My story of job-hunting in Japan

Gaby Almira YKK Leaders 21/Awarded in 2015 Scholarship period: April 2015 - March 2017
University during Scholarship period: Graduate School of Science, Osaka University
Current affiliation: Technoble Co., Ltd.

After I graduated, I was looking for a job in Japan. I did not expect that job-hunting would be that difficult. However, I finally got a job where I can contribute using my knowledge and skills.


Hello! My name is Gaby Almira, and I am from Indonesia. I studied Chemistry and got my bachelor degree from Institut Teknologi Bandung, a university in my home town. After graduating, I worked for 1.5 years at a polymer manufacturer in Indonesia as Quality Assurance staff. I always wanted to pursue more knowledge in science, so that is why I started searching for opportunity to study Master in Japan. I was accepted by Prof. Fujiwara to join as member in his Molecular Biophysics Laboratory. However, I had no funding and was struggling to find a scholarship. Finally, I got an announcement from Yoshida Scholarship Foundation, that I was selected to receive their generous scholarship under YKK Leaders 21 program. I am forever grateful to receive this scholarship, for which it has allowed me to pursue my dream. Now I work as international sales representative at a cosmetic ingredients manufacturer based in Osaka, where I can contribute to the society with my background in science field and with my foreign language skills.

My story of job-hunting in Japan

It was not easy for me to decide what I want to do after my Master graduation. At first, I wanted to go straight into Doctor’s course. However, during the summer vacation in 2016, I went to back to my home country and had a talk with my parents. From our discussion, it would be best for me to work after finishing my Master. If it comes to work, working in Japan seems to be a better option for me than working in Indonesia. I feel the culture suits me better here, and what is more, many companies in Japan are very strong in research and development. Therefore, I feel even though I do not pursue my career in academic field, there are still many chances to contribute to the society using my knowledge in science field.

I started to look for jobs on my 3rd semester in Master’s study, a little bit too late compared to the Japanese students. I knew that students start looking for job from 1 year before graduation, but due to this change in decision, I started job-hunting a bit late. Nevertheless, I applied for some openings on job-hunting websites, and went to a few mensetsukai (explanation meeting) where the companies introduce their business. In some companies, the written test is also held on the same day. Without knowing enough Japanese, I could not pass the written test. One lady told me it would be better to study more Japanese, if I want to work in Japan. I took her advice, however it was almost impossible to increase my Japanese level into, for example JLPT N2 level, just in a few months because I had to do research and had to write my graduation thesis. After a few first attempts, I decided to have a break in doing job hunting and to focus on my research and graduation thesis first.

Not so long after that, I saw an offer in my Indonesian laboratory chat group, to do summer research at Arizona State University in the US. The Professor is also Indonesian, his name is Rizal Hariadi. He just started a new lab, Biomolecular Mechanics and Nanotechnology Laboratory, and he needs many students to help him doing new researches. I was interested in this offer, so I filed an application. After several interviews with the Professor, he accepted me to do summer research at his lab, and I was very excited. Knowing that I would spend some time in the US during summer after my graduation, I put aside the job-hunting activity even more, and just put my graduation thesis as priority.

About 1 month before my graduation ceremony, I started to do part-time job. I needed to support myself because we would not receive the scholarship after we graduate, and I still had no job at that time. I did part-time job at a meat factory not so far from my house. My job was to arrange meat on the tray, to be sold at the supermarket. The work was not that easy, because we had to stand all the time, and the room was cold. I chose this job because it did not require high Japanese skill, like being waiter at restaurant, and the hourly wage is actually higher than normal part-time job wage at restaurant. Everybody there was kind to me, and actually my Japanese improved so much working there, although I only got to talk with the other people in limited opportunities, such as break time.

I had my graduation ceremony at the end of March. After graduating, I still worked for about 1 month at the factory, but because I had to go to the US, I quit from my part-time job. I said to the managers that I might go back there again after coming back from US, but I was not sure. If I could not find a permanent job by the time I finished my summer research, then I would go back there again. So, I went to the US, which is also known as the land of freedom. This country is filled with people from various backgrounds, who go there in a pursuit for a better life. I was fascinated with the academic culture where we can freely talk and discuss about our research with supervisor and colleagues. All of us in the research group were also close with each other, and often hanged out together. This kind of culture is not so easy to be found in Japan. I learned many things there, not only the scientific things, but also the cultural aspects.

After finishing the program, I came back again to Japan. I still could not find a job by that time, so I went back to the meat factory, and started to do part-time job again. Every night after work, I was looking for any job opening online, making CV (rirekisho). That time was not the season for job-hunting, but I still held my hope high. Based on my friends’ recommendations, I went to Osaka Employment Center for Foreigners (Hello Work) at Umeda, Osaka. There was one lady, named Harumi-san, who can speak English and helped me a lot to make a proper CV and to practice for interview. I felt like I was already in the right track to land a job.

Finally, I got called for an interview at a chemical manufacturer. I practiced for interview with Harumi-san, and practiced again by myself many times at home. The interview day finally had come. I was interviewed with one person from HR, and two people from R&D. They asked question that I did not prepare, and what was worse, I did not even understand the question. After the interview finished, I found out that they actually asked if I had experience in organic synthesis. Even though I could understand the question at that time, the answer would be no, and would still lead to the same result. I felt so stupid and hopeless after the interview. I asked myself again why I was doing all of this in a foreign country, where I looked stupid because I did not understand the language.

Despite all that, I did not give up easily. After a few more attempts, I got a hope from a cosmetics manufacturer based in Osaka, which I found from interview fair held by Hello Work. The job opening was for international sales position. They were looking for someone with business to native level English skill, and background in science would be an advantage. I thought that I am quite suitable for the position, so I applied and crossed my fingers again.

The first interview went well, although I could not do the written test very well. Then, they called me for the second interview with the President (Shachou). To my surprise, the interview went smoothly, and Shachou even said I do not need to worry about my Japanese skill, because I would need to mainly use English in my job. I felt a bit relieved, although I knew I still have to study Japanese more. Not long after, probably even on the same day, they called me for the 3rd interview with the founder (Kaichou). I was very excited and knew if I have reached this step, then most likely everything would go alright. As expected, the interview went well again although I could not understand everything that Kaichou said. Even so, I could feel the atmosphere and knew that everything was going well. Finally, I got a call from them that I was accepted to work there, and I could start working soon after getting a working visa. All these hard works for finding a job finally paid off. I found a company with a job that suits my background, along with nice coworkers.

Before I realized it, it has been around 6 months since I started work in this company. So far, I have been to Singapore and France for business trip. I am so happy with these many opportunities to grow. With the trust given to me, I became even more devoted to give back to the society using the knowledge and skills that I have. After all that I have been through, I know that it is not easy, but I hope everybody can find their ‘niche’ in life, which allows them to give the best version of themselves back to the society.

For the future, I would like to gain more experiences in my current work field. There are so many things to explore, and still many rooms for improvement. I will also continue studying Japanese because I want to communicate better with my coworkers. Not only for my work life, but I also need Japanese in my daily life outside work. After all, I will do my best to adjust to this new “shakaijin” life!