If you are considering becoming a marketing manager in Japan, here’s a short review of what you should expect and get ready for.
- You are going to have more than enough money to live on
- Even as a foreigner, you have a good chance to get hired
- You will need MBA to land an interview or at least BA
- You need to speak at least N2 Japanese
Even though it’s still a long way away, being a marketer in Japan is on my career roadmap and since I couldn’t find any detailed article on this topic I’ve decided to write it on my own using various online resources and leaning on my experience in recruitment industry.
If you will find any inconsistencies, please let me know, they will be remedied.
Before going into specifics
Bellow is video summarizing what is it actually like to even work in Japan. Before you’ll even start thinking about going for a job of your choosing, such as being a marketing manager, be sure to check out, if the Japanese working culture is a good fit for you.
Is it worth it becoming a marketer in Japan?
According to PayScale the expected salary for Marketing Manager in Japan tends to be around ¥3 000 000 - ¥12 000 000 per year with median salary sitting slightly above ¥6 500 000 per year.
After researching job board postings, I’ve found it difficult to find a marketing manager job offering below ¥5 000 000 per year and few offers touching ¥15 000 000.
Is that enough to have a comfortable life? According to Saiko Tsukamoto, yearly income above ¥4 000 000 is the bare minimum of living a comfortable life in Japan. Of course, by living outside of Tokyo, you won’t need to earn as much and you could still do rather well.
A median salary of marketing managers goes well beyond the minimum even without bonuses and other benefits provided by employers. As such, it’s a great job to have if you want to live comfortably in Japan.
Japan’s unemployment rate currently rests around 2,5% which causes an ever-increasing need to attract skilled and talented employees using various benefits.
From what I was able to find out, the benefits offered to employees tend to differ quite substantially, yet the most commonly offered were:
- Additional personal leave
- Paid sick days
- Flexible working hours
- Discounted products & services
- Employee stock option program
And they were offered on top of the traditional ones:
- 10 days of paid vacation if employed for at least 6 months
- Paid healthcare
- Paid overtime
- Reimbursed commuting expenses
Do you have what it takes to get hired?
What competencies will be expected of you?
As anywhere around the world, expectations on the role of marketing managers differ even in Japan and there are little to none commonly occurring skill requirements in job board posts.
After going through relevant job offers, I’ve decided to summarize key competencies rather than skills that may be expected of you.
You could be expected to be competent in:
- Project management
- Team management
- Data analysis
- Strategy creation and its execution
- Conversion rate optimization
- Marketing channel management
What will get you considered for an interview?
If you possess the relevant competencies, you also have to meet the minimal requirements that seem to be universally expected of any marketing manager candidate.
- 3 - 5 years of experience in marketing
- Relevant industry experience
- Hold least BA, although MBA is preferred
- Have a solid grasp of Japanese (N2)
What will ruin your chances?
Hiring a new employee is considered a very serious undertaking in Japan and as such is very different from most western countries.
It may be counter-intuitive to you, but try not to show your personality on your resumé. Japanese resumés (履歴書) are very strict and it’s virtually impossible to stand out from other applicants. Don’t try to go around it.
If your resumé will get you through the door and you will be invited for a face to face meeting, don’t forget to thoroughly research the company. If the hiring manager will notice that you’re asking questions that you could have found online, it will show them that you didn’t do your due diligence and severely damage your chances of landing a job.
Don’t arrive too early and never arrive late. The sweet spot is around 5–10 minutes before the interview.
Again, try not to stand out too much. Colored hair, “too much” makeup and casual attire is frown upon and is considered inappropriate.
Fortunately, foreigners (外人) could get away with some of these, nevertheless do your best to observe Japanese customs.
Is there a way to increase the probability of getting hired?
The low unemployment rate forces Japanese companies to open up to foreign talents, but that by itself won’t help you get hired.
Let’s presume that you are a seasoned marketing manager in your home country and your skills at least on par with native Japanese with whom you’ll be competing for job.
What can you do to get hired?
- Get a professional to help you with CV
- Prepare yourself for typical interview questions
- Improve your Japanese to at least N2
- Gain marketing experience on the Japanese market
- Present yourself as a specialist in highly sought after marketing niche
- Become known by publishing or presenting at conferences
- Apply to an international company
Where should you look for a job?
Finally now, when you know what to expect and if you still feel up to the challenge, let’s look for your dream job.
Japanese job boards
Job boards are still the easiest way to enter any job market and fortunately there are two major job boards in Japan which have very low barriers for foreigners.
Most likely the largest job board on Japanese job market. Currently offers about 1000 jobs in marketing and even a few requiring only conversational level Japanese!
Job board of my favorite Japanese website. GaijinPot offers a few hundred jobs, although only low tens in marketing. The huge benefit of this site is that it caters to foreigners meaning companies posting on GaijinPot are expecting to consider foreigners for jobs they’ve posted.
Even now some companies aren’t actively posting job offers on job boards and the only way to find out about vacancies is on their websites.
Identify companies which you would like to work for and check their websites for open positions, you may be able to find a hidden gem with a low competition.
Recruiting companies in Japan which specialize in foreign talent could be a great source of relevant opportunities, yet I couldn’t find any. If you will find them, please, let me know and I will add them here!
Networking with recruiters through LinkedIn could be another opportunity to get relevant job offers, yet with conservative Japanese conservative nature, it may be a gamble.