Internships in Japan: What to expect and how to find one
So, you are an eager student dreaming of a huge career. You might be wondering how to get started in the highly-connected and competitive world we live in. It is full of opportunities, but how do you get your foot in the door?
Whether or not you’ve decided upon your specific professional goals, an internship experience can be a huge step towards a great career. In this guide, we answer some of your most pressing questions about pursuing an internship in Japan, starting with, “why would you want to in the first place”?
What is an internship and why are they important?
Internships are usually for students or new graduates and provide a fixed-term work experience with an emphasis on training. Often, interns will do low-level, support-type tasks such as data entry, while observing and taking in the professional working environment of the company.
What are the benefits of an internship?
So, why would you want to do an internship? The benefits are many, although the purpose of each internship can vary, particularly in Japan.
Generally, though, there are 3 key benefits of an internship:
- Gain transferable skills and experience
There is a huge difference between study and work and an internship is a great way to bridge that gap. Communication, professionalism, adaptability, work ethic, and teamwork are all key skills that employers hope for in new employees that many graduates lack. First impressions really matter and I shudder remembering some of the mistakes I made as a graduate due to my naive lack of professionalism—mistakes I could have avoided had I had some professional experience under my belt already.
The great thing is that these soft skills can be learned and are transferable which means that the experience you gain from your internship will not only look fantastic on your resume, but help you (and your employer) wherever you land.
- Get industry exposure
Some people are born knowing exactly what they want to do, whereas others take time to figure out their dream career.
Either way, an internship can help you gain insights into your industry and job role of interest without requiring long-term commitment. It might also expose you to new roles and industries you had not considered and help you discover your professional interests.
- Get a job offer
Hiring an ex-intern is certainly an attractive option for companies. They’ve already seen their value in action and they don’t need to train them in the ways of the company. In fact, various surveys have shown the high likelihood of receiving a job offer following a paid internship—a 60% chance according to this Forbes article.
But why do an internship abroad, and why Japan?
In today’s increasingly global economy, doing an internship abroad or as an international student looks incredibly attractive on your resume for future employers, even if you don’t plan to stay in the country.
Learning to live and work in another culture takes courage, initiative, and a growth mentality: all things which employers value and which are improved with practice. Employers know that if you’ve willingly taken on the challenge of an internship abroad, it fuels your ability and confidence in taking on whatever challenges you might face as a new employee. Working in an international environment will also help you gain insights into your field, build your professional network, develop a global mindset and practice or learn a foreign language—all things which make you more marketable in today’s world.
Japan is the perfect place to achieve all this because it is home to many large scale international corporations and is a global leader in various areas including business and IT. Given the fact that the popularity and Japan’s culture and food is on the rise, Japan is only going to become more of an attractive destination for business. It’s also a great place to live, with Tokyo being one of the most foreigner-friendly and low-crime cities in the world.
What can I expect from an internship experience in Japan?
Sounds like an internship in Japan is right for you? Great! So let’s get down to the details.
Internships in Japan can be a little different from those in your home country. Generally, there are two types of internships offered by Japanese companies which cater to different purposes: unpaid internships for recruitment, and paid internships for experience.
Unpaid internships for recruitment
Successfully completing an unpaid internship gives you a good chance of landing a job with the company.
These are short-term internships that a company offers (or requires) as part of their recruitment process. And short-term really does mean short-term. They might last only a day or up to a few weeks.
The reason they can be unpaid is that the primary (only) goal is to find the right-fit employees. The company doesn’t really expect real work to come from its unpaid interns. Rather than provide work experience, they are intended for parties on both sides to learn about each other.
Short-term internships usually consist of some introductory seminars and group work alongside other candidates and are generally targeted towards final-year students in the midst of job hunting.
Paid internships for experience
This type of internship can provide you with a rich learning experience and many of the benefits discussed above. They also improve your chances of landing a job with that company as many companies offering such positions are on the search for new employers. Provided you fit in well and maintain a good work ethic, you might well end up with a job even if you did not come in with the right skills or educational background.
Because interns do real work that contributes to the company’s goals alongside it’s full-time employees, interns are paid. The pay is on-par with that of typical part-time jobs that students might undertake while studying: between 1000 and 2000 yen per hour. The hours might be similar to that of a part-time job too - several hours or certain days each week - rather than full-time.
Note that multinational companies that have offices or headquarters in Japan sometimes offer paid internships as well and these are worth looking out for, especially if you are not living or studying in Japan.
Do I need to speak Japanese?
There are many internship opportunities in Japan even if you don’t speak the language.
Multinational companies in Japan often operate in English so no Japanese language is required. Additionally, you might be able to work at a Japanese company if you have strong knowledge or skills, especially in the technology field.
However, many Japanese companies might require N2/N1 Japanese level (N3 at a bare minimum) so those who are learning the language have more opportunities available to them.
Ok, so how do I find one?
It can be difficult to find suitable positions and the process is made much easier if you are in Japan already because companies won’t need to sponsor your visa. Either way, there are several ways to search for an internship.
- Contact companies directly
Look for companies you are interested in and check their website to see if they offer internship programs. If not, contact them directly by phone and follow-up with an email. This can work well if you are outside of Japan and/or have limited Japanese ability and you can find multinational companies that you are interested in.
LeaddMe’s growing network also provides a great opportunity for members to research and get to know prospective companies. Find out more here.
- Use Campus Resources For those studying or studying abroad in Japan, your campus most likely has a career center which can help you find an internship placement. It is possible that your university in your home country has an official program for international internship placements also.
Aside from that, take advantage of the experts in your field on campus. Reach out to your professors or tutors: you never know who might be able to lead you to an opportunity.
Which brings us to the next point:
- Use your networks Sometimes the best opportunities come through people you already know. In addition to those on campus, reach out to family, friends, previous employers, etc. who might be able to help you.
You can also grow your network online. Linkedin is an obvious place you can do this. Our platform here on LeaddMe provides a unique chance to build your network with people who have a specific connection with Japan. You can reach out to companies, recruiters, or those working in industries you are interested in. Joining a group can also help you find useful contacts and learn more about your industry to help prepare you for a successful internship. Becoming a LeaddMe member also helps Japan-based companies find you, which creates another pipeline.
Use an agency For those outside of Japan, there are many agencies that provide programs for internships in Japan such as Internship in Japan or Absolute Internship. However, these programs can be costly and you generally don’t get paid, leaving you to foot the entire bill.
Online job search tools As with any job, you will be able to find many internship opportunities advertised online. There are many online job platforms that cater to those both within and outside of Japan. And, of course, you can search for opportunities right here on LeaddMe with the help of our friendly chatbot! Our AI-powered chatbot simplifies the process and cuts down on wait times. As a LeaddMe member you also get access to a professional networking platform and supportive learning community, all for free! Learn more about Leaddme Campus and how to find internships on LeaddMe here.