From Scholars to Scholars in Kansai

As international students in Japan, questions such as ‘What are the options I have once I graduate?’ lurk in the mind of almost every scholar. As the country goes through the process of internationalization, the importance of answering these questions are increasing day by day. MEXT Scholars Association understands the gravity of this situation and is taking initiatives to deliver at least some kind of direction to MEXT Scholars in particular and the international community at large.
With this motivation, on Sunday, July 8, the Kansai division of MEXT Scholars Association organized an exchange of information between current scholars and alumni which we call “From Scholars To Scholars (FSTS)”. The venue was the prestigious Kyoto University in Japan. Three speakers coming from different backgrounds shared their experiences and tips with the eagerly listening audience. Around 25 people, from different universities in the Kansai area joined the interactive program.

The first speaker was Oula Aabkari, a scholar from Morocco and currently a 2nd year Master student at the Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University. She recently cracked a job at a construction consulting company and shared her job-hunting experience targeting a general audience.

The second speaker was Fernando Palacio, a scholar from Argentina, who came to Japan with the MEXT scholarship in 2004 and finished his Masters and PhD at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. At present, he is a “Program special senior lecturer” in Kyoto University at the International Strategy Office and shared his experiences both as a student and a professional.

The third speaker was Austin Zeng, a Singaporean scholar, who graduated from the University of Tokyo in 2017. He is currently working for multiple startups in the Tokyo tech scene and is a member of a research group at RIETI researching about the laboural scene for foreigners in Japan. He is also the current President of the MEXT Scholars Association. He shared his career experience and his knowledge on the difficulties and opportunities as a foreigner looking for a career in Japan.

After the three speakers finished their presentations there was a Q&A session where the audience freely interacted with the speakers and cleared many of their doubts.

The event had a special attendee. Yukari Mitsuhashi, the Vice-Director of the International Strategy Office Kyoto University decided to surprise us with her humble presence and addressed the students with a short speech.

 

MEXT Scholars Association would like to thank everyone who joined us and made this event a success. We will try our best to bring more and more career related events to the Kansai area in the future!

Click here to download the presentations

Pictures taken by Fabian Hia

From Scholars To Scholars IV

On the 17th of June 2018, MSA held its fourth ‘From Scholars To Scholars’ speakers series, where we bring together current students with OBOG alumni, who have made for themselves a career here in Japan.

This time it was held at the prestigious University of Tokyo, and for the first time we managed to invite with us a Javanese guest career consultant, Reina Noguchi, to share with her expertise in Japan’s unique job market.

Our distinguished OBOGs this time included Iris Wieczorek, a researcher by training and founder of IRIS, and Gustavo Dore, UX designer and founder of Motify, who shared their rich career experiences and their entrepreneurial spirit with the current MSA scholars to carve out their own career here in Japan.

We are pleased with the positive response and would like to thank all participants and especially the speakers.

Career Design Studio: Pitch Yourself Boot Camp

We thank everyone for being a part of the event and turning it into a great success. There was an amazing turnout of more than 130 people from all around the world.

Participants at Career Design Studio

There were many charismatic speakers in the event. Stéphane Emmanuel Fouché shared the journey of his career in Japan, and one of his tricks to making a pitch awesome was to “make your self relatable to the audience”. Yuma Saito roped the audience into the theory of “My story, Our story, Now” which was the key to engage everyone around you in your missions. Last but not the least, Mayuko Yamaura made a great pitch about Edison.ai, and used the kanji character 「楽」to explain why you need to strive hard to achieve your goals.

Pitch yourself bootcamp

About Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support

Groundbreaking ideas too often do not reach the market because of a lack of customers or a mismatch with market needs. DTVS nurtures startups according to their needs and at all stages of development, by leveraging the extensive Deloitte network and our in-house expertise in venture affairs. With a firm belief that startups are the lifeblood of an ecosystem, DTVS offers a broad range of expert services free of charge to startups.

Our role is to act as a catalyst, to accelerate the rate of innovation. We believe this is of paramount importance for brilliant and disruptive ideas to take form and to be implemented as solutions that benefit both the economy and the society. At TVS, we support, connect and cooperate with startups and corporations in order to transform bold ideas into tangible, innovative solutions. So far, we have supported over 3000 promising startups as well as assisted hundreds of our clients to implement open innovation programs.

Acknowledgments

We sincerely thank Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support for providing us with the financial support. We love EDGEof for providing us with the venue. We also thank all the DTVS staff members, EDGEof staff members, BizJapan, BLINK, and MEXT Scholars Association – 文部科学省国費留学生協会 members who have helped us with the event.

Pitch yourself bootcamp

We are always grateful to our guest speakers Stéphane Emmanuel FouchéYuma Saito, and Mayuko Yamaura, for kindly agreeing to join the panel at such short notice, and for all the time and energy that they have dedicated to this event. Last but not the least, the response from the audience was overwhelming. Thanks a lot for being there for us and making the event a grand success. We at Career Design Studio hope that you had valuable takeaways, and we look forward to seeing you again at our next event!

Pitch yourself bootcamp

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Career Design Studio’s Partners:
BizJapan (http://bizjapan.org )
BLINK (https://www.facebook.com/BlinkEntrepreneurs/ )
MEXT Scholars Association: (http://mextsa.org )

Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support x MSA: Find your mission workshop

We thank everyone for being a part of the event and turning it into a great success (despite the heavy rain). We have had an amazing turn out of MEXT scholars and alumni.

A quick snap of the event:

Alba told her amazing story of how she moved from biotechnology to entrepreneurship and what she learnt from the journey. Later, Saito san involved the participants in his talk by having them plot out their life as a graph and built meaningful discussions around the plots.

 

A little more on Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support:

Groundbreaking ideas too often do not reach the market because of a lack of customers or a mismatch with market needs. DTVS nurtures startups according to their needs and at all stages of development, by leveraging the extensive Deloitte network and our in-house expertise in venture affairs. With a firm belief that startups are the lifeblood of an ecosystem, DTVS offers a broad range of expert services free of charge to startups.

Our role is to act as a catalyst, to accelerate the rate of innovation. We believe this is of paramount importance for brilliant and disruptive ideas to take form and to be implemented as solutions that benefit both the economy and the society. At TVS, we support, connect and cooperate with startups and corporations in order to transform bold ideas into tangible, innovative solutions. So far, we have supported over 3000 promising startups as well as assisted hundreds of our clients to implement open innovation programs.

Internship Opportunities:

Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support is currently hiring interns. It is a paid internship. For further details, refer to the website. (https://www2.deloitte.com/jp/en/pages/careers/articles/tohmatsu-venture-support-internships-student-hires.html )

Send your CV to Karthik.rampalli@tohmatsu.co.jp

Acknowledgments:

We sincerely thank Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support for providing us with the venue and the financial support. We also thank all the DTVS staff members, especially the speakers, Alba and Saito san, for all the time and energy that they have dedicated to this event. We love all the attendees for participating in our event.

Last but not the least, we have partnered with BLINK (https://www.facebook.com/BlinkEntrepreneurs/ ) for this event. Do check out their Facebook page.

Please follow, like and sign up with MEXT Scholars’ Association in order to receive the information at the earliest. This information was first sent out in our mailing list. Do sign up with the mailing list in order to receive the event information.

What job opportunities do I have after I graduate?

SUMMARY

  • Your post-graduation plans will depend heavily on the following:
    • What career you want
    • What you can offer to potential employers
    • What kind of opportunities you get to know as a student
  • But in any case, overconfidence is a big no-no
  • Starting to look for opportunities early also really helps
  • A list of companies where some recent graduates are working at can also be found at the bottom of this article

Written by: Austin Zeng

In order to plan your career, you really need to be aware that your post-graduation career is pretty much decided by the following questions.

What career do you want?

  • Are you planning to work in Japan for a few years and then return home?
  • What is the environment that you would prefer? Company size and whether the company is Japanese or international can make a big difference.
  • What field do you want to work in?
  • What is the minimum salary that you are willing to take as a fresh graduate?

What can you offer to potential employers?

  • What working experience can you show?
    • But also do note that many Japanese companies prefer hiring students without experience.
  • How is your language fluency especially regarding English and Japanese?
  • Do you have any concrete skills?
    • Technical skills, especially programming, can be heavily in demand
    • Note that some professions (e.g. design) will demand a portfolio too

What kind of opportunities did you get to know as a student?

  • How are you getting to know companies and opportunities beyond the typical channels such as job boards?
  • Are you closing yourself off unintentionally to sectors which may have good opportunities like for example SMEs?
  • See the “how to job hunt in Japan” article for more information on this

Your answers to the above questions will probably give you a hint about what your first step after graduation will be. If you are still unsure though, do not hesitate to approach your MEXT senpais for advice!

Be realistic and plan ahead!

Anyway, a few general principles apply. Firstly do not be overconfident – especially regarding your language abilities. Remember that if you are aiming for the top-tier of companies you will be competing against the top-tier of Japanese talent – many of whom have native level fluency in both English and Japanese.

Another point is to start early. The earlier your career development, the more successful your first step post-graduation will be. You can develop your career through internship experiences, developing your own research portfolio, part-time work and general networking (view the other articles for more information about part-time work and internships).

For your reference, the following is a short list of companies in which some MEXT scholars who have graduated in the past 4 years (2014 – 2017) have entered for their first job. We hope this gives you an image of the opportunities open to you!

  • AI Squared
  • Amuse Inc.
  • British American Tobacco
  • Chuo University as faculty
  • Customer Solutions Development Co
  • DIRECT PUBLISHING
  • IBM Japan
  • INPEX Cooperation
  • Konami
  • Mitsubishi Research Institute
  • Mitsubishi Co.
  • Mitsui Chemicals Group
  • Nippon Koei
  • VISITS Technologies Inc.

 

(Image taken from flickr.com (2017/10/25))

These guide articles are meant to be advice based on the experience of current and previous scholars. Given how situations may change depending on the school, region or year etc., we urge any scholars to approach the relevant authorities in your school if you have any doubts or concerns.

Job hunting in Japan as an international student

SUMMARY

  • Be aware of the fact that the job hunting cycle is entirely different from most other countries in the world.
    • More specifically, job-hunting can start as early as the summer two years before you graduate if you graduate in spring.
    • The situation for students graduating in autumn is more complex.
  • The typical Japanese job-hunting process is also long and complex – search for “shukatsu” (就活) for more information.
    • However, note that there are also increasing numbers of students who find jobs outside of the typical shukatsu process.
  • Conversion from a student visa to a working visa is usually not difficult.
  • There is also a so-called job-hunters visa for those graduating without a job offer.
    • However, it is far more difficult to find a job if one has already graduated.
  • Also don’t forget to take a look at other guide articles explaining available opportunities for more information on for example internships.

Written by: Austin Zeng / Ly Techsrun

Working in Japan after graduation can be rewarding in many aspects – you get to deepen your understanding of Japan, develop your career and of course continue living in Japan. However, for this to happen you have to receive a job offer in the first place. Which brings us to this article – how does one go about job hunting in Japan?

This topic is too long and too deep to write about in full so we can only go through the basics. Mext scholar Techsrun Ly has however, made a comprehensive guide to the process he went through for shukatsu and is attached to this article below.

Job hunting in Japan

First of all, be aware that the job-hunting process calendar is very different from the rest of the world. The earliest the job hunting process can start is the summer of two years before you graduate – that is, if you are for example graduating in the spring of 2020, your job hunting process starts in the summer holidays of 2018.

Of course, this does depend on the types of companies you aim at – the earliest tend to be the internationals while the big Japanese national companies start moving in the winter of the year before graduation. But please be aware to ensure that you are not caught off guard.

Also, if you are planning to graduate in autumn, things are a bit more complex. Some companies will ask you to wait for half a year in order to join the spring batch whereas some will welcome you to join in autumn. There is no clear rule regarding this matter and it differs from company to company.

The job-hunting process

The typical job-hunting process in Japan is long and can involve multiple rounds of interviews, document screenings and standardized testing, which means that you might have to juggle school while job-hunting for a whole semester. Techsrun’s write-up below may give you a more concrete idea of how the standard process works.

However, do note that an increasing number of people are getting hired directly or through ways aside from the typical shukatsu. In particular, internship recruiting is getting more common (see the guide article about internships for more information) and getting job offers from personal contacts etc. is not unheard of either.

Working visa

It is also not difficult to change your student visa to a working visa as long as you have a valid job offer from a valid company. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice suggest that more than 90% of foreign students applying to convert their visas into a working visa are successful.

In case you were unable to get a job offer before graduation, though, you will have the option of changing your visa into a job-hunting visa, which grants you permission to stay in Japan and look for a job period for up to one year.

Try landing a job before you graduate!

However, do note that because of the employment structure in Japan it is far harder for someone to find a job as a graduated student than otherwise – only a small minority of companies open themselves to applications from students who have already graduated.

References:

http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyuukokukanri07_00111.html

Addendum: Shukatsu Experience

Summary (Experiences and recommendations!)

  • Shukatsu can be generally divided into six steps
  • Registering at agencies like Global Leader or TOP CAREER might be helpful
  • CV: Attending events organized by companies for getting a better idea about what those companies were like was useful for writing my CVs
  • Group discussions: I would suggest that you mention that you are not a native speaker and reconfirm with Japanese students in case you could not follow the discussion

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Self introduction and background

Nationality: Cambodia

Scholarship type: College of Tech. -> Undergraduate

Academics: Social sciences, bachelor’s degree

Shukatsu period: 2016-2017

I started looking for a job not having any specific industry in mind.

I was planning on first trying to work and then see what my opportunities are in order to find what I really want to do in the future.

——————————————————————————————————————————

Editor’s note: The following is a detailed explanation of the process that Techsrun followed and which is very typical of a “conventional” shukatsu in Japan.

First, one usually starts by doing a so-called self-analysis (自己分析, SA). In Japan, during interviews you will not only be asked about your skills or your major at university but also about the factors that made you the person you are today, who your best friends are and who has made the biggest impact on you in your life. This is not something you have to submit anywhere, but I personally think that this is a helpful step in order to prepare for possible interview questions.

As for the SA, I think it can generally be divided into two parts.

The first part is about imagining your ideal future. For me, this part was really difficult and what I did was, when considering my life dream, I just researched websites and brochures of the companies that I applied for for their goals and visions. During interviews, I then stated that I had similar dreams.

The second part is about analysing yourself – mainly about your personal strengths and weaknesses. This could be confusing at times because what strengths and weaknesses are considered could differ between your country and Japan. For example, the willingness to work overtime until late at night could be viewed as a strength by Japanese companies. So I suggest that you do careful research about what is considered as a strength or weakness by Japanese companies.

 

The second step is your CV. As an international student looking for a job in Japan, this was the most difficult part for me. One reason is that they require a lot of writing for each company and sometimes many deadlines for CV submissions for different companies overlapped.

As for me, I was very lucky to have a close Japanese friend. I told him what I wanted to write and he helped me translating it into formal Japanese. Sometimes he even suggested me on what I should and should not write in my CVs. Another suggestion is to get help from the job hunting agencies I mentioned in the very beginning of this article.

Another important point is that it is very useful to mention that you are a MEXT scholar. I received a very positive reaction from many companies by doing so. Apparently, many companies regard MEXT scholars as outstanding individuals for them to be able to be granted this scholarship.

 

The third step is to go to company orientation seminars. Although formal seminars start in March one year before your graduation, many informal ones start in the preceding December. These seminars are a good opportunity for you to get to know what kind of business the companies are doing and also are a chance for you to get to know whether you generally like the company or not.

If you register for agencies like Global Leader or TOP CAREER, you will receive emails informing you about company orientation seminars set up specifically for international students. These seminars include in-depth explanations about the organizing companies’ international businesses, and which countries they are aiming to expand their businesses to. Sometimes, foreign staff working at these companies will be present at the seminars too, so that we get to ask questions about their experiences as foreigners working for Japanese companies. However, not many companies organize seminars aimed at international applicants, so you might consider joining their general seminars aimed at Japanese applicants as well.

 

The fourth step is to take aptitude tests. Usually it takes international students longer to study and prepare for tests than it does for Japanese students. Most tests are in Japanese, but there also are a few companies, such as Honda, which allow international students to take the test in English.

 

The fifth step to take part in group discussions. This is the part of the screening process, where companies want to see how you work in a group. Usually, you would be allocated into a group of 4-8 people and assigned a topic to discuss. One problem we might face is that Japanese students speak better Japanese and thus take a leading role in the discussion and international students sometimes cannot follow and get left behind.

One strategy that I used is when I introduced myself at the beginning of the discussion I emphasized that I am not a Japanese native speaker. I also said “I am afraid I did not quite understand what you were saying, would you mind explaining it one more time?” in case I could not follow the discussion. For me, this worked most of the time, so I would suggest we should be brave enough to ask the group members to stop the discussion for a moment in case we lost track or did not understand what was being said.

Another strategy I used is to intentionally use a few English words in my arguments, because this can help by drawing the attention of the other participants and my argument become more persuasive this way. By the way, out of all the companies I applied to, only at NISSAN I was able to join the group discussion in English, possibly due to the company’s flexibility or the large number of international students applying.

 

The sixth and last step is getting interviewed. Personally, I would suggest to inform the interviewer that you are a MEXT scholar when you do your self-introduction. Among all the companies I was interviewed at, only NISSAN offered me the opportunity to do the interview in English.

(Image taken from flickr.com (2017/10/25))

These guide articles are meant to be advice based on the experience of current and previous scholars. Given how situations may change depending on the school, region or year etc., we urge any scholars to approach the relevant authorities in your school if you have any doubts or concerns.

How do I get an internship in Japan?

SUMMARY

  • Be aware that in Japan, “internship” can mean short work experiences of say a week or less
  • Long-term internships are available if you know where to look
  • Benefits include growing your networking, getting to “know” how it is to work in Japan and sometimes pay too
  • If you are planning to do so it is recommended to start early
  • Resources to find internships stated at the bottom

Written by: Austin Zeng

Internships in Japan

Unlike in many other countries, Japan does not have a strong culture of students doing internships. That being said though, as a foreign student studying in Japan, internships can help you not just for your career but also as a cultural experience in itself.

The first thing though is to be aware when Japanese talk about “internships”. In the typical Japanese shukatsu (job-search) schedule internships often refer to week-long work experiences often limited to 3rd year undergraduates / 1st year masters students where a student has a work experience in a Japanese company for less than a week. Understanding this is key to not getting confused when talking to Japanese about internships.

There are a growing number of long-term internships around in Japan though – and many of them are looking for foreign students. This is especially true if you have a skill such as programming, or are fluent in English as well as Japanese.

Benefits of doing an internship

Aside from being able to know more about Japan by working, internships also allow you to expand your network. If you are lucky you may be able to find your post-graduation workplace and shortcut the whole shukatsu process too. Many internships are also paid – but if you do a paid internship be aware that you probably need a work permit (refer to the part-time work article for more information).

Here are some resources which you can use to find yourself an internship

Wantedly is a good platform to find yourself an internship in Japan and many firms on it are looking for international interns. Other platforms include:

Big Japanese portal sites with some companies looking for foreign students eg. Rikunavi, MyNavi

Smaller more start-up (but internationally-oriented) based resources include Active Connector and Justa.

・Personal connections are very important – ask senpais at school and maybe through MSA about whether they know any good opportunities.

・Most of the resources in the part-time work article also give information about internships – including the Tomonokai mailing list and of course the MSA mailing list.

(Image taken from flickr.com (2017/10/10))

These guide articles are meant to be advice based on the experience of current and previous scholars. Given how situations may change depending on the school, region or year etc., we urge any scholars to approach the relevant authorities in your school if you have any doubts or concerns.

Slush – MSA Collaboration

Slush is a student-driven non-profit movement, originally founded in Finland, to change attitudes towards entrepreneurship.

Slush connects startups and tech talent with top-tier international investors, executives, and media. In 2016, Slush brought together over 17,500 attendees from over 120 countries for the two-day event in Helsinki.

Facilitating meetings between startups and investors is at the very core of Slush. Last year, 2,300 startups and 1100 registered investors pre-booked over 5,600 meetings that were held over event through our industry-leading proprietary Slush Matchmaking Tool.

In 2015, Slush was organized in Tokyo and Beijing for the first time. In 2016, Slush has expanded to Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore.

Many eminent personalities like Carlos Ghosn, Akie Abe etc. have supported SLUSH by attending, delivering Guest talks at the events and interacting with the audience.

MSA was provided with free passes to SLUSH (each pass costs $180) by DMM, one of the main sponsors of SLUSH. We have had an amazing turn out 40 scholars and alumni, who have attended the event and say that they had a great time interacting with startups and investors.

“From Scholars to Scholars”: Speakers Series #2

#2: The Pathways of Engineering – Telecommunications, Civil, and Management.

“From Scholars to Scholars” is a series of panel discussions that feature alumni with outstanding professional experiences. Hoping that attending these sessions and interacting with other participants, both students and alumni alike will bring the inspiration to contribute back to society in a larger capacity.

The 2nd iteration of the MEXT Scholars’ Network’s “From Scholars to Scholars” Speakers Series was held at the ASEAN-Japan Centre in Shinbashi on the 1 Oct 2016.

Our second panel discussion features the following three alumni speakers:

1. Sourabh Maiti, an Indian research engineer at Softbank.

2. Duangkamol Kamolyabutra, a Thai senior engineer at TÜV SÜD Japan, a German railway company.

3. Khoo Kai Siang, a Malaysian corporate strategy manager at Toyo Engineering Corporation.

The event started off with the presentations by each speaker, sharing their educational experiences while studying in Japan, as well as their career journeys ever since graduation. The session then proceeded on to the panel discussion section, where the floor was opened to the audience to ask each of the speakers, personal questions regarding their experiences in each of the fields that they are involved in. Of note was especially how engineering as an education degree actually leads into very different and exciting pathways, as well as opening many doors, when it comes to career choices.

The discussion was concluded with a networking social session over pizza, drinks and other refreshments. The event was attended by over 30 alumni and current scholars alike, with academic field of expertise ranging from engineering to economics and international relations.
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks especially to ASEAN-Japan Centre for once again opening this space for us to hold this unique event to build our community of MEXT scholars together. Last but not least, thanks to all of you who made it down to join us! See you at our next event!

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“From Scholars to Scholars” Speakers Series held at the ASEAN-Japan Centre, Shinbashi

MEXT Scholarship Alumni Party

The MEXT Scholars’ Network held the inaugural alumni networking event on the 27th of August, 2016 at a cozy event space in Meguro. It was a rare opportunity for scholarship alumni from different professional backgrounds to reconnect with an internationally diverse community.

Though it was a rainy summer evening, there was a sizable turnout of 26 people from all around the Kanto region. A grand buffet was presented by a chef specializing in Italian cuisine. There was also a free flow of drinks. The event was also attended by a few members of ZESDA (Zipang Economic System Design Association), a Japanese NPO that promotes social innovation through business, as well as JAPI (Japan Association for Promoting Internationalization). From diversity often comes new ideas and inspiration, and many of the participants took the opportunity to share their thoughts on cross-border innovations.

We would like to thank everyone for making this alumni party a success! We look forward to your continued support for future events at which alumni members may build their professional network.

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The inaugural alumni meet of The MEXT Scholars’ Network, Meguro