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JobBoardGeek: Turning Japanese – one job board’s story about cross-cultural success

JobBoardGeek PodcastIn this JobBoardGeek episode, we talk to Kasia Lynch of Nihongo Jobs, who has tackled an important but challenging market: Japanese-speaking job seekers in the U.S. How’s that for a niche? Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter ask Kasia about how she came up with the idea, how she connects with employers and candidates, and the (many) challenges of working for Japanese firms – either in Japan or the U.S. Jeff and Steven also discuss Recruit Japan’s new apps for rehiring retired folks – Jeff thinks it’s a good idea to copy, but Steven has a few reservations. Excitement ensues!

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Transcript:

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:01

Hello everyone and welcome to Job Board geek, the podcast about the business of connecting employers and candidates. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins. The job board doctor, I am your host and with me I have the irrepressible Steven Rothberg of college recruiter. He’s the co host. Hey, Steven,

 

Steven Rothberg  0:18

good. Good to be with you again, Jeff. It’s really excited about today’s episode, we’re going to be broadening our horizons even more.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:25

If Steven seems dumbstruck today, I think it’s because of all the sunshine, he’s down in the sunny Southwest in New Mexico. But nevertheless, our guest today is Kasia Lynch of new hongo jobs. And the site is really interesting. Her mission is really interesting. And she’s doing some very, very interesting things in our space. So we’ll be talking about that in just a second. But Steven, I got something from a group earlier this week that I thought was kind of interesting. Turns out that recruit in Japan only has released an app that is focused on rehiring people basically hiring people that are already retired. And it struck me as being something that was kind of interesting in the sense that Japan has a labor market that has been very tight for a very long time, they have an aging population, they have a low birth rate, they don’t have much in the way of immigration and their economy is doing really well, which means that everything is tight, which is forced recruiters and employers to sort of think out of the side of the box and think about where can we find people to do this work. And then I scratched my head. And I thought, Hmm, this sounds a little bit like the labor market in the US and the EU and the UK, and pretty much the rest of the world right now. And I thought a smart job board operator might actually want to set up a rehiring app for themselves for their audiences. So I don’t know that was sort of the extent of my insight. What do you think, Steven?

 

Steven Rothberg  1:49

Yeah, you know, there are there are a couple of good sites out there, for people who are at that sort of stereotypical retirement age, you know, late 60s 70s 80s 90s event. And one is, one is run by a good friend of mine art cough called retired brains. You know, I’m definitely very supportive of people who are in that stereotypical retirement age who choose freely choose to go back to work continue to work, especially if it’s work that they enjoy, it’s on their terms, maybe part time, they can be selective, it cetera, what makes me nervous about some of these apps is that it’s a substitute for employers actually treating the more traditional workforce properly. And if you’re needing to bring in people into into your workplace, who are, you know, 7580 85 years of age, because you’re not paying your 40 5060 year old workers a fair wage, then I’m not so in favor of that. But if if it it really is about creating opportunities, not just pretending that we’re creating opportunities for those older workers, then then fantastic, then bring it Yeah, and

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  2:58

I think one of the things that employers have to think about if they really do want to pursue this kind of strategy is how they can adapt existing positions for the specific needs of someone that is older, that might not have the capacity to work 50 hours a week or the desire, but can definitely kick in and do 10 to 15 hours worth of work that is really valuable for the employers and that the person would find useful as well. And and enjoyable. So

 

Steven Rothberg  3:27

I’m just gonna say that I think along those lines, I think there’s a huge opportunity for fractional workers, fractional CFO, a fractional marketing coordinator, a fractional customer service person where you can create a role that’s highly specialized that really leverages the skills of those people. But maybe you only need them for 10 hours a week. I’m not looking forward to the day where I’m 75 and somebody tells me that I should be spending my time doing arts and crafts, I didn’t enjoy arts and crafts when I was five. I didn’t enjoy it when I was 15. I’m 55 I don’t enjoy arts and crafts. So for the love of God, don’t sit me stick me into a nursing home and then tell me to do arts and crafts. I’m not going to enjoy it. I want to do something that I enjoy. Not that somebody else tells me that I should be enjoying. So I’m getting the impression that you’re not into arts and crafts. I am I am not talented when it comes to creativity. That is for sure.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  4:23

Well, we’ll make sure that we keep all the creative people coming on this podcast in the guest seat as opposed to the host seat. So anyway, our guest today is Kasia Lynch of Nihongo Jobs Kasia welcome so much to JobBoardGeek.

 

Kasia Lynch  4:36

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve been following your podcast and love what you’re doing.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  4:40

Oh, thank you, thank you compliments will get you everywhere on this podcast. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about how you came to build this site, how you got into this entire field that you’re in and what you’re trying to do that do

 

Kasia Lynch  4:55

absolutely thank you for asking. Basically, this is all based On my own personal experience, I’ve been a fan of Japan and the Japanese language and culture since the early 90s. And I went, I lived abroad in Japan for a total of about eight years. And that included high school, college, graduate school, and then working in the concert promotion industry. And I actually experienced the job search in Japan. And I was just I don’t know what it was, I was absolutely determined to get a job and to convince employers that I could provide a benefit, even though I wasn’t a native Japanese speaker. So I did that it was brutal. It was challenging, and I to this day, share my experiences of how that was, but then not only did I do it in Japan, I also did it in Poland, a little bit in Italy, and back home here in Michigan. So I’ve just been constantly trying to convince people that, you know, hey, there’s people like us who really like Japan, the culture, the business culture, the language, we just want to use our skills. But it’s but there’s been very few people who have come out and said, Yes, you can use your multilingual skills in a career. So I’ve just been repeating that for a very long time. Eventually, my friend was like, You should start a blog. So August 2008, teen I started, he guy connections, my blog portion, I’ve done speaking engagements with various schools and organizations. And then eventually, in May of the following year, 2019, I decided to create this job board because I was not only finding these opportunities, because they would come to me these job seekers, and they’re asking me, Are there really these opportunities that exist? So I said, Yes, absolutely. Here are a list and to the employers, I was sharing to them that with them the message that there are a lot of skilled people that you could hire. So that was that’s how it started. But with this pandemic, what’s been happening, as you can imagine the travel restrictions, getting visas for people from foreign countries, a lot of countries or a lot of companies in the US were unable to get people from Japan to come to the US on visas. So I’ve been really strengthening my message to say, hey, there’s people also like me who don’t need a visa, you can just you just need an opportunity in trading. So that’s been my message. And I’m very passionate about it, as you can imagine. And I’ve been having a really good time connecting the companies with the job seekers.

 

Steven Rothberg  7:07

And for the people who are listening to the the audio version of this, they’ve let’s just say that Catia does not look Japanese at all. If you were to walk by her on the street, you would never suspect that she’s somebody who probably can’t speak, you’re certainly bilingual. I don’t know if you call yourself fluent or not languages are a really highly sought after skill by virtually every large organization, if they’re doing business internationally. And they can tap into somebody who speaks Italian or Spanish or French or Japanese, that skill is incredibly valued by the employer. And I don’t think that most individuals understand that. So you know, if you’ve got Japanese language skills, maybe you can talk with us a little bit about some of the kinds of jobs that you’ve helped people find that might be a little bit off of the beaten path, not the teaching people how to speak Japanese, or you know, doing strict translation work. But I’m thinking, you know, sales, marketing things where you’re helping, maybe Japanese companies do business in the US.

 

Kasia Lynch  8:10

absolutely, and by the way, I think that everything I will say could apply to any other language. There are so many markets where bilingual skills could really apply. If you do the research and you see what’s available, I think you’d be surprised at what you find. So for example, with Japanese skills in the United States, I believe that nearly every industry is covered by some kind of Japanese company that is here in the US. And whether it’s automotive, I mean any kind of manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, banking, recruiting, all the industries are covered, especially now in this global economy where we’re all very much connected. So they often talk about the language skills as well as the cultural skills because learning Japanese, you have three different alphabets you also have an honorific system that you use when you are speaking in business Japanese, so it can be very intimidating. And I often tell people, don’t worry too much about that. Study the basics as much as you can, whether it’s in college or on your own, even the cultural skills that you experienced by living overseas can help you so for example, I often give this example when Japanese expats move to the United States by themselves or with their family members, they need someone to help them get acclimated. So there’s companies out there there’s HR departments that do this where you can use your language and cultural skills and help them you know, you pick them up at the airport you help them learn how to drive you you know go with them to get their social security card things like that set up their utility so sometimes you don’t have to know any Japanese for that you just have to be with them and relate to the fact that you know you notice like to have been living overseas and now you’re helping someone with that giving back kind of you can of course the you know the higher your language levels are you can go into consulting you can help with you know, the sales of course, is very helpful to you know, speak Japanese on the phone and with customers. Anything that you can imagine with any industry that connects you with either let’s say the chip Japan headquarters or a Japanese supplier Japanese customers are different Really any kind of ideas out there. And I often tell my followers that if there is a job role that you are looking for, and you don’t find it, see if you can create it, see if you can reach out to an employer and say, Hey, I noticed this maybe you could deal with or you could you could benefit from this kind of idea, I have me working with you and helping connect you with whatever. So I use this word called Kakashi. Often it means bridge in Japan, we are your bridge between the US and Japan or fill in the blank with any other country. And you can really there’s the sky is the limit, right come up with any kind of suggestion to benefit the relationship between both countries.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  10:35

So one of the things that came to mind when you were describing this is how do employers in the US which much must be very diverse in terms of the types of employers that would need people like this? How do they find out about you? How do they find out about the job board and get get in touch with you to get in touch with the candidate? So

 

Kasia Lynch  10:54

yes, that’s a great question. I, to be honest, have not really done any advertising yet. That is my goal. For the first quarter of this year, I’ve been doing a lot of speaking engagements. So I speak in Japanese. Although I am not perfectly fluent, I consider myself sufficiently able to communicate and if I may make mistakes, I am fine with them. So I speak in Japanese, I speak in English, the ones that I speak in Japanese are for the companies that are here from Japan, basically, their headquarters are in Japan, who are sent here to start a sales office or some kind of facility. And then then when I speak in English, it’s usually to the HR representatives at Japanese companies, they don’t necessarily have to speak or understand anything about Japan. But if there are bilingual roles available in that company, I help them understand what it’s like to find these kinds of bilingual candidates. So my goal is to start advertising this quarter. And I look forward to seeing how that will happen. But there’s a lot of companies I can reach out to so far, it’s been word of mouth.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  11:47

But you know, word of mouth can be very, very powerful. One of the things that we learned from another company that we’ve interviewed another job board is that the power of research that’s turned into public relations can be quite useful to in terms of building awareness. So if you’ve done any research into your audience, that would be something to think about, in fact, this that’s what this question is about in terms of the candidates, do you have any idea how many are just people that somehow like yourself got into being interested in Japan and just sort of immerse themselves in the culture versus people that are maybe first generation second generation immigrants that were originally from Japan and grew up surrounded by both languages?

 

Kasia Lynch  12:30

Absolutely. My followers are comprised of those groups. But specifically, there are many Japanese language programs in colleges and high schools across the United States. So I’ve got people who study Japanese, there are people who then continue into college, and even maybe graduate school. There’s also two main programs that are offered that everyone who studies Japanese is very familiar with. The first one is the JET Program where you go to Japan for a couple of years. And you can either teach the majority of them you can teach English in local school districts. But there’s also a role where you can work in the government governmental offices, and there, you really use your Japanese. So people who come out of that program are really good at Japanese, then there’s something called a MEXT Scholarship, it’s just a government scholarship, I actually was a recipient of one of those opportunities. So you get to go you, you are part of the graduate school program in Japan. And so those people, those people returned back to the United States, or they stay in Japan, if they can find a job there. And they are the ones who are also looking for their next role. A lot of times they struggle because they’ve been gone for the United States for two to three, maybe even five years. And they come back and they’re like, where do I What do I do now. And so I help a lot of them with webinars and consulting as well, then there are those people who have in the past studied or lived in Japan have used have known the language for a very many years, but they maybe haven’t used it because they didn’t think that they could use it in a career. So they kind of gave up on that little Japan dream. And they got just a regular job and their other specialty. In fact, I always tell people to have more than just Japanese, they should have another degree or minor to help them get a good job. But these people have kind of given up on their dreams. And now they’re hearing that it’s actually still possible to find a job using their language or cultural skills. So there may be especially now with this, you know, great resignation or you know, rethinking of people’s goals. A lot of people are trying to get back into a company where they can utilize their skills, so kind of helping all these groups of people.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  14:22

Wow. So you brought up one thing that I’m kind of curious about and I and there’s sort of a personal side here. My best friend from college has been living in Japan since he graduated he married a woman from Japan move there and runs a ran for many years, a school for businessmen to learn English. But one of the things he told me about a lot when he first got there, which was obviously 30 years ago was that the employment market is very, very tough. If you’re not Japanese, it’s and so I was wonder if you could talk to us about you know, what are the differences between what it’s like to get a job here in the US versus what it’s like in Japan? Pam

 

Kasia Lynch  15:00

Oh, absolutely. And my time there was in the late 90s, early 2000s. So obviously things have changed since I left. But yes, it is difficult to get a job if me somebody from America wants to go work in Japan, you have to get a visa. Sometimes employers are afraid to do that. It’s I’ve heard that it’s not the craziest application, but it can take some time. So if they don’t have the money or the application time, then maybe they hesitate to do that. So then there’s other thing about the language component. So some employers believe you have to be completely fluent, whereas I’m still of the belief that a human can learn another language. So just given the opportunity, and given if they have enough motivation and desire, they can learn pretty much anything including the terminology that’s used in that industry. However, the Japanese, from my experience, there’s two kinds of ways that you can get a job to job in Japan, the first one is typical throughout Japan, where you go through this year long if not longer hiring process. So the fiscal year colleges, they all start in April, when I was there, in graduate school, I graduated in March, that meant I needed to start looking for a job Exactly a year before graduating. So you have to plan ahead and you go to all these, you know, you go to these meetings that companies are offering, if you want to apply, you have to go to the specific company applied with that specific company directly. And then you go through a long process, whether your entry sheet is what it’s called, if your entry sheet gets accepted, you move to the interview phase, which starts with group interviews. And that keeps going until you reach the individual interview phase. And then you can accept it, a lot of times, companies will hire based on your educational experience, and then they tend to train you upon all the new hire starting in April. And that’s just a way to get everybody on board. It’s it just makes for a very easy onboarding process, everybody’s training, they also go through some companies will offer rotational programs where you go through this department, and then this department, whether it’s every month, every few months, whatever, it really depends on the industry and company size as well. But then there’s also you can apply for a job from overseas, whether it’s a recruiter that’s helping foreigners get a job in Japan, or maybe you apply directly with a company, there’s you know, there’s they’re called mid mid career hires, you can do that kind of process as well. So there, there’s definitely lots of changes coming in Japan, and I’m eagerly looking to see how it’s going to change, especially with remote work. I mean, that’s a big deal in Japan right now. So those are basically the ways I hope I explained that. Okay,

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  17:24

I thought you were spot on jumping back to what we what Stephen and I were originally talking about recruits rehiring app and the whole business of the older workers going back into the workforce. I just be curious to hear your thoughts about the labor force in Japan. Does recruitment hinder engagement with a labor force in Japan? Or do you think it helps it? Or is it a little bit of both?

 

Kasia Lynch  17:46

I’m not quite certain how to answer that question. Because I haven’t been there in so long. But I do know that I think that regardless of the country, these people have a wealth of experience. And you were talking about temporary roles, or you know, maybe 10 hours a week, these people are great advisors, of course, it depends on the industry and your experience, and you know, where you’re coming from, but people have so much to offer, and especially in Japan, where there is such a shortage of workers and the elderly, the increasing elderly population and decreasing birth rate. I think that it’s wonderful that they and I believe that they are also viewed as people who are very wise and can give you, you know, great advice into your life, I think that they could provide a lot of contribution to employers, if employers were open to that. And I believe they are. It just depends also on salary and their current process and things like

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  18:33

that. I think that Japan perhaps has more respect for older workers than people in the in the US and other parts of the world do my impression is true? Yes. Yeah. And so in that sense, being able to reengage them may be an easier process, and may also be more accepted by the people that are younger than that, then it would be here. So I have that impression as well.

 

Kasia Lynch  18:54

Yes. Yeah.

 

Steven Rothberg  18:56

Oh, I’m just gonna add quick, quick question is, are there gig platforms for people with non English language skills similar to like rover, you know, you can use rover to walk your dog. And so you know, you’ll have it’s, you know, rather than driving a car for Uber or Lyft, you might walk or their gig platforms like that, or is that something that you’re doing that you know, you’re offering people the ability to kind of register and somebody can hire them for you know, two hours or a day or whatever? What got me to thinking this was you it was your remark about the culture piece of it, which I had been thinking about the Japanese part more is language, but you’re absolutely right. There’s also the whole cultural aspect like two of my kids went to went to University in Montreal and getting them that documents that they needed for healthcare and for banking and for what phone to sign up for, you know, cell phone plans with this from Minneapolis to Montreal. It’s a whole different world in some respects. I can only imagine somebody moving from Libya to the US or or something along those lines. Is that Is that something that that you offer?

 

Kasia Lynch  20:01

Well, I have up until now been focused on Japanese companies in the US or any US company that has any Japanese support. But I am absolutely open to supporting that kind of, you know, gig economy as well, especially because so many job seekers are really interested in the remote option and the temporary opportunities just to dabble their feet to discover what they really want to do. When it comes to Japan, I’ve been hearing more and more about websites that are coming out such as Coco nallah is a new website that has recently come out that is more short term contract freelance work, there’s all s for like interpreting and translating, mostly translating. There’s always been websites for that. So you could apply from any country, specifically for a role that required especially with like, if I translating for a different language, I usually want to read the foreign language and put it into my native English. So a lot of times in Japan, they’re looking for native English speakers to check, proofread, things like that. So that’s where someone like myself could help them very much. And they could hire me even though I’m not in Japan, at the moment. So those opportunities are definitely existing. And there’s so much more that’s come out with this pandemic.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  21:08

believe it or not, I’ve been hired by some job boards that are non US that’s been part of my job has been to read their materials for the English language markets and say, Does this make sense? Or is this horrible, you know, and that’s kind of fun. But anyway, Kasia, it’s been a delight to have you on the show. It’s what you’re doing is great, or the people that are benefiting from it. I also think it’s very interesting. From a job board perspective, you’re gonna have to keep me on top of the Japanese job board world. I appreciate that. Thanks for coming on.

 

Kasia Lynch  21:39

Thank you. It’s a pleasure. And I look forward to more of your episodes. So keep going.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  21:44

I will do that. Because Steven is a hard taskmaster. I’m sure we’ll have to do another one. Speaking of Stephen, if people want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

 

Steven Rothberg  21:53

Easiest way is email me Stephen at college recruiter.com Kasia? It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you,

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  22:01

thank you and Kasia if folks want to get in touch with you. What’s the easiest way for them to get a hold of you?

 

Kasia Lynch  22:06

They can go to Nihongo jobs.com N I H O G O jobs.com.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  22:13

Right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. I want to remind everyone to feel free to post reviews, hopefully positive of the podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google, whatever you happen to listen to it on. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m the job board doctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all I have for now. We’ll see you again soon. Bye.

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