Losing your job is something that happens to all of us, but it needn’t be that stressful. Perhaps like me your contract simply ran out and university / board of education decided not to renew it. Clearly, if you weren’t expecting that and you’re not ready to leave Japan yet it’s quite a shock but there’s no need to panic and catch the next flight home just yet. Here’s my advice for what to do if you lose your job here:
The Visa problem:
If you’re Visa ends at about the same time your contract does, you might be tempted to think it’s all over. Faced with the same proposition, I considered getting a tourist visa, but I was dissuaded by everyone I spoke too. Most people advised me to get a McJob with some crappy eikaiwa company or other – just to get the working visa so I could continue to search for a better job. Don’t. You’ll inevitably have to change your Visa to another type anyway and you’ll just be tired and saddened from such a lame job.
A lot of recruitment companies will tell you that they cannot even consider you on a tourist visa and that they cannot possibly “sponsor” you to get a working visa – stay away from these companies as they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. “Sponsorship” of a visa means you have a contract, a university degree, and a short form to be filled in. It takes 2-3 weeks until you can officially work, but in the meantime most places I’ve dealt with will have you start on an “unpaid” training basis. If a company requires from the start that you have a working visa, they aren’t worth working for. I am not sure about the option of getting a distance learning PhD.
I was also told by one major recruitment firm (Robert Walters – who I’ve heard nothing but complaints about from other friends by the way) that I would even have to leave the country to get or change from a tourist Visa – which was true until about 5 years ago when the law changed. That a top recruitment firm executive dealing exclusively with foreigners does not know about Visa law is quite shocking. Let me repeat:
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE JAPAN TO OBTAIN / CHANGE TO / CHANGE FROM A TOURIST VISA.Companies that tell you they cannot sponsor a visa, or executives that tell you a tourist visa is troublesome ARE NOT WORTH WORKING FOR.
You could also get married, which is what I will be doing at the end of this month; but since my fiance is Chinese it doesn’t especially improve my Visa situation.
The money problem:
You can survive quite easily on around 150,000 yen a month, possibly less if you’re apartment is super cheap. But since you have no income at all now you’re screwed right? Wrong; as long as you’ve been working for a year or more and paying into the official state pension – something which every employer is legally required to do – you are entitled to receive unemployment benefits should you lose your job because of situations out of your control. Having your contract not renewed is one example of beyond your control. If you quit yourself, you’re going to be in a more complicated situation and it could take up to 3 months to get any unemployment benefits, but this shouldn’t be an issue for most of you. You can read about my experiences on applying for unemployment benefit here.
If you have been employed in Japan, you are entitled to claim unemployment benefits should you lose your job, regardless of your Visa status
You can also try plying your trade and skills if you have any. For example, I can fix computers. Since I lost my job and put the word out that I was now repairing computers, suddenly a lot of work just came in – and of course, it paid. In a month, I made around 80,000 on little side jobs just fixing computers. A lot of these little jobs were from friends and acquaintances – so if you’re unhappy about receiving money from friends for services and time that you give them, you should probably re-evaluate how you value yourself. Your service is worth something, whether it’s a friend or not.
Get yourself out there:
I hate networking. Damn, do I hate networking. I’m quite a socially inept failure actually. But the truth is, almost all jobs are awarded to people who were introduced to the job by a mutual friend or acquaintance. In fact, all the jobs I’ve ever had in Japan (apart from JET) have been through mutual friends etc. Clicking on the [Apply] button on GaijinPot may make you feel like you’re doing something, but there’s a 1% chance that you will even get an interview and that’s along with 50 other applicants. Even if you don’t have that many friends, just let people know that you’re unemployed and looking for work and I guarantee something will come your way. For the past month I was incredibly lucky to be introduced to the owner of a tea-house in Gion, and I’ve since started working there part-time teaching them how to use Apple Macs and even teaching English to the Maiko-san! Can you imagine that kind of job being advertised? No, because most jobs aren’t! I’m also going to start work full-time from next week as a research assistant at Kyoto University, thanks to an introduction by my previous head of department! And I’ve been working part-time for the last few months in a datacentre, due to the fact that I emailed Terrie Lloyd (a highly successful entrepreneur and IT journalist) asking for advice – and he then immediately put me in touch with HR department of the IT outsourcing that he happens to be the CEO of.
Most jobs are not advertised. Let people know that you’re out of work; and ask for advice from people in your field – you never know what like will bring you!
Clear out the house, and live on cheap beer:
Now that you have all this free time on your hands, why not use the time to clear out your house and give away / sell stuff you don’t need. I’ve been selling random bits on bobs on Yahoo Auctions and made a few thousands yen out of it. You’d be surprised what sells actually – old consoles, broken even, ancient ipods. There’s always someone who wants your crap. I’d suggest my own site, gaijinstuff.com too!
And finally, if you insist on drinking beer then lower you standards and start drinking the sub-100yen cans of fake beer like the ones featured in this post – 88 and 97 yen respectively from all good Gyomu Supa’s!
Got some job searching stories or advice to share? Please let us know about it in the comments! PS: Be a darling and click on the JapanSoc button if you found this article interesting / useful / laughable – thanks!