Having a profession that does not "fit" into the Japanese labor market?


It happens everywhere, even in one’s own country, to end up looking for jobs (and eventually getting hired for those) that do not necessarily connect to what we have studied.

And how about it, when living overseas? Often times, that is really daunting. Adding to the language barrier, for instance, the professions that require specific license (accountants, lawyers, medical doctors) tent to be the most difficult in this regard.

What do you do, to still advance, career wise?

Option A: get what it's required and make that professional title shine in Japan.

Option B: reinvent yourself to increase your odds, but do it strategically.


We do not pretend to have a silver-bullet recipe, but hopefully the following lines will help you develop a strategy for you to still feel on the progressing track even with a “not perfectly” matching job.


First things first!

You decide which specific self-analysis tool you use (MBT, Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument; The Success DNA; etc.), but hopefully you will agree that understanding your own interest and motivation is essential. You do not have to be very specific in what you “decide” for your interest. Actually, it is said to be wiser to define interests somehow broadly, not to close doors too early.

You might ask: Why do I need to do again self-analysis having already a profession? Remember that this articles is not aimed at those who have their career path pretty much defined and decided and are only on execution part, without having problems in finding a very good matching job in Japan.

For the rest, trying to fit into “different groups” requires, first, trying to understand/re-define/recall our essence as human beings and professionals, in terms of what motivates us.

As important as thinking about our interest, a very first definition of the most important skills or strengths as professionals also becomes vital. Am I good at math? Am I an IT geeky type? Do I have proven business acumen?

On the other hand, you might know what most companies are looking for recently, back at home. It might be similar to what is going on in Japan (and actually in this globalized world there are similar trends everywhere). Nonetheless, there are also differences. You need to understand those differences in terms of what the current labor market is looking for in your host country.


In reality, understanding what companies are looking for can also help you complement your self-analysis exercise. It will help you understand what you already have, in terms of skills, and what is in demand. Who knows, you might have the law degree (and eventually even the lawyer license) back at home. And you might also have a master degree or eventually PhD's from Japan and you acquired an interesting skill: you are now very good with statistics and data analysis.

At this stage, you probably realized that thinking/focusing only in terms of (university/college) professions will not help much. We are in the age of specific skills. For instance, as opposed to thinking in terms of BA in mathematics, economics, low, etc., you might want to think in terms of data analysis expert-quantitative analyst, social marketing expert, etc.

Now you can evaluate the transferable skill(s) you have honed that will give you better chances of connecting with a specific job.

It is true that many job advertisements will be too broad and sometimes vague. But, if you are having the help of a recruiting company, do not feel shy to ask for more details.


Remember that a better understanding of yourself and the labor market will help you navigate better the intricacies of the Japanese working world.