Job Hunting in Japan: Things I wished I knew when I decided to move to Japan, go back to school, and look for another job mid-career

Shukatsu – Japanese Job Hunting for College Students

Winter. February.

In this biting cold, I woke up early for a Shukatsu (就活) seminar for international students. Shukatsu (就活) is a shortened term for Shushoku Katsudo (就職活動) or job hunting in Japan for college students. I joined this seminar with the hopes of learning the ins and outs of Japanese job hunting as a foreigner.



After preparing my bento, I did the traditional way of doing my hair and make-up, donning on my shukatsu (就活) suit, a flimsy stocking, and my job hunting shoes. The lady down below looks prettier but that is how girls are all supposed to look like.

The Situation at Hand

As an inter-company transferee of a Japanese EPC firm, I have worked in (and first came to know of) Japan back in 2012 and was sent here on and off until 2014 for projects.

A year after going back to the Philippines, for personal reasons (I had to help send my brother to university – father died early and mother does not have a stable income), I switched to another company that would help me pay the bills.

Sadly, that company closed down after 2 years.

I was lucky that I applied and got accepted to a Japanese university for my master’s degree.

So here I am, almost done with a school year and entering the second year next April, carrying with me six years of working experience.

Mid-career International Professionals in Japan Who Go Back to School

One of the reasons why I went back to school instead of looking for a job here in Japan was that mid-career job descriptions in Japan require you to speak business-level or native level Japanese – unless you want to work in IT or as an English teacher. I’m neither in IT nor an English teacher. I thought going back to school would help open up new paths for me since I heard that Japanese companies typically hire their employees fresh out of school.

That is not the case.

Even if you enter university again, if you have 3 or more years of experience, you will not be considered as a new graduate and you are not supposed to do shukatsu. You will be treated as a mid-career professional and job hunting for you will be different. And yes, most require you to speak Japanese, minimum N2.

I only have 1 year left to achieve this. According to research, if you are a regular Joe, this is impossible. With my master’s degree research which requires me to learn a new software and learn 2 coding skills; and credit requirements, God help me.

Mid-career Job Hunting Process

This differs according to the company you are applying to.

One company requires mid-career job hunters to take an exam in English and go through two interviews. Another company just requires a resume and an interview.

Mid-career job opportunities are often posted on their websites and you have to email them and tell them about your intent.

Interesting Take-away from the Job Hunting Seminar

I’ve always thought that companies who have several international subsidiaries – companies we would call mammoth “global” companies would be more open to international students who have little Japanese skills. This day’s job hunting seminar proved me wrong.

In a dialogue with various HR personnel, I actually found out that newer companies are more accommodating to international students. They actually offer exams and interview in English once you email them a request. Most mammoth companies would just quiet down (Japanese speak: not possible) with a little choto (ちょと).

What I intend to Do

So I could either

  1. Quit my master’s degree and just study the Japanese language. But how do recruiter’s judge someone who quit mid-way in pursuit of a goal? Not good.
  2. Look for a job outside of Japan.
  3. Study Japanese until my eyebags are as big as your Prada and hope to God that my womanhood, brown color, short stature would not deter in my way as a Chemical Engineer.

Seriously, I have been in adverse situations before and I have not given up. My friends know me as someone who would not hesitate to do something even if other people I know have not done it before.

Take, for example, this.

SURRENDER is not in my dictionary.

Although at this moment, I just wanna curl up inside my futon and cry myself to sleep.

But then there are other things to do like

1. Study Japanese

2. Study Japanese

3. Study Japanese.

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Paula Lapizar

Chemical Engineer. Daughter. Sister. Lover. Tree-Hugger. Bargain Hunter
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Paula Lapizar

Chemical Engineer. Daughter. Sister. Lover. Tree-Hugger. Bargain Hunter

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