.
I agree that on paper it looks pretty bad that I won't have my bachelor's before 26. However, I think I can bring a lot more to the table than many other graduates. In regards to game design, I can thankfully demonstrate that in my portfolio -

Not likely. English is a foreign language to you, so you will probably have to show that 12 years of your education have been all in English just to qualify for the work visa. That probably explains what you've read on employer sites.
I can not so much demonstrate my english teaching abilities, however. I do think that I could do a good job at teaching english. I have taught german as second language during high school. But since it was in private, I don't have any certificates to show. Except from speaking English I also have a Great Latinum. I think I can say that I have a good understanding of how language is composed and precisely because I learned English as a second language I know how to decompose it into digestable pieces. I didn't visit an English high school. However, I visited the bilingual classes my high school offered. Meaning, I received additional English lessons and got taught several subjects in English.
At the end of the day - why I'm writing all of this: It sounds like it all comes down to being able to get a work visa. Is this "having received an all english education" a set rule or are these things decided on an individual basis?
How can I show that I would make a competent teacher? I have read in other threads around here that most Japanese employers don't care about certificates - is that true? Are there any certificates I could take that would increase my chances of getting hired as an English teacher? I could easily do the C2 Level test proving I'm capable of Native Level English. But is there anything else? Is it even worth spending time and money on this?

I'll have a look at Berlitz. But I suppose it's not really an option I can count on. Thanks, anyway!

Forgive an impertinent question, but at what point in the pursuit of this four year degree did you decide you wanted to work in Japan?
It has always been kind of an utopian dream of mine. But earlier this year I understood that the only thing actually holding me back from working in Japanese Games is the language barrier and sending out applications. Since there's nothing holding me back in Germany I figured I should just give it my best and see if I can make it while I'm still young enough.

Don't get me wrong - at this point, I'm not counting on staying in Japan for the rest of my life. I haven't been to Japan before and I'm not that naive. But as I'm a very adaptable person I think I can handle it for at least a couple of years if it turns out to be a horrible experience. If I dislike it and decide to leave after 2 or 3 years it will still have been a worthy experience.
I don't know how familiar you guys are with videogames but you probably know that Japan has a reputation here. I'm very interested in mobile gaming in particular and I think East Asian and especially Japanese markets are the most prospective and exciting in the world right now (at least in regard to mobile gaming). That's why I really really want to give it a shot.

If you want to work on games, don't waste your time trying to find other kinds of work. The odds of you being able to just pop over to Japan and find work fresh out of graduation are pretty poor.
Yeah I thought about that, too. However, given my motivation is working on Japanese games - I think it's an understandable step to settle down for an unrelated job at first. I will be using that time to further build my portfolio and - of course - become more proficient in japanese.

I just had a quick look at your portfolio, nice gaijin. Are you from oversears and managed to land a job in the creative industry in Japan?

Thanks for your replies, so far! (all of you=) And sorry for the bulk of text.
 

Glenski

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I do think that I could do a good job at teaching english. I have taught german as second language during high school. But since it was in private, I don't have any certificates to show.
please describe this teaching a bit more. Not many believe a high school student teaches.

Yes, most Japanese employers for entry level don't even know about teaching certs. With the current glut of teachers here, though, it might provide a small edge. Teaching in your home country is a far cry from teaching overseas, and Japanese students are tough to teach.

Getting the visa depends largely on following the requirements.

Why did you say applying to Betlitz is not something to count on? Nothing is guaranteed anywhere.
 

giraffe

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please describe this teaching a bit more. Not many believe a high school student teaches.
I did several teaching jobs, if that matters. I was a private tutor for Maths, English and German during High School and taught kids from grades 5 to 9 who had trouble keeping up with classes (1on1).
I also gave piano lessons to two kids (7 and 10 years of age) if that counts anything.
My dad teaches German as second language and I had the opportunity to give 1 on 1 lessons to some students who had trouble keeping up or wanted to proceed a little faster. It was all absolute beginner level. My dad introduced me to the material he uses and I simply drove to their homes and gave them private lessons based on that. I did the preparations etc. on my own after a while. It was 4 different students total. Age was between 17 and 24. I had this opportunity because I come from the countryside and for foreigners wanting to learn German there weren't really any alternatives. That's why I had the chance to do it without prior formal education. But I like to think that I did a good job. I really enjoyed it, too. Sadly, I don't have any way to prove it so I assume it's not worth much.
Oh, also to add: "High School" in Germany is often until 19/20. In my case, I was even 21 when I got my HS diploma(due to getting into Primary School one year late). So I was already in my late teens/early 20s when I did these teaching jobs. That's also why I'll be 26 once I have my Bachelor's.

Getting the visa depends largely on following the requirements.
I thought so. But then on the other hand I'm reading success stories from people who didn't match the listed criteria but still managed to get a teaching job all the time. That's why I'm so irritated.
 
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giraffe

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I did several teaching jobs, if that matters. I was a private tutor for Maths, English and German during High School and taught kids from grades 5 to 9 who had trouble keeping up with classes (1on1).
I also gave piano lessons to two kids (7 and 10 years of age) if that counts anything.
My dad teaches German as second language and I had the opportunity to give 1 on 1 lessons to some students who had trouble keeping up or wanted to proceed a little faster. It was all absolute beginner level. My dad introduced me to the material he uses and I simply drove to their homes and gave them private lessons based on that. I did the preparations etc. on my own after a while. It was 4 different students total. Age was between 17 and 24. I had this opportunity because I come from the countryside and for foreigners wanting to learn German there weren't really any alternatives. That's why I had the chance to do it without prior formal education. But I like to think that I did a good job. I really enjoyed it, too. Sadly, I don't have any way to prove it so I assume it's not worth much.
Oh, also to add: "High School" in Germany is often until 19/20. In my case, I was even 21 when I got my HS diploma(due to getting into Primary School one year late). So I was already in my late teens/early 20s when I did these teaching jobs. That's also why I'll be 26 once I have my Bachelor's.
And I will definitely apply at Berlitz either way/ consider looking deeper into German teaching positions. But I've also browsed some Germany/Japan boards and people are saying there's not really any demand for German. I'll definitely give it a try. It's just that I have the feeling that trying to get a job in teaching English might be more realistic. Especially since I would have to teach German in Japanese - JLPT N3 will most likely not be enough there. But who am I to form an opinion on that, I only know what I've read across some forums. That's why I started this thread.


EDIT: Woops, this wasn't supposed to be an individual reply, sorry!
 

nice gaijin

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Yeah I thought about that, too. However, given my motivation is working on Japanese games - I think it's an understandable step to settle down for an unrelated job at first. I will be using that time to further build my portfolio and - of course - become more proficient in japanese.
a lot of people have that intention, but the reality is that most people don't put in the time or effort. Life gets in the way, and the next thing they know they've been in Japan a year or two and are still functionally illiterate. Being a teacher is not conducive to learning, and it will push all your own language learning into what little free time you have, which is time you'd probably rather be spending leveling up your career skills or exploring (after all, why else would you want to live there?). That's why I say build up your portfolio and language skills where you are now, so you have a strong foundation. How much progress you've made in the next year should be pretty indicative of how serious you are about this.

I just had a quick look at your portfolio, nice gaijin. Are you from oversears and managed to land a job in the creative industry in Japan?
Not exactly, I have a side business involving design and translation and some of my clients are Japanese businesses. I don't really want to "work" in Japan as an employee, I know myself better than to think I would enjoy that much.
 

Glenski

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You can always list your teaching as "private lessons" or "private tutoring". That's about all the option you have, and it's as valid as anything can be. Be prepared to describe any textbooks you used or types of lesson plans you made, no. and age of students, frequency of lessons, etc. Most of that should be on a resume anyhow.
I've taught at high school in Japan where they employed a part-time German teacher (from Austria), and I currently work at a university where German is also part of the curriculum (semi-elective courses along with English and Spanish). So, yes, it's not extremely popular, but it's sometimes offered. German seems to fulfill a need for certain medical or veterinary professions.
I'm reading success stories from people who didn't match the listed criteria but still managed to get a teaching job all the time. That's why I'm so irritated.
Describe one or two of those people's stories. "Getting a teaching job" doesn't mean "get a visa"; those people may have had other methods for getting the job (such as being married to a Japanese, so they had a spousal visa and didn't have to contend with landing a work visa). If their situations don't match yours, you can't compete in the same way and shouldn't be irritated.
 

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If their situations don't match yours, you can't compete in the same way and shouldn't be irritated.
I think you shouldn't be irritated in any situation. Fresh out of uni you think your degree with the highest GPA of your class and your can do attitude will land you your dream job at your dream company. Until you find out that internal politics (e.g. how well do you fit in the team, does the manager like someone who can potentially do his job better in the near future), likeability and features you never considered relevant, play a huge part in getting a job.

What you can also take away from this: landing a job depends a lot on who you are. I also know 2 people first hand that have literally created a job for themselves in Japan. They went to a company and said "I have experience selling this product in country x and know a lot of customers, I can do the same from Japan for your company".
 

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Game companies need programmers and are becoming more used to hiring foreign employees. Most Japanese game companies (Sony, Nintendo, Capcom, SquareEnix, etc.) have studios outside of Japan. I think with your qualifications you should be able to apply to one of them to get your foot in the door. If you are not a programmer, you might be able to find entry level work in testing or localization.
Your interest in Japan and your beginning Japanese studies might be interesting to one of the above companies. It is possible that they could hire you in the EU (if that is where you are now), where there are no visa barriers, and no language barrier for you, and then eventually get transferred to Japan. For you, that would be a much more sensible plan than coming to Japan to teach English-conversation and trying to make inroads into the game industry.
 

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Majestic and cocoichi bring up some good points, and I'll just add a little more.

It doesn't always matter if you're the top graduate at your school. Some Japanese companies will (rightfully) look at foreign candidates and wonder how well they will fit in with Japanese culture and business. If their language fluency is low, if they have never been here, if they don't appear willing to adapt, all three of those things will be held against you. You're probably going to be competing against Japanese graduates, and they are far more savvy with the language and customs (social and business), plus they are willing to accept certain things that foreigners may not (living conditions, long hours without extra pay, being shuffled around departments for 1-2 years before being given a choice of which one they want to work at, etc.). Just having a smattering of Japanese language skill and stating an interest in the culture is not always enough for a foreigner. You might want to determine ahead of any interview whether they offer on site or pay for off-site Japanese lessons, but the more you express that necessity, the weaker your bargaining position. Heads up.
 

Mike Cash

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If the language of the workplace is Japanese:

N1 - you can swim with the big boys
N2 - you can dog paddle
N3 - just keeping your head above water will be a chore
N4 - you'll plummet straight to the bottom like an anvil
N5 - no responsible adult would let you near the pool
 

musicisgood

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If the language of the workplace is Japanese:

N1 - you can swim with the big boys
N2 - you can dog paddle
N3 - just keeping your head above water will be a chore
N4 - you'll plummet straight to the bottom like an anvil
N5 - no responsible adult would let you near the pool

That's very interesting Mike.

But what about N6 just joking !
 

mdchachi

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I think your goal is possible with some effort. There's not a vibrant start-up culture on the Silicon Valley level but there is a software industry looking for good people where language capability is not first priority. Some Japanese companies are trying to make English standard or at least a focus point. Rakuten for example. Such companies would probably be accepting of minimal Japanese ability. It's tough to find such places without connections. So I would focus on getting those connections. Such as finding some work local to you at a place with Japanese affiliates. Corresponding with Japanese programmers in industry forums or tools like slack.
If getting to Japan is the primary goal, I would also relax the requirement for work related to gaming. That would expand the pool of software jobs considerably.
 

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I think your goal is possible with some effort. There's not a vibrant start-up culture on the Silicon Valley level but there is a software industry looking for good people where language capability is not first priority. Some Japanese companies are trying to make English standard or at least a focus point. Rakuten for example. Such companies would probably be accepting of minimal Japanese ability. It's tough to find such places without connections. So I would focus on getting those connections. Such as finding some work local to you at a place with Japanese affiliates. Corresponding with Japanese programmers in industry forums or tools like slack.
If getting to Japan is the primary goal, I would also relax the requirement for work related to gaming. That would expand the pool of software jobs considerably.
The irony here is that Rakuten is a very rare exception, and for that reason has become well known to foreigners as "the Japanese company where you do not need to speak fluent Japanese". I would not be surprised if they get tons of applications everyday from foreigners, thinking it's their golden ticket. For that reason it might be even harder to land a job there than to land one at a traditional Japanese company.
 

Mike Cash

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Game companies need programmers
Corresponding with Japanese programmers...

The OP...who seems to have abandoned us...will be going into game design, not game programming. They are different tasks with different skill sets, different courses of study, and hiring/recruiting are separate as well.

@giraffe

I assume you are not familiar with the normal hiring process for fresh graduates in Japan. Typically they begin work in April and are all recruited during the previous summer. For example, my son is a game programmer in Tokyo and started in April of this year. The recruiting process started in the spring of 2015 and was completed by about June or July.

If you start looking for work after you graduate in the summer of 2017, you will find that most companies have already finished their hiring for people who will come to work in April 2018. New hires for 2017 are done already.
 
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Glenski

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I assume you are not familiar with the normal hiring process for fresh graduates in Japan. Typically they begin work in April and are all recruited during the previous summer.
Actually, the process is taking longer and longer. At my university, the career guidance people presented on this last year and showed that it used to take a year, and now it's likely to take 4-6 months longer.
 

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The OP...who seems to have abandoned us...
No worries! I'm here and reading everything. Thanks for the contributions so far! It's helping me a lot. I've just been too busy to reply before today.

It's true that I'm majoring in Game Design, not Programming. However, I do have programming skills. And while I may not be skilled enough to work as a Game Programmer, I think landing a simple tech job (like administrating data banks or similar) could be a viable option. However, I'd assume that it's exactly the more advanced programming jobs which are in demand. So that's that. Anyway, thanks for the tip @Majestic and @mdchachi ! I think I will have a look at opportunities in this area, too.

Most Japanese game companies (Sony, Nintendo, Capcom, SquareEnix, etc.) have studios outside of Japan.
While that's true for the very big names, smaller (let's say >50 employees) companies usually don't have that. If the situation in Japan is anywhere similar to that one in Europe, then most jobs will be with medium sized or small companies. Getting your foot in the door in one of your mentioned studios is really hit or miss because the demand for game designers is oversaturated esp. in the AAA industry. I think it would be a lot easier if I actually was a programmer, but sadly I am not.

I did some research and found out even some major Japanese game companies have an english recruitment process and don't even expect their candidates to have acquired japanese skills beforehand. I don't know how much of that is real talk, though. Anyway, that's definitely something I'll dig deeper into.

It's tough to find such places without connections. So I would focus on getting those connections. Such as finding some work local to you at a place with Japanese affiliates. Corresponding with Japanese programmers in industry forums or tools like slack.
This is a good point. Esp. considering my japanese is not good enough to do my research in japanese, this might become my biggest hurdle. I already started creating a list of blogs and persons working in Japan from overseas in the games industry. I think I will just give it a shot and try to reach out to some.

I assume you are not familiar with the normal hiring process for fresh graduates in Japan. Typically they begin work in April and are all recruited during the previous summer. For example, my son is a game programmer in Tokyo and started in April of this year. The recruiting process started in the spring of 2015 and was completed by about June or July.
No, I didn't know this! Thanks for pointing out. Is it usually mandatory for these recruitment processes to be located in Japan/ near the respective companies? This makes it sound like I would have to be in Japan a couple of months beforehand anyway.
Do you happen to know about any websites in english providing more detailed information about recruitment processes, industry culture, what to expect?

This means I'll have to look for work now in order to find something by April 2018, right? How come these deadlines don't apply for the english teaching positions I've looked into? Or did I just miss that part?

Again, thanks a lot for pointing that out - this completely changes my situation.
Judging from this, maybe it would make sense to pursue a Master's Degree first and improve my Japanese skills to N2? I then could apply for positions starting in 2019. However, I'll be even older at that point. Is a Master's degree a big plus for japanese companies? Is a higher age a big minus?
 

mdchachi

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It's true that I'm majoring in Game Design, not Programming. However, I do have programming skills. And while I may not be skilled enough to work as a Game Programmer, I think landing a simple tech job (like administrating data banks or similar) could be a viable option. However, I'd assume that it's exactly the more advanced programming jobs which are in demand. So that's that.
Not necessarily. Sometimes they just want capable bodies and if they are less experienced that's better (such people are cheaper). But it often depends on the specific skill set.

I did some research and found out even some major Japanese game companies have an english recruitment process and don't even expect their candidates to have acquired japanese skills beforehand. I don't know how much of that is real talk, though. Anyway, that's definitely something I'll dig deeper into.
Lots of companies pay lip service to internationalization. Enough to hire some token foreigners. So it's worth looking into.

No, I didn't know this! Thanks for pointing out. Is it usually mandatory for these recruitment processes to be located in Japan/ near the respective companies? This makes it sound like I would have to be in Japan a couple of months beforehand anyway.
Do you happen to know about any websites in english providing more detailed information about recruitment processes, industry culture, what to expect?
I think in your situation a non-new-graduate opportunity is more likely. Such opportunities aren't so closely tied to the traditional recruiting calendar.

This means I'll have to look for work now in order to find something by April 2018, right? How come these deadlines don't apply for the english teaching positions I've looked into? Or did I just miss that part?
English teaching positions don't depend on new graduates. I think most positions you might find at smaller companies also would not be tied to this new grad schedule. Smaller companies often try to recruit capable people with some experience.
 

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I don't know what positions in English teaching you've researched. Eikaiwas hire year round, but they also have April deadlines in some cases. Either way, eikaiwas are the bottom rung on the teaching ladder.

Is it usually mandatory for these recruitment processes to be located in Japan/ near the respective companies?
Japanese companies are like any other. They hire applicants..period. It makes no difference if the graduate is finishing a university that is near or far from the company. The main thing seems to matter for Japanese candidates is network contacts and the Japanese reputation of the Japanese university. Some large companies, for example, will hire only from certain "prestigious" Japanese unis.
 

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@mdchachi You're really getting my hopes up, haha! I guess that regardless of how it will turn out, the most prospective approach I can take right now is trying to get in contact with local Game Design people and working my way from there. I'm relieved this traditional recruiting routine is more with the big companies than the small ones as I believe my chances with young small or medium sized companies will be a lot better.

@Glenski I heard that Eikaiwas aren't the most popular employer on the teaching market. But I will take what I can get. I was worried about the long recruiting process because I thought it would go hand in hand with a long series of (on-site) interviews and tests. Interviews and tests which I wouldn't be able to attend otherwise. But it seems like I don't need to worry about that anyways.


I do have one more question, though. I don't have a very clear picture of how important University Degrees are in Japan. From what I hear, a B.A. is not worth much in most industries in Germany. Having a Master's would greatly improve job chances in many cases (not so much in the Game Design indostry however). Is it a similar scenario in Japan? Or do japanese companies not care too much about your education if its not from a japanese elite university anyway?

I'm currently contemplating whether it would be a good idea to do a Master's for 2 more years before trying to land a job in Japan. That would have the additional benefit of me having more time to improve my language skills.
I just don't know how much of a turn off my age (28 by then) would be for japanese companies at that point. I know it wouldn't be that much of a problem in the German/European market. But I'm not able to translate my experience to the Japanese job market where graduates are usually in their early 20s and it's not common to stay at uni for a long time or even switch jobs/companies mid-career.
 

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If you're German you could also try the working holiday approach. I think the age cut off is 30. It will be a lot easier to network for Japanese jobs from inside the country. Go and be a bartender at Ex Bar or something. You can meet lots of people that way. Ultimately that would probably be more effective than getting a Masters I suspect.
 

nice gaijin

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Unless you have specific education goals, a masters will just delay your entrance into the job market. Here in the states, it would also likely be increasing your debt load, so rather than helping you over hurdles it could be building even more.

Regardless of where you are, your work is what speaks for you, especially in a creative industry. Focus on that portfolio, find interesting projects, work locally and build an impressive sizzle reel.
 
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