Foreigners Guide to Networking in Japan
By Tyson Batino | Date : September 3rd, 2020
Networking in Japan is a great way to find a job in Japan and build up your business network. There are many big cities in Japan and there is a lot of business action going on, so let's dive in.
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Networking in Japan, Tokyo to Find a Great Job
I doubt you're going to like hearing this, but I have to say it. You're probably not as good at networking as you think you are. I thought I was good at networking until I met people who are masters of the art, and it made me realize that I was an amateur. Start from a mindset of humbleness, and you'll actually have an advantage in developing your business networking skills. Overconfidence can tank your future career as easily as lack of confidence.
Networking is like a spider web: the bigger and stronger your web is, the more opportunities and chances will come your way. It takes time and effort to develop a solid network in Tokyo (or anywhere for that matter), but knowing the right person can save you hours of panicked scrambling with one quick phone call.
Most of the best job opportunities in Tokyo come from a network made up of the right people. Companies are always looking for talented new hires, and even if the person you met doesn't have a job opportunity for you, they likely know someone who does. If nothing else, you'll get a warm introduction for a job interview. That actually counts for more than it seems, since you may be able to add the interviewer to your network.
You don't need industry experience to network with others in that field. It will be harder because people won't have a reason to speak to you, but keep making that effort. It will pay off.
Professional and career Networking in Japan, Tokyo
To prepare for networking, the self-reflective questions I like to consider are, “What challenge or problem do I hope to solve by coming to this networking event?”, “What type of person would I like to meet here for business?”, and “What is my biggest pain point for business?” I often asked these questions to all the attendees I met and would look for opportunities to connect with them. Many attendees hadn't considered these points, and I was able to help them improve their experience at the event. In the spirit of karma, these people often went out of their way to help me after I helped them.
If you haven't decided on your target industry, then networking is probably going to be a poor use of your time.
People risk their reputation when they introduce a potential employee to a friend of theirs who is hiring. Making a poor referral will often have a negative effect on a business relationship, so don't expect a solid connection when you aren't sure what you're looking for. Successful networking revolves around understanding what the other person wants and aligning your needs with theirs. If what you each want isn't compatible, then it's up to you to look elsewhere.
Create your own consistent message about what industry, position, and company you're looking for. This will make it easier for influential people to connect with you; when you meet them again in the future, they will remember your stated goals. I experienced numerous instances as a manager when people would ask me if I were still looking to hire for a certain staff position and mention that they had a friend looking for a job that matched my hiring need. I have also received emails after networking events from people who wanted to introduce their friend to work at my company.
Finding a job is easy, finding a great one is tough.
Finding a position in Tokyo is easy if you have a University degree and can speak English fluently, so the challenge becomes finding a company that you actually want to work for. The most interesting and unique companies tend to hire new people through word of mouth and don't rely on job boards.
If you only search by browsing online ads, you're limiting your search. The companies who outsource to find people generally aren't as invested in their employees as those who have built a network to gain referrals by word of mouth. You can certainly find a job on a board, but your chances of finding the right job are much lower. This is why networking is so critical.
Networking is the most time-consuming way to find a position, but it provides you with access to opportunities that other candidates won't have. The bigger your network becomes, the more opportunities will come your way. Investing in developing your network is a great long-term solution to having stable and quality employment in Japan.
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Developing a professional network is hard work
The next question is: how do I develop a network? Building a network involves meeting and helping a lot of people, both online and in person. There are many networking events on the website meetup.com that are business-related and job industry-specific.
Networking in Japan without work experience
Let's revisit the question of work experience. For someone who has no relevant professional experience, the best way to network is to read articles (like this one) that give you a straightforward view of the job market. The next-best way is to talk to as many people as possible about their company cultures. This is how you get a solid understanding of which companies are great to work for and which are not that great. People love to talk about themselves; you'll have no problem getting others to share about their work experiences.
You can begin your connections search wider than your desired field and talk to entry-level employees from many different industries. Use the information you get to solidify what you want. Then you can start focusing on the events for the specific industry that you're interested in. The more events you attend in one industry, the more you'll know what topics people talk about, and the more you sound knowledgeable and thus easier to introduce for a position.
Another hot tip: research the featured speaker for the event and ask questions related to your industry. More than half of the questions asked at these events are really generic and could be answered with a quick web search. Asking a question that references more than the "About" page on the speaker's website will set you apart from the other people in the room. You want people to take positive notice of you, and this will put a really good light on you.
Networking in Japan : Links to Networking Groups in Japan
Here are some places you can network with other people. I focused on choosing groups that have been active for 2 or more years.
General Business Groups
These groups are usually friendly to newcomers and those trying to make the jump.
The following two groups are for experienced HR professionals.
- Experienced Marketers - Tokyo Digital Marketings Meet Up Group
- Beginner Marketers - Japan Association of Marketers or JAM
Both are new groups as of this moment, so I am not sure how long they will last.
Entrepreneurship and Technology
Too many to name. Easily find them on Meet Up or Facebook.
High Level Networking
Are you a director or a senior level manager in your company? The event fees are expensive but worth it.
In order to have a more complete view of the job market in Japan and better understand how to find a job, read our complete guide to full-time jobs in Japan for foreigners.