Edouard Decaen is in the second year of his Master’s in Asian Studies at Ritsumeikan University.
Originally from France, he recently completed an internship in Kyoto, and ended a year of job hunting with an offer in hand after he graduates next April!
It's been quite a year
Japanese companies are increasingly opening their doors explicitly to international students, but for those approaching graduation, the seas of black suits can be extremely intimidating. For Edouard, navigating a path to success as a non-Japanese student in this highly structured system was a challenge at first, too. He talks brightly about his past year of job-hunting in a way that wouldn’t suggest how he bussed himself from coast-to-coast several times for a great number of interviews, job fairs, tests, and meetings.
After emerging successfully with a naitei job offer, he’s gained a lot of experience, and come quite a long way.
Q: What was your first contact with Japanese?
A: When I was in middle school, I took an introductory Chinese poetry class. That was my first contact with Chinese characters, with kanji, like the character for horse, “uma.” I was fascinated by them, and my grandmother even bought me a book about basic kanji for Christmas. So I was really interested in kanji first, and then Japan later. I know lots of people who are interested in Japan because of manga or anime, but for me the language was much more interesting.
When I was deciding what to focus on studying in school, I wasn’t sure what to choose, but I knew that I have strong language skills, so I thought I would try focusing on a language that’s very different from European romance languages.
I met a Japanese person for the first time when I was in high school. My father is a doctor, and one of his patients was Japanese. The patient was also Christian, and was feeling kind of lonely around Christmastime, so we invited him to our house for Christmas. After meeting him, I became even more interested in Japan.
I took my first Japanese class in university, but everyone else was far ahead of me. During self-introductions, I had no idea what to say, so I just said the same thing as the girl next to me. I said it seriously, but everyone laughed when I introduced myself as, “Marie.” (laughs) I had no idea what I was saying, and I couldn’t read hiragana or katakana yet. But I traveled to Japan for a month in my second year, and returned to study abroad in Osaka for five months again after that. It got longer every time, and now I’m here for my Master’s.
The longer I stayed in Japan, the more I came to like it, and the more I felt I wanted to live here.
The Job-Hunt in Japan
It may not have been an easy year, but Edouard speaks cheerfully about the parts of the job hunt he likes—and those he could do without.
Q: How did you start your job search in Japan?
A: When I first started, I didn’t know much about job-hunting in Japan. In April, I joined the regular entry websites like MyNavi and RikuNavi—the sites that Japanese students use, too—and looked up information about companies. To be honest, none of these were very helpful for me at all. I attended the info sessions for several companies, and took their standardized SPI tests, but the problem was that most of the companies I was looking into were only really interested in hiring Japanese students. From June to July I tried to conduct my job search in the same way a Japanese student would, but I wasn’t getting any results.
Things started to change in late summer, when I started attending job fairs and info sessions specifically targeted towards non-Japanese or bilingual students. A classmate told me about events like Career Forum (http://www.careerforum.net/), MyNavi Global Career Expo (http://global.mynavi.jp/), and Job Haku (https://job-haku.com/). I went to about seven of these altogether, in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. The jobs and companies at these fairs actually used English, and speaking to the hiring agents was really helpful for me, though I wasn’t getting any offers yet.
The next step for me was connecting with a career agent through sites like Global Leaders, MyNavi, Next Stage Asia, and Pasona. Career agents were a great help, because they would send job information to me directly, which saved me a lot of the work. They’ll help you find a good match, too, because they interview you over to phone to get an idea of who you are and what you’re looking for. The pace is much faster, too: in my experience, I had an interview a week after talking on the phone, a second interview a week later, and a job offer in hand the next day. Using a career agent was much more efficient for me. The service is free, too, which is wonderful.