User Interview vol.9 "From a far off dream to an achievable goal of living and working in Japan"


This time we interviewed Hayden Gillyon from the UK. He has had a strong passion to live in Japan since a young age, and got an offer by keeping his motivation high despite encountering some challenges.


1. From a far off dream to an achievable goal of living and working in Japan

Connect Job :Could you please give a self introduction?

I'm Hayden. I graduated in 2023 from the University of Exeter with a computer science degree.

Before that, I grew up in Cornwall in South West England.

I spent a lot of my time by the coast and the countryside, so going for walks in nature and swimming are big hobbies of mine. I also like doing sports such as karate.

Connect Job :What made you first get interested in Japan?

I had an exposure to a lot of items of Japanese culture from a young age, such as anime, studio ghibli movies and Japanese games. But when I grew up, I started to get more interested in the actual culture behind rather than the item itself, including the food, the cities, the shrines, as well as the perspective people have.

Connect Job :When did you start thinking about your career?

Quite an early stage of university, just after my first year or at the end of my first year.

I've always been the person to think “I'm at the start of this degree, what am I actually going to do with that?” It helps me to know what I should prioritize in my degree and what modules to choose. This ended up helping me because I started learning Japanese at a much earlier stage. So, starting to think early definitely helped.

Connect Job :When did you actually start to think about searching for a job in Japan?

I've wanted to live in Japan since I was maybe 11 years old. But it was a far off dream which I never thought I'd end up doing like “It would be cool to live in Japan one day, just to see what it's like, to experience and compare it to the UK” rather than “I want to do this.”

It was during the COVID lockdown when I really started to think about searching for a job in Japan. It was about when I was going to university and started to think about jobs, and I realized there would be nothing stopping me from trying to get a job in Japan. So, I thought I'm going to try and take action as soon as the lockdown ends.


2. The internet gave me an opportunity to get a job in Japan

Connect Job : Once you really started job searching in Japan, how did you start?

First, I looked around articles, websites and YouTube videos to find as much information as possible. Although I found some good stuff, a lot of it was contradictory.

Then, eventually I found a couple of reliable companies through Google search and one of them was Connect Job. I joined a Connect Job’s webinar on how to work in Japan, and coffee chat as well.

They were really impactful because it helped me to think it's not just possible but there's people who are willing to help me do it. I don't think I would be here without the help because of so much information that's contradictory on the internet.

Connect Job :Were there any other services you used from the Connect Job, besides applying to the position?

In my third year, I had a conversation like an online chat like one to one. That was quite helpful just to speak about certain things and clarify what I was doing at that stage because I think that was just before the offer or my final interview.

Connect Job : Was there anything else or any special SNS you used that really helped you?

The webinars and my online research were probably the two main sources of information and job hunting.

In terms of learning about working in Japan, I also spoke to a lot of my Japanese friends at university to learn about what was possible and wasn’t. So, I think talking to people who have experience in Japan also helped.

Connect Job : Were there any particular priorities through job hunting or selecting the companies like location or salary?

What was really important to me was what type of work I'd be doing, including what products I'd be working on, and how much of it would be actual coding.

I also did look at salary as well as the working environment where there was a team atmosphere rather than just us doing it on our own.

Connect Job :When did you actually get the offer from the company? How long did it take from the start of the job hunting until you got the offer?

Around overall two years, but maybe a year for the actual job hunt. That's because a lot of my time wasn't spent applying for jobs but for being better at applying for jobs.

It was near the end of the second year when I actually started job hunting, then got the offer at the end of my third year.

Connect Job :Did your Japanese skills ever help your job hunting process or was that just something you wanted to learn about for living in Japan?

Mostly I wanted to learn Japanese in order to live in Japan, make friends, as well as speed up my learning skill when I'm in Japan. I didn't expect it in my Japanese job hunt because I was only looking for English speaking roles.

However, in a couple of the interviews I did, they often asked “Do you know any Japanese?” even for English speaking jobs. Even if it was very simple Japanese, just speaking a little Japanese helped show that I was committed.

Connect Job :Were there any struggles especially during the selection process? Was there anything hard to get through?

The biggest difficulty was keeping up my motivation.

The first time I applied to Rakuten, I didn't get to the interview because of the coding test. The test was insanely difficult beyond anything I or anybody I'd known had ever experienced. Then when I did the Rakuten selection again, the coding test was far more within my range and I was able to do it quite easily.

After facing almost that defeat in the coding test, I thought there is no way I can do it again, but if I just kept going, in the end it worked.

So, I think the most important thing to get through job hunting is motivation to stick to your goals, and try to continue to apply for jobs to get through job hunting.


3. Cultural differences between Japan and the UK

Connect Job :Through those processes and your practice, I think there are similarities and also differences between practicing for interviews in the UK and in Japan. What did you find really useful, and what did you find really different you had to prepare for in the Japanese style way?

One difference I noticed was, in the UK, you have to be really really confident that you are worth getting hired for this position.

When I practiced interviews in the UK for example, I'd always make sure to be very confident and say “It had this massive impact because of my decision, we ended up passing the project time by 30 percent.”

Whereas in Japan, you still want to be confident but you need to show that you're humble and not arrogant. So, I was careful not to use the same wording as I would for my experiences in the UK. I made sure to emphasize that I made a decision, but it was more helping the team than it was me going off on my own doing something selfishly.

Connect Job :Were there any difficulties unique to Japan or anything difficult to understand or adjust to?

One thing is everyone in the west uses LinkedIn to connect. A lot of people I know have gotten jobs through having a connection and being able to say ‘I spoke to this person’ when they went to an interview.

It was harder to get those connections into the network because less people in Japan use things like LinkedIn and I didn't speak much Japanese.

I noticed that trying to say during interviews ‘I spoke to this person about this job and it looked really good’ was much harder. I had to be much more convincing and confident in my answers to show I was good enough.

Connect Job :Conversely, was there anything nice or attractive about Japan?

Yeah. The number one thing probably is that Japanese companies were more friendly than I expected.

One of the most common things in the UK was ghosting, like no reply when you've failed. The tension is hard to deal with when you don’t know if you’re just waiting for a message or you have failed.

Whereas in Japan, I almost always got a notification saying whether I was successful or not. It helped me to know “That wasn't meant to be. Let's move on and try to find something else.” It was really nice to be treated with more respect by the company. If people in the UK came across that, people would see those companies as almost gods!


4. Wishes to work for long time in Japan and help DX

Connect Job :Do you have any career plans on what you want to do in the future yet?

I definitely want to continue working for Rakuten when I join for a good amount of time. Main reason is because I quite like the work they do.

Also because I'm moving to a different country, I don't want to throw myself around. I understand that lifetime employment isn't so much a thing anymore, but staying with the company is still worth it for that security and for knowing that you have a place to work and make friends in Japan.

In terms of the industry, I'm definitely going to try something with AI eventually.

I think that's what 's happening a lot in Japan now because there’s a lot of things that need to be digitized compared to the UK. I think Japan's maybe going to leap frog what we have in the UK and go straight to using AI for these things rather than just building a simple system. It would be cool if I could build products to help DX.


Connect Job: Do you have any advice to those who are considering working in Japan or searching for jobs in Japan?

Yeah absolutely.

I've mentioned it already, but again the number one thing is to make sure why you want to work in Japan. Not just for being able to explain for recruiters, but so that you can have that conviction and motivation to keep going.

Because if you don't know well enough why it is that you want to do it you won't have that motivation. I think maybe you might give up if you experience a hurdle. So, knowing why you want to do it is the number one thing.

▶Find a job in Japan with Connect Job

We have 2 types of services based on Visa. If you are interested in working in Japan, don’t hesitate to get our support. All the support is free of charge.

Connect Job

Connect Job is a job-hunting support service dedicated to international students.Career consultants who are specialized in supporting international students will not only give information about job positions but fully support your job hunting from preparation to getting a job offer.

Working visa type : EHI (技術・人文知識・国際業務)

Connect Job WORKERS

Connect Job WORKERS is an app that helps foreigners to find jobs with SSW (tokutei-ginou) visa in Japan with support. You can choose various jobs in different industries such as restaurants, hotels, nursing care, construction, etc. across Japan based on your backgrounds.

Working visa type : SSW (特定技能/とくていぎのう)