A month after I started my study abroad in Japan, I hit a (figurative) wall. I was broke, worried about the future, and had far too much free time on my hands. I decided to find a job / internships. This proved to be harder than I thought. I had no idea how to find a job in Tokyo. I also had no idea how to find an internship in Tokyo. One month and several rejection letters later, I was still an unemployed college student. It was pretty humiliating.
Then I realized I wanted an internship, but still hadn’t figure out why I wanted to be an intern in Tokyo. So I was running around like a chick with its’ head cut off, blindly applying to every opening I could find.
First of all, you need to figure out why you want the Internship or Job in Tokyo. Is it for:
- Job experience?
- Something to do?
I wasn’t interested in the money; I had a scholarship. Instead, I wanted job experience and something fun to do – a sense of purpose. Most study abroad students who are working at legitimate Japanese companies as an intern had similar interests.
If you are interested in money: Don’t do a traditional internship, instead do a “baito.”
An アルバイト or “baito” is a Japanese part-time job. You will have a considerably higher success rate (at least money-wise) with a “baito,” because most Japanese internships are un-paid in Tokyo.
I recommend teaching English, if possible. Most “baitos” require a student work permit, which can take several months to process (depending on how helpful the university in Japan you are studying abroad at is). Teaching English part-time at a cafe or company rarely requires a visa; lessons are paid in cash.
If you are interested in job experience or something to do: Try to get a traditional, Japanese Internship. There are several ways to find an internship. These are the ones I have tried (or had friends try).
1. Through friends or other students.
- Students are the best because they are most like you. The companies that hired them are more likely to hire a similar person (same university, same age). This is how I found my internship.
- Make sure to not only ask your local friends (in my case, Japanese students studying at International Christian University), but also foreign friends. Your foreign friends might have a collection of unique resources
2. Through teachers
- Teachers, if you are close with them, can offer some great resources. One of my teachers who specialized in human trafficking and cracking down on child pornography in Tokyo helped introduce me to several NGOs to possibly intern at. In the end, none of the accepted me (didn’t speak enough Japanese, needed to give a 2-year commitment before they would hire me), but I know without her suggestion, I never would have found the NGO in the first place. And, by “throwing” in her name in the first paragraph, I was possibly given higher preference and allowed to apply.
3. Through members of your community
- If you belong to a church, that is a great place to network. If you volunteer, are in a club, participate in weekly cultural exchanges, or even just spend the day with the old people at the local garden, don’t be afraid to ask if they know available jobs. Asking (almost) strangers is awkward, but you won’t ever see them again. And who knows, they might just know about a job for you.
4. Send out cold-call emails to companies
- `Hands down, this is the hardest one to do. It is also the most effective, in my opinion.
- The friend who did this looked online for companies that had previously given foreigners an internship. She has a specific type of company she wanted to work for, so it was pretty simple. Google can be a great resource when job hunting. Once you have an email or contact information, even if they don’t have an internship or job listed as availible, just send out an introductionary email with your resume attatched. Try to send out a lot of these – it will pay off.
5. Look online
- It can be as simple as typing in “Internships for students in Tokyo” into the Google Search Engine. Generally speaking – ignore the first three pages of Google. Anything after page 5 probably only gets a fraction of the traffic of anything on the first or second page.
- Be specific. If you want a writing based, programming, or graphic design related internship, don’t be afraid to ask.
- I’ve heard to three companies (left in the comment section) that can help find part-time jobs and internships for foreigners in Japan. They are boobooSKI, Japan Internships, and SAN Consulting. Check them out!
6. Look at postings on college campus boards
- College campus boards have some great opportunities specifically aimed for students like you. However, it is also effective to check the boards of other college campus’, not just your own.
- ICU has a couple (albeit small) notice boards where jobs and internships are posted in English and Japanese.
7. Craigslist Tokyo
- I’ve found two of my internships, as well as a variety of other “odd jobs” or “events” on craigslist. Don’t bother trying to browse through listings over a week old; try to check craigslist every couple days for new listings.
- You will see all sorts of things, from AV models, to female waitresses, to part-time/full-time English teaching, to the occasional “real” job. Those unique jobs are few and far between – apply to as many as you can.
If you actively try all seven of these methods when applying for an internship in Tokyo, I guarantee you will find something. The trick is to never give up. For more advice, check out “8 Things I Wish I had Known Before Applying to Internships / Jobs“
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