A job-hunting seminar for second-year students. Photo posted on Flickr by Shinya Ichinohe
In Japan, university traditionally lasts four years. But for most students, nearly half of their time is taken up by job-hunting. It’s a high-stakes game because companies make nearly all their job offers during students’ final two years. Once they have graduated, it becomes nearly impossible to land a job. Some students, however, are so fed up with the pressure that they’ve taken to the streets to protest against this tradition.
Students protested in the streets of Tokyo on November 23
During this gruelling recruitment period, known as “Shinsotsu Ikkatsu Saiyo,” students run the gauntlet of a string of job fairs, seminars and interviews. Those who haven’t secured a job offer by graduation often choose to stay in university for a fifth year to avoid being labelled an “unemployed graduate”. And with fewer jobs available due to a shrinking economy, the competition between peers has become tougher over the past few years.
This year, Japanese companies agreed to start their official recruitment season two months later than usual to give students more time to focus on their studies. However, they haven’t pushed back their interview schedule, leading many students to complain of increased stress. Other students, however, say the whole system needs to be overhauled.
“Ever since I started university, my life has revolved around finding a job”
Haruki Miyauchi is a second-year economics student at Keio University in Tokyo. He took part in the November 23 student protest.
Going through this intensive job recruitment process is not mandatory, but it is expected. It is the custom in Japan that companies only hire people going through the recruitment process while still university students. It is very hard to get hired once you’ve graduated.This recruitment system has existed for a long time, but it’s become much more intense in recent years. It starts on December 1 of the third year of university, and takes up about 80 percent of a student’s time for at least a year, with only about 20 percent left for actual studying. It distracts us from learning. Students usually go through the interview process with thirty companies. Each company will make students go through two or three interviews. This goes on until students secure at least one job offer. They then finish their fourth year of university and go straight to work.Even before the recruitment period begins, it’s all students can think about. Ever since I started university, my life has revolved around finding a job. Students take classes that are ‘good for recruitment,’ attend additional study sessions that are ‘good for recruitment,’ take part in clubs that are ‘good for recruitment’ … It never ends! I’m exhausted.“We want to use our time at university to learn, not to scramble for jobs”On top of this, there are many private companies that try to sell us their ‘help’ for the recruitment process. They say, ‘If you buy this suit, you’ll get a job! If you buy this pencil, you’ll get a job! If you buy this water, you’ll get a job!’ It’s ridiculous, but many students become so desperate that they start clutching at straws and spending all their money.Some students rebel, and opt out of recruitment. They say they’ll found their own company, or take the exam to become lawyers. But it seems most of them fail.My friends and I organised a protest to try to draw attention to just how crazy the recruitment process has become. We want to use our time at university to learn, not to scramble for jobs. That’s why we made signs that said ‘Let Us Dream’ – university should be a time for creativity, a time to encourage diversity!”