Japan Work Benefits

POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Sun 2008/06/22 07:21 JST in Misc

In a previous article I spoke about looking for work in Japan and today thought I should talk about the typical work benefits by taking the current opening position at Good Smile Company and my past experience as examples.

Good Smile Company are looking for a general administrator to manage the human resources book keeping and also to manage the finances.

Qualifications needed for this position are... Certificate in book keeping, can use "word, excel and email" and also has a drivers license. Yes you would be surprised how many young folks in Japan who cant use mail. Anyway the qualifications needed are not particularly high and GSC mention that they provide training.

Some companies provide OJT (On the Job Training) or a few weeks of training before your regular schedule starts. And then theres companies (like Amazon) who will expect you to hit the ground running with minimum guidance on your first day. If you know your job description well then you should know what questions to ask.

Most companies look at your education history as a criteria for deciding whether to proceed with an interview or not. As a hiring manager, I personally never paid attention to the education and was more interested in skills and achievements.

Many companies that I've worked in over here tend to favor folks who have an MBA and pay them loads of money regardless of their experience. Dont know what it is about an MBA but I've never thought much about it when hiring somebody - especially after seeing many hiring mistakes of poor performing MBA holders.

I know that many folks do an MBA and then a PHD just for the purpose of getting paid more when they land themselves a job. Do you plan on doing an MBA or PHD?

Photo below was taken in 2001 when I was at a recruitment company called Job Dragon. They were based in Omotesando which had great office views.
The CEO of Job Dragon contacted me because he liked my designs of dannychoo.com which I spoke about in the history of dannychoo.com article.

The hiring process at Good Smile is as follows. 1. Submit resume online.
2. If your resume looks good then you are called for an interview with their hiring staff.
3. If the hiring staff is impressed then you go back again to meet the boss.
4. You get "congrats!" or "thanks but no thanks" message. I think I may have spoken about this before but cant find the article. While in the UK working for Japan Airlines, I applied for a position that was in Tokyo working for Nature online through a recruitment company called People First. They have many connections with Japanese companies so if you are in the UK then you may want to give them a whirl if you are looking for work in Japan.

The job was based in Tokyo and the description was "Web marketing in SE Asia." I said to myself that I had to have that job and even told my wife on the day I applied that "we are going to Japan" - she gave me a smile.

A few days later, I got a call to meet the general manager (David) of Nature Japan who had come to the UK for to do interviews. I met with him for an hour and the interview included a task to read a scientific article in Japanese ^^;

After the first interview, I went home and stayed up all night to make a simple Nature Korea website - they didn't have one at the time and discussed how it would be strategically important to have one during the interview.

I saved the files on a floppy, printed out a screenshot and found out what hotel David was staying at.

I got to the hotel, slid the folder under his door and left.
That night, I got a call from the recruitment agency who said that David wanted to meet me again and that "he was surprised by your delivery".
Met up with David who said that he wanted to send me to Tokyo for a round of interviews with the staff. I said to myself that I was going to get the job and was confident.

A week of interviews and tests proceeded for a week. I was doing forecasting which I had never done before and had to think of an algorithm that made sense. I was also doing translating of scientific articles which they don't teach in university for some reason ^^;

The end of the week came and I had a meeting with David expecting an answer but he said "We will give you a decision after you get back to the UK."
I started to imagine the pain of sitting on a plane for 12 hours worrying about the decision and said "I probably wont have any finger or toenails left after biting them all off through thinking about whether I got the job or not - I would prefer an answer before I go back (smiles)."
David laughs and says "I understand."

My time was up and I done everything I could. All I could do was to wait for his call.

The hotel phone rang on a rainy Sunday morning - it was David. "Danny, we would love you to join us."
My dream came true. I was going to live and work in Japan.

Went back to the UK, handed in my notice to Japan Airlines, packed two suitcases and bought a one way ticket to Tokyo.

Now we look at the terms at Good Smile. They have a probation period of 3 months which is the standard in Japan meaning that you are out if you do not perform.
Japanese law protects the interests of the employee more than the employer which means that its extremely difficult to fire folks after 3 months - good for the employee but very tough for the hiring manager who is trying to get rid of a poor performer. Japanese labor laws do state that a hiring manager can fire somebody within the first two weeks without reason.

If an employee starts to perform poorly after 3 months, the company needs to provide evidence that they have done everything possible to help the employee improve their performance.

This is better than some of the horror stories I've heard through colleagues working in web companies in the US - some folks would come to work one day to find their desk empty - they had been laid off.

Job Dragon had to lay me off too due to restructuring but it wasn't the "go-to-work-to-find-empty-desk" tactic. But as Job Dragon was a recruiting company, they introduced me to a few companies. Got job offers including one from Ebay but chose Amazon even though Ebay ended up bidding more. Getting more than two job offers through the same recruiter is good because the companies start a bidding war and offer you a "why you should join us" call from the CEO ^^;

Coming back from a tangent, there are companies however which keep poor performers by moving them around to different departments. These companies typically provide lifetime employment - and many Japanese folks stay with the same company from graduation until retirement. This is the reason why Good Smile dont have a contract - once you are hired you can potentially stay until retirement.

Foreign Capital companies in Japan are called Gaishikei and they tend to have a contract which is renewed every year.

Picture below of me in my office at Amazon. Used to be more of a Star Wars person back then ^;

Picture below of me at Nature just starting out in corporate life. I hated that Mac which gave me a bad impression of MacOS!

Back to the position at Good Smile. Folks with no office experience will get just over 180000 yen per month while experienced folks will get 200000 yen. Evaluation of salary is once a year and there is a bonus twice a year - each bonus is usually 2x monthly salary but depends on company performance.
Bonus time is usually middle and end of year which is why there are many ads on TV by companies who want a share of your bonus by selling you another refrigerator.

While most Japanese think of salary in terms of "per month", I always thought of salary in terms of "per year" and I think that's still the UK way of thinking - same in your region?

I started off with a salary of 5000000 yen and at about 27 I thought I hit the jackpot ^^.
I soon discovered that I was way below market value in Japan through talking to recruiters and other folks in the industry.

The 200000 yen at Good Smile is good for an entry level position but I recommend that folks (no matter where you work) keep your options open and be aware of your own market value based on your increasing experience and skills. Speak to as many people as you can in the industry of your interest and meet up with recruiters even if you feel comfortable in your current job. Feeling *too* comfortable in your current job is a sign of danger though - I know many folks who want to leave their current job because of different reasons but they feel that they can't because the pay and benefits are good.
Do you feel that you have a grasp of your own market value? Are you currently underpaid for what you are doing?

Knowing your market value is not just about getting more money - its about getting rewarded more in monetary terms doing something that challenges you. Being rewarded more also means that you are being recognized for your experience, skills and achievements. So if you feel too comfortable in your current job, then it could be time to look for something more challenging - life is short.

The Job at Good Smile requires you to be be living in the Tokyo area and already speak Japanese - folks interested can apply here.

I've mentioned it many times but in my experience, folks who speak both English/Japanese *and* have a core skill get better paid jobs in high positions - its as simple as that. The management team I was on at Amazon was comprised mainly of non Japanese - all excellent speakers of Japanese - two folks from Canada (one originally from Hong Kong), one from China, one from the US and one from the UK (me ^^;).
Learning Japanese is fun if you are passionate about the language and not so fun if you feel that "you have to." 30 - 40 people took the same Japanese course as me in university but only 3 or 4 made it through to the end as many took the course because they thought "Japan is where all the monies is" and not because they were passionate.

How many folks here are currently learning Japanese and what tips can you offer to your fellow reader?

Other standard work benefits at Good Smile are health insurance (you pay 30% of medical bills if you are sick), employment insurance (you get money if you loose your job for whatever reason) and they pay some of your pension too. Pension is partially payed by your employer/yourself and theoretically you get money when you are retired. Unfortunately it looks like 50 million Japanese may not get money that they are entitled to as I wrote in my previous Japanese pension article.

Good Smile only mention the standard holidays which are Golden Week and national holidays. There are quite a few national holidays in Japan and I was incredibly shocked to see the lack of them when I was in the US for a while - does your region have a load or lack of national holidays?
Amazon and Microsoft provided about 12 days leave per year while Nature provided about 20. If you joined Microsoft in December, you would be given 12 days for the current year and receive another 12 days come January. How many days of leave does your company provide?

Another benefit are staff discounts - Good Smile don't mention it but I'm guessing that employees get free figures ^^;

Amazon and Microsoft provided some sort of employee discount card which enabled us to get discounts for hotels and trips around Japan - hotel rooms were discounted from something like 12000 yen down to 1200 yen. The best benefit I has was the staff discount at Microsoft which enabled me to get something like 12% off *Apple* products - yes Apple products because we made office and messenger for the Mac. Does your company provide staff discounts?

And for those thinking of the job at Good Smile and who haven't seen it yet, my previous tour of the Good Smile offices is in the video below and photos in this previous article.

Finally, if you have solid plans of living and working in Japan, do feel free to share them.