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How is Shūkatsu season changing for fresh graduates in Japan?

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Will these futuristic job titles be used in the future of work? Source: Jerome Jerome/Unsplash

While it may be favourable study abroad destination for students wishing to experience a completely different culture and enhance their employability prospects, for fresh graduates in Japan, higher education can often direct them down a different path.

Since shifting tides in the season of ‘shūshoku katsudō’ (job-hunting activity), traditional recruiting practices are altering, and by the beginning of next year, old-style methods may no longer apply.

So if you’re an international student hoping to secure a role in Japan after your study abroad venture, it’s useful to know about the current trends in the graduate careers market in the country.

Fresh graduates face many different dilemmas before graduating. Source: Charles OW/Unsplash

The story behind Shūkatsu season

Naming itself a ‘doorway to Japan’, Nippon.com shares an insightful guide on the Shūkatsu process.

Outlining that the system was created in 1953 by Keidanren, Japan’s leading business lobby, the Shūkatsu recruiting schedule at major corporations is set in advance every year based on a consensus among the government, businesses and academia.

A season circled in red marker in every students’ and educators’ diary, the Shūkatsu system offers lifetime employment to fresh graduates who, in turn, provide secure work for major Japanese firms.

“The shūkatsu process begins for most students in their junior years, which is when they start attending career seminars at their schools and elsewhere. In their senior years, they submit applications for job openings announced by companies and go through the selection process with promises of postgraduation employment. After graduating in March, they start their new jobs in April, the first month of the fiscal and academic year.

“Universities provide their students with information about job openings, hold career seminars, and operate career centres where students can receive individual guidance about finding a job. Through these activities, the universities seek to achieve a rapid transformation of their students from ‘children’ who lack essential social know-how into functional ‘grown-ups’. In that sense, this is a form of education,” Nippon.com notes.

Due to Japan’s low birthrate, universities are also competing fiercely for shares of a shrinking pool of prospective students.

Therefore, a shift in traditional Shūkatsu practice must be handled with care if companies are to continually attract an influx of career-ready employees, because if they alter job-hunting expectations, they’ll be changing educational structures too.

Fresh graduates always face the same question: “Which path should I take?” Source: Masaaki Komori/Unsplash

What are the fundamental changes for fresh graduates in Japan?

Naturally, education systems and employment systems progress over time. Reflecting current job trends and industry demands, a change in the Shūkatsu season may have always been waiting around the corner.

Recently revealed by the BBC, “Last October, the Keidanren announced it would abolish the traditional job-hunting schedule as well as existing guidelines on how firms recruit new graduates. After six decades, the current cohort of third- and fourth-year students will be the last to experience the gruelling pressures that come with Shūkatsu.”

Instead, online job-seeking platforms are slowly taking over the traditional practice.

Providing flexible hiring windows, detailed descriptions of jobs and eye-opening professional opportunities, fresh graduates in Japan are jumping on the World Wide Web bandwagon instead of waiting for the Shūkatsu to speed up its employment strategies to suit 21st-century demands.

According to 34-year-old entrepreneur Akiko Naka, online job sites are much better suited to the needs of fresh graduates in Japan. Rather than listing job descriptions and salaries like typical Shūkatsu advertisements, websites that list jobs often focus on matching candidates and companies through shared values and interests.

“When you’re a student, it’s difficult to see the wider picture. We’ve all fallen into the trap of following the big crowd and have missed out on discovering what else is out there. With the Shūkatsu system, there has been a disconnect between the degree you’re studying for and finding a role relevant to it,” she told the BBC.

So if the Shūkatsu season is finally drawing to an end, there will soon be radical shifts in employers’ graduate seeking habits and fresh graduates’ thinking.

And this is something to keep a watch over while enjoying your study abroad experience in Japan – especially if you wish to further it with permanent employment in the country.

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