6 Tips for finding internships (in Japan)

Recently the career landscape of Japan for foreign university students and graduates is facing some challenges. The job market is more competitive, and undertaking an internship to gain the necessary experience is of great benefit, if not essential.
Since 2014, I have undertaken three internships in the agriculture sector of Japan (total 11 months) and am well adjusted to the time investment and often agonizing back and forth email bonanza that ensues. I would like to share these six tips, which I have found very useful for other internships seekers to further their career opportunities.

Tip 1. The Specifics

First and foremost, let’s nut out the specifics. These are; defining your goals, setting requirements and thinking about potential assignments. Questions you should be looking to answer are:

  • What sector & sub sector should the internship take place?
    Agriculture (like me?), robotics, IT, mechanical engineering, healthcare, tourism, cosmetics, you name it.
  • What kind of company should it be?
    A global company, small sized, internationally active
  • Where should the company be located?
    Kanto, Nagoya, another city, or is a rural area acceptable?
  • Is it part of your study or is there another reason?
    This could either limit or increase your chances for certain visas. There is plenty of information available on http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/ regarding this topic. While contacting your embassy is also very useful.
  • What do you want to learn and experience? Setting  and thinking about these learning objectives will help you find suitable positions.
  • Is financial reimbursement required for your work? Either In wages, or for housing, living expenses, transport costs.

Tip 2. Prepare

So you decided to undertake an internship in Japan, what kind of capabilities and skills do you think are required for what you want to do?  Assessing your skills and capabilities, and showing these on an updated CV or LinkedIn summary makes all difference.

If you don’t meet all the skills or capabilities requirements, there is still time to work on these and make note of it in your application.  Studying Japanese, the working culture, improving your communication skill, or even increasing your proficiency in technical software tools, could increase your chances. Being able to translate work instructions into Japanese from English, and creating clearer presentations contributed to me landing my last internship.

Tip 3. Get informed

Next would be to start desk researching the sector in which you want to carry out your internship. If you limit yourself to the companies you currently know, you are missing out. Some examples on what might help are:

  • Following & researching news websites that publish sector specific information .
  • Researching the websites of the related ministry department.
  • Identifying certification schemes and certified companies.

Tip 4. Network

Although there might be a difference between your personal and professional network, both may contain people who could help you find the right company. Are your relatives, friends and professional connections aware of your intentions to undertake an internship in Japan? If not you might want to tell them. And who knows they have any ideas or leads to a suitable internship company. I found the team at Internship Japan a great help. The Non For Profit Organization is run by volunteers who strive for a better internship system in Japan. Check them out here: https://www.internshipjapan.org/en/

Other institutions you could contact are:

  • Your Embassy
  • Partner universities
  • International companies active in Japan

Tip 5. Active Approach

Are you actively approaching companies and looking for potential companies? The classic “Here I am, Help me” approach won’t get you far. Companies actively seeking interns are few and can be overwhelmed with applications. Adopting an active approach will generate more leads to potential companies, thus increasing your possibilities.

Tip 6. Communicate

Communication etiquette is essential. Regular communication with potential companies is important as you might lose valuable internship opportunities if leads turn cold. This can be the case for companies who have not had foreign interns before or are unfamiliar with the processes with a lack of information to move forward. Your communication could ease any hesitation.

Communication can take place through multiple channels,  for example: e-mails,  chats, video chats, or in person. Communicating only over a passive medium like email is not ideal. Aim for a balanced communication stream of email, video chat and/or face-to-face.

Once decided upon a company for an internship, ceasing communication abruptly with other companies you’ve contacted with is distasteful. Sending a small courtesy thank-you letter to the companies you didn’t chose, will be held with high regard.

This Post was written by Simon Ruhé, aspiring organic farmer in Japan.