TokyoDev forum

How much training do new hires get (generally)?

After 9 years living and working in Japan as an English teacher, I’m making a career switch to something data related. I don’t have a relevant degree, and I have limited time to study and no money for any coding or data analysis boot camps. However, I’m an exceptionally fast learner and once I have financial stability, I plan to spend all my time (I mean all of it) getting up to speed.

My question is, what (if any) entry-level positions provide on-the-job training, and are there any companies that are known to do so? What’s the trick to breaking into a new industry with limited experience?

Thanks in advance!

Japanese companies typically will divide their hiring into two categories: new grads and mid-career. New grad positions will often offer training, but they require you to be attending a university. Mid-career positions expect you to bring skills to the job.

Since you won’t be eligible for the new grad positions, you’ll have to bring some skills to the job. This basically means you either need to teach yourself, or attend something like a bootcamp.

Personally, I’d start with taking some sort of free or cheap online course about data analysis. This could help you understand if it’s something you have interest and aptitude for.

I had no idea that companies divided their new hires into groups like that. Thanks good to know, thank you!

I’ve already taken a free introductory course that included data cleaning, making pivot tables and graphs from the clean data, and then constructing a data visualization project in Google Sheets and Slides, respectively. I’m also studying Python from Youtube videos and will move on to SQL next.

However, my financial situation is pretty bad and I need a new job as soon as possible. It’s pretty hard to study when you’re worried about paying rent and groceries and the stress is making you sick, haha. Are there any job titles (such as Data Entry Specialist) that would allow a person to get a foot into the door of a tech company while getting their own skills up to speed?

Thank you!

It’s sadly not the best of circumstances that you find yourself in, unfortunately. You will almost certainly not be able to find a job that will take you on as a programmer without you being effectively “ready-to-go” as far as skills go. Any on-the-job training you are likely to receive will be about familiarising you with the technical workings of the specific product/service that the company makes, rather than general programming skills. Even new grads will be expected to have a pretty broad understanding of programming when they’re newly hired.

Making a career switch to programming is tough with no experience, and especially in Japan. If financial stability is your main concern right now, I would strongly advise finding a way to support yourself using your English teaching experience (leveraging your 9 years’ experience to hopefully get a decent direct hire position), and when things are more stable spending more time on learning to code. If your Japanese is up to scratch maybe you could find another job to support you for the time being (though you might struggle to find something that gives you much time to work on the coding). Basic data entry might be something you could do if your Japanese was good enough, but it won’t really help you advance into more skilled data analysis or programming work (or at least, there’s really no guarantee).

I was afraid of that. Teaching isn’t a possibility for me anymore; due to my disability, I can’t handle the strain of being in classrooms or even teaching online, due to the high intensity of energy I have to use to keep classes fun and engaging. It’s making me very sick and I may soon have to quit my current job due to work-related stress, and I have no other options for work aside from online tasks. So, switching careers is literally the only thing I can do aside from become homeless or be forced to leave Japan. My Japanese isn’t good because instead of using my free time to study for the past 9 years, I was having dissociative episodes and suffering depression (again due to the strain of working as an English teacher).

So, I’m really trying to find out if there are any foot-in-the-door type jobs that would allow me to support myself in a way that would be safe for my health. I’m applying for Data Entry jobs on several job platforms both in the US and in Japan, but so far I’m not having much luck. So, I’m really hoping for suggestions of ways to find work when one’s options are limited.

Thank you in advance!

Honestly, to me, it sounds like even if you were able to find an entry level job that provides training and would take you on, it would still not necessarily be suitable for you. You have no guarantees of what expectations would be placed upon you as a junior hire for a company that doesn’t care if its programmers have any experience or knowledge of programming - it sounds like a recipe for a black company nightmare, and not something that will be any less stressful for you.

I don’t know what it is that makes you concerned about returning home, but if it’s not egregious you should seriously consider it as a possibility. Your ability to both find the sort of help and treatment you need in order to manage your condition, as well as retraining into software engineering, is greatly increased if you do so in your home country (I feel very confident on this point if your home country is somewhere like the US, Canada, Aus, NZ, or Western Europe - less so otherwise). Even more so if you have family/friends at home to lean on.

If that’s totally not an option: you say you have 9 years of experience; have you looked into Japanese permanent residency? 10 years experience is the main hurdle to cross, and you’re almost there. If you get permanent residence, your ability to remain in Japan would no longer be tied to your job, and you’d be able to quit this job you hate without worrying about being expected to leave Japan. You’d also likely be more attractive to employers as an inexperienced new hire if they didn’t have to worry about your work visa.

You could also look for remote work at non-Japanese companies. Imagine this: you stay in Japan as an English teacher long enough to get permanent residency. You use your new longer-term re-entry permit to go home for a year or two, and get medical help and find your first job. You make sure you only look for work in companies that are cool with you working from Japan. You re-enter Japan as a permanent resident, already with a job, and your new life commences. It’s definitely not an easy path, but permanent residence gives you sooooo many more options, and it might be possible for you considering how long you’ve already been in Japan.

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I think a lot of your assumptions are based on resources, accessibility, mobility, support systems, and help provided by government resources or healthcare systems that I don’t have.

“Lean on your family” They’re abusive.
“Lean on your friends” I have very few friends in Japan because I’ve been too sick from stress for 9 years straight to even begin to socialize, meet new people, or maintain friendships. The last person I trusted with my life evicted me; I was nearly homeless, and I may be again.
“Go home” I will lose all the healthcare treatment access I am receiving, and my life will be directly put at risk.
“Get permanent residency” I have too much pension and tax debt and not enough work hours to qualify for a 3-year visa and not enough money to pay for all the application documents necessary for it.
“Keep teaching English” About 3 months ago I seriously considered swallowing 10 sleeping pills because the stress was so bad, and last week I worked double shifts and thought about jumping off the top floor of my apartment building.

I don’t owe you this information about my disability, mental health, or financial situation. I need specific answers about what companies I should apply with, and what job titles would be best for someone with limited experience who is looking for an entry-level position?

Sorry, you’re right, my last comment was well beyond the scope of your initial question. I feel that this career change may not happen as soon as you need it to, and my prior comment was intended to be a collection of ideas about alleviating the immediate financial struggle. But you’re right, it was based on assumptions about you and your personal life that I didn’t have any basis to make, and I can see how it was actually just as likely to frustrate and be condescending - I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you! I feel really bad that I added to your distress.

More specifically:

  • Talk to recruiters - reach out to folks from Robert Walters, RGF, Robert Half on LinkedIn, ask if you can set up a meeting to discuss becoming a candidate.
  • Focus on programming fundamentals: no more pivot tables and Google sheets, you need to build up your programming skills. Python is a good shout, JavaScript too. Have a look at App Academy Open, The Odin Project, FullStackOpen or FreeCodeCamp, all really solid full stack courses that are totally free.
  • Build side projects once you’ve got your skills up. These will serve as your portfolio, in lieu of work experience.
  • Get your resume into incredible shape. You might want to get feedback and guidance on this point; Reddit is a good resource for crowdsourcing feedback on resumes (be sure to anonymise your personal info, ofc). You can also get resume writers on places like Fiverr, but your mileage may vary massively.
  • Scour every job site you can find for entry level positions. “Junior developer”/“Junior engineer”/“Associate engineer”/etc. - anything that has “junior” or “entry level” in the description.

The fundamental issue is that there really isn’t a segment of the tech industry in Japan that is designed for foreign career changers with no prior experience. Every now and then a no-Japanese-required position that doesn’t require experience might show up, but they’re rare and undoubtedly still applied to by people who do have experience.

As far as I’m aware, there isn’t really a clear answer to “what companies should I apply to” as there really aren’t any companies that have entry routes that you would need; as for job titles, anything with “junior” or “entry-level” would fit the bill, if you come across them on this site or others (eg. Japan-dev, daijob, gaijinpot, etc.). “Unskilled” tech jobs (eg. Data Entry - not strictly unskilled, but more non-technical) will be hard to get without N2+ Japanese; the data is likely to be in Japanese, compounding this requirement.

I hope you’re able to find something, and that life takes a turn for the better.

Next time, please just believe someone when they say, “Due to my disability, only this option or this option are available to me.” I go through this kind of interaction (divulging my personal information just so someone will believe what I say) all the time. This is what I have to do instead of studying, job hunting, getting financial support from the government, etc. I use all my energy convincing people that they don’t know my situation better than me. I don’t have energy to make everyone feel better about it every time they make me feel much, much worse.

To your suggestions, I appreciate them. That is exactly the kind of information I was looking for, because I can use that to take immediate action to try to find work. Thank you. I’ve already started to build a portfolio and I’m waiting to hear back on a temp position (though it’s been a while). I’ll do my best.