Top 5 Mistakes Students Make During Their Internship in Japan

Importance Of Networking

Top 5 Mistakes Students Make During Their Internship in Japan

Leaving your native homeland to work an internship in not only an entirely new country, but also a new culture, can be quite challenging. The experience itself is worth its weight in gold, and will surely allow you to proceed in your career with valuable insights and a diverse mentality. That being said, interns can often struggle to adapt to their new work environments and can make many mistakes while trying to find their path. We want to help you recognize these before you do them! Here are the top 5 mistakes students make during their internships in Japan, and how you can avoid them. 

Coming Unprepared/language barrier

A mistake we often see is that students fail to prepare properly, specifically in the cultural awareness department. While you’ve certainly taken the first step if you’ve found this article, some background research is critical to arriving prepared. Find out how your company operates…are you a predominantly english speaking group? If not, then it might be a good call to do some studying before you arrive. 

While you are likely not expected to be fluent as an intern in Japan, you would be wise to come with a general knowledge of the language. Play some Duolingo before you go, or watch a few YouTube videos a week. There’s even programs that can help teach you another language while you’re sleeping in case you’re super busy! 

Be patient with yourself as well- learning a new language is time consuming and difficult. Give yourself some grace as you explore and be proud of however far you get.  By going in armed with at least some semblance of a clue, you’ll be sure to impress your colleagues with your effort, and learn a new language along the way. 

Students Make During Their Internship in Japan

Ignoring hierarchy/not networking

In Japan, business culture is  all about hierarchy, so as interns, it’s important to know where you fall in the line of respect. Don’t go and cross boundaries, cut off or clash with those above you. Keep it respectful, stay humble in your role in the food chain, and show respect to authority figures.

Unlike in more Western cultures where we have less of an emphasis on hierarchy, this is a critical part of an internship in Japan and is a common mistake newcomers can make early on. While you are valued as an intern it is important to remember that you answer to your superiors and that they often hire straight out of their intern pool, evaluating who might be the right fit as the internship goes on.  

By showing your respect you not only align with Japan’s work culture, but you also help yourself get ahead and win the favor of those you work with. 

Not taking initiative

As an intern in Japan, you have the opportunity to prove yourself. It is common in Japanese companies to consider interns for full time roles. They often use the internship process as a way in which to observe and assess potential future job candidates, so now is the time to show them your worth. Don’t simply wait idly by until someone assigns you a task. Be proactive! 

Take the initiative to ask for additional tasks and show enthusiasm for your work. This is an extremely common mistake of interns anywhere, but waiting around does very little to show your ability to take charge. Make your internship experience worthwhile and advocate for yourself and your work. 

While it is sometimes taboo, keep your eyes peeled for tasks that others may not like much, specifically those above you and ask if you can help out with them! This not only shows initiative but might win you some points from our colleagues. 

Forgetting The Importance Of Networking

It may be tempting to think that since you are a foreigner interning at a company long from home, that networking isn’t as important as it is at home. This is NOT the case. Your workplace reputation is always an important part of who you are as an employee and you may find that your colleagues during your internship in Japan, will in the future either work in the same realm as you if you continue down the same industry, or even serve as your references one day.

 It is imperative you make a good impression and network as much as you can. Ask colleagues to take you to their favorite restaurant or even invite you over for dinner if you know them well enough. You can learn more about their culture in this way and perhaps you can share yours as well. Either way, do not make the critical mistake of eliminating networking from your priorities as it will negatively impact your overall gain from your internship in Japan and could cost you a job someday!

Not Being On Time 

Timeliness for work has vastly different expectations around the globe, depending on where you are. Japan, like other Asian countries, holds an emphasis on punctuality. Arriving late or unprepared for meetings or on tasks can display poor performance and professionalism, as well as show a disrespect for the culture of the country. 

Always make sure to arrive at your internship in Japan a few minutes early ready to work almost immediately. Show up to the meeting you may have promptly and prepared for whatever the topic may be. Doing these things will positively impact how you are perceived and the quality of work you are completing, while also showing a great deal of respect to Japanese timeliness culture.  

Overall, by following the above you should be well on your way to the best internship experience ever! We don’t want to scare you before you go to your internship in Japan, but simply wish to warn you of a few of the common mistakes foreign interns make. By keeping these 5 mistakes in mind, you can actively work to avoid them. This can allow you to enhance your experience and help eliminate some of the pressure and nervousness of being an intern in a foreign country. Best of luck and remember: have a blast! 

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