Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Shūkatsu: An ICU Graduate’s Take on Job-Hunting in Japan

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ICU (Japan) chapter.

Shūkatsu, or “job hunting”, is something that is typically done during a Japanese university student’s third or fourth year. I’ve watched my dormitory senpais go through this complicated process ever since I was in my first year, but my turn always seemed so far in the future that I never really felt as though it was something I would one day experience.
Time passed very quickly, and now that I’m mere weeks away from starting my final year at ICU. I figured this would be the best time to gather as much first-hand information as possible. To deepen my understanding of the shūkatsu process–and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected it–I spoke with my friend Mizuki, who graduated from ICU this past March.

You started job-hunting right around the time the pandemic began. What was that like?

I think a lot of the information online wasn’t helpful in terms of interviews and getting to know the company because you can’t go there physically. So in terms of looking for information, it was kind of challenging for me. But at the same time, for example, I could have multiple interviews on the same day because it’s all online. So that was helpful. And because I was thinking of doing shūkatsu with the 22 Aprils, I wasn’t really prepared at the time. I had to return to Japan and do shūkatsu, and I only had 3 months or so to stay focused.* So I think this was good for me because instead of doing shūkatsu not knowing when it will end, I was just focused for 3 months. With the time frame, I could stay motivated and keep on applying [to companies]. 

*Mizuki was studying abroad in Spain at the onset of the pandemic. 

I see. So the short time period actually helped a lot, do you think?

Yeah, I think so. I think I had something shūkatsu-related every day. It could be seminars, could be meetings, or taking tests. Also applying. Because I had my family around, I could talk about it and be like, “I think I’m good at this!” and the next week, I’d say completely different things, but in a way, I could get feedback from [my family]. I really enjoyed it!

Was there anything that you yourself found to be particularly stressful? If so, how did you manage it?

Yes, I had those times as well. I experienced being “dropped” twice on the final interview. I think it was around late June. And so, at that point, I was lost because I didn’t have much time. I knew a lot of the 21 Aprils were done with shūkatsu so I was kind of stressed out. Around that time, I was applying to a lot of manufacturing companies, and I figured the industry wasn’t really for me after failing the final interview. So I changed my focus and started looking for IT industry jobs as well. And that worked well for me. I think personality-wise, it was a great match, and the company I currently work for is IT/manufacturing, so it was perfect. So don’t narrow down your industries of choice too much. You should apply even if you’re the slightest bit interested. The more interviews you have, the better you will get, and the more you will be able to figure out your career path. Also, I didn’t really take [the rejection] personally. It wasn’t about my skills or personality. It just wasn’t a good match. So I was able to rethink it in that way instead of just focusing on why I failed.

Whenever my friends and I talk about shūkatsu, we always discuss how we think finding companies that fit us as people will be an additional challenge. Did you ever feel this way?

Yeah, I think many of you know only a few companies, and you think you want to go and work for them because of their brand or whatever. But you have to find the true values you’re looking for in a company you want to work for. In my case, it was about how I can build my new skills. I wanted to use the company as a way for me to grow and raise my 市場価値 (market value). It might not be the best way to say it, but I wanted to use [the company] as a sort of “stepping stool” (laughs).

What is the biggest piece of advice you have for students who are just starting their shūkatsu journey?

I think ICU students tend to work individually. But shūkatsu is about information gathering. So you need to share information with your friends or as many people you know so that you can get information as well. That’s how this whole thing works. I think you have to use anything that you have. Any means of gathering information and getting to the interview. And enjoy it! Even though it was hard sometimes, shūkatsu was also very interesting for me. It was valuable because I got to know myself better and better understand how both the business world and people work. I had a pretty good time.

Anna Ostrowski

ICU (Japan) '22

Originally from California, Anna is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology at International Christian University in Tokyo. In her free time she enjoys dancing, drawing, and reading.