We have a very special interview from Mike Paxman who is currently working in the mobile games industry here in Tokyo. Mike studied Japanese Language at the University of Sheffield, also helping to run the Japan Society on the side.
He also used to run the extremely popular Japan is doomed blog and has contributed contents to other Japanese culture websites such as Tofugu.
Below is the interview we did together about advice for those who are who are interested in working in Japan and specifically the game industry! Some great contents and hope you enjoy!
Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. This is IT! This is the theme that got everything rolling. The big bang for Wijapan. It is the topic I always wanted to write about and the one I also wanted to avoid, due to it often bringing up un-pleasurable memories.
Now working in a Japanese company is one HELL of a big theme. We haven’t got that many articles here at Wijapan (YET!) but quite a few of them touch on working in a Japanese company. Jamie has introduced some of the annoyances to be found with everyday life here such as the good old hanko and your truly has talked about the diet surrounding working in a Japanese company and also a general outline of how to apply to one .
I would say though, more than anything that happens in the day to day life of working here, what has had the most lasting impression on me was the first two months, namely the kyouikukikan, the ‘training period’.
My first two months in a Japanese company were so mind boggling and shocking, that it made me realize that even though I had majored in Japanese language and culture for 4 years at university, spent one year living here as an exchange student and 6 months working for Mercedes Benz in Tokyo with many Japanese staff, I really knew nothing about what goes on in a traditional Japanese company or what it is like to work for one. I also think that unless you have experienced being here (or read this blog) you will never know.
I can always recall one of my earliest childhood memories of my “awakening” to Japan as a “modern country”, and not just as a land of the rising sun full of ninjas and samurai (TV can be a convincing media).
I was born and raised in the small town of Wednesbury in the UK. A village for most of its existence, when the Industrial revolution picked nearby Birmingham up and propelled it to Industrial “workshop of the world” Wednesbury was swept along in the pandemonium. Soon the banks of canals filled with barges laden fresh with coal for Birmingham’s roaring industries; brimmed to the edge with factories, workshops and steel mills – the modern age had arrived for this small town.
But history was not to be kind to Wednesbury. As fast as Industry had giveth life to the town it took it away. Post-war, as in other areas, British industrial output crumbled under the weight of cheaper foreign imports and factory closures, mass unemployment and mass unenjoyment soon followed. However as soon as the 90s began where once stood steel mills now stood shops, as the old abandoned land which once rang day and night to the sound hammers pounding steel now thronged with the crowds of Middle-England – row upon row of cars filled to impossibility with flat pack furniture and kitchen fittings crawling along the asphalt.
But that’s a story for another time, so let’s return to that 12 year old wide-eyed Wednesbury child – the most exotic thing in his life being an Indian curry. I clearly remember my father telling me about how his friend has been to Japan only to return flabbergasted, astounded by its neon metropolis and futurisms.
“Everything they have is at least 10 years advanced of anything we have over here”
That was it. That was all I needed. Japan from that point on cemented itself into my mind as certain kind of futuristic utopia. Everyday chores need not trouble, as your trusty robot would carry out those tasks. The flow of information is electronically controlled as everyday devices and appliances speak with each other to optimise your daily routines for maximised – Japanese style – efficiency. The age of men was over.
OK so we are back to the long road of job hunting in Japan. Following on from the previous article we are have gone to the company presentation and hopefully our Entry Sheet has passed. The next step being the ultra-fun:
So you have made it through the first stage and it has only taken you around 4 months. The next step will often be a written exam or first interview, depending on the company the order is different and some companies leave out the written exam all together (my company and Tokyo Joe’s company both had a written exam but Joe’s didn’t).
There are various kinds of written exams, personality tests, general knowledge test and specialist knowledge tests. The most famous of all of these is the SPI which stands for ‘Synthetic Personality Inventory’ which is a general knowledge test and the standard used by 1000s of companies. The SPI test generally has a math, language (Japanese and English) as well as personality section, but there are variations depending on who is taking the test (university grad, college grad etc.) and company that is using it. In essence it used to test not just a candidate’s academic level but also their general knowledge and character too. The most current version of the test is SPI3 which was introduced in 2012. The test can be done in both a test centers or on-line.
These tests can actually be pretty demanding and there are a LOAD of books, websites and mobile applications devoted to just getting prepared for them. Often at Universities you will see hordes of students combining forces to tackle the tests. One person who is good at maths will do that section for everyone in the group, then another person will do the language section etc. Maybe not the most ethical way to do it, but definitely easier than trying to do it solo.
You might think that finding a new job is pretty much the same in any country. You generally find an advertisement for a job you want to do with a specific job description, listing the skills required for that position etc. You then send in a CV and Cover Letter highlighting your key skills and how they are applicable to what is required from the role. You will have an interview, usually one, maybe two at the most and if it is a specific skilled based job such as translation, some sort of work related ‘trail’. This is what I perceived ‘job hunting’ as and how most of my friends in the UK, America and other parts of Europe went about applying and getting their job.
Also here in Japan, when you apply to most (not all) gaishikei (foreign company in Japan) it essentially follows the same pattern as above. My own internship application to Mercedes Benz R&D Japan followed the above process to the Tee.
However if you are applying to a Japanese company, especially if you are going to be/are a new graduate, then the process is completely different and actually EXTREMELY confusing and long. Perhaps the biggest difference with ‘job hunting’ in Japan (called shuushoku katsudou or shuukatsu for short, cause shuushoku katsudou is a ridiculously long word!) is the fact that you are essentially not actually hunting for a ‘job’ but a ‘company’. The reason being that when you apply and are hired, you will often have no idea what job you will be doing in the company! Which makes it damn hard to sell yourself! Also most of the time when you are applying to a Japanese company it is under the assumption that you will work their for life, though more recently there is an increase in people changing jobs in Japan.
So the average Japanese University student will start job hunting….wait for it…..at least a full 14 months before they are scheduled to graduate. Yep, talk about forward planning. The reason being that you have to jump through certain unavoidable ‘hoops’. Even if you are the most skilled, highly desirable candidate generally there is no way of avoiding this.
So what does the average job hunting route entail?