Dear Global Employers: Do You Know About This Untapped Resource?


You are a globally-minded employer, and your company is connected to the world via your international locations, suppliers, customers and employees. These relationships are facilitated with speedy communication via the internet, and you know you have to be even more competitive to succeed in this global economy.

One key to success is being able to communicate effectively across language and cultural barriers, and you already know about interpreters and translators to help you in times of need. This post will introduce you to an untapped resource that you may not realize has excellent potential for your company – if you only provide them with an opportunity and some training. 

Although I write specifically about Japanese, this article can be applied to any language and culture. Further, since I am based in Michigan, I state facts for our local economy – but if you do a little research in your area, you may find that the same applies to you.

In Michigan alone, there are over 500 Japanese business facilities that employ nearly 40,000 people. In addition to this, there are numerous non-Japanese companies that work with Japanese customers, suppliers or employees. (Data: Consulate-General of Japan in Detroit.)

Much of the time, these companies in Michigan rely on their Japanese headquarters to send English-speaking expatriates to live here for 2-5 years. The issues that arise here include an insufficient number of expatriates to be sent globally, high costs associated with these assignments, and lengthy wait times to attain proper visas.

If an expat cannot be found to bring to Michigan, other options include hiring local Japanese persons who speak English or local Japanese-speaking Americans. Both are limited in number, usually expected to be mid-career professionals, and most of the time are requested to be “fluent.”

An Untapped Resource

The “untapped resource” that most companies overlook are the local college students who study Japanese. The students and graduates that I have met are nearly always passionate about the language/culture and, most importantly, are very good at it. They also don’t know that they can utilize their bilingual and/or bicultural skills in a job because they don’t see opportunities open to them. 

I hope that with this article you, the global employer, can start considering ways to utilize this untapped resource.

According to the Consulate-General of Japan in Detroit:

  • There are 18 universities and community colleges with Japanese language programs.
  • There are 1,819 college students enrolled in Japanese language courses.
  • There are an additional 4,321 K-12 students studying Japanese.

The Disconnect

A disconnect exists between the 500+ Japanese companies that need bilingual talent, and the many students passionately studying Japanese who have the potential to become really good, motivated employees. But this is now good news for you, and you can start to learn about this untapped resource in the following ways:

  1. Search online via job boards. 
  2. Personally meet this talent at local job fairs.
  3. Start small by trying out an internship.
  4. Hire a new graduate.

Solution: Job Boards

Many companies find candidates via their own websites, Handshake or online job boards. I also offer my own solution,, which is specifically focused on this niche market of Japanese/English bilingual/bicultural job-seekers (humble plug). 

One mistake I made when seeking new hires was to use the word “fluent” in the job description. I found that this deters students/graduates from applying because they don’t feel they could be at that level, even though many times they were beyond what I had expected. Further, if you are a learner of Japanese you will know that the more you study Japanese language and culture, the more humble you get. So when someone compliments such a candidate at their proficient level of Japanese, they will usually deflect that compliment by saying something along the lines of, “Oh, I am not very good and have much to learn.”

Pro tip: When seeking a candidate, use the term “proficient” in the job description, and have a native Japanese person with you in the interview to check the candidate’s level of Japanese.

Solution: Job Fairs

There are some pretty famous Japanese Job Fairs in London, Boston, California, and of course Japan, and most are aimed at English-speaking Japanese candidates. (I will be compiling a reference list of these that occur globally and will post it on my website.)

Fortunately for those in Michigan, our Japanese Job Fair is directed at all types of candidates, but many local Japanese-speaking Americans participate. Attendees include mid-career professionals, JET alumni, soon-to-be college graduates, college students, and even some very aspiring high school students. This year, the coordinators (Great Lakes JET Alumni Association) have also reached out to engineering and STEM departments of universities to broaden the pool of candidates.

The next one is on January 25, 2020, and here is the information you need to know:

Date: January 25th, 2020 (Sat)

Time: 10am – 1pm (employers arrive by 9 AM for setup)

Venue: Suburban Showplace Collection, 46100 Grand River Ave, Novi, MI 48374

Cost for employers: $30/table. Platinum sponsorship available at $250.

Cost for candidates: FREE! Candidates can check out this blog post for details and advice on how to prepare.

Company registration: apply here or contact for more information. This event is co-sponsored by the Japan Business Society of Detroit,

Solution: offering internship opportunities

Each company is different, but talk with your HR Department about starting small and having a Japanese-speaking intern at your company. In my experience, we had hired college and even high school students as interns, and were very pleased with the amount of help they provided. It helps if both sides are flexible in scheduling these assignments; for example, 5/days a week in the summer break, or 2-3 afternoons/week during school. If things work out, they can hire in full-time upon graduation and already know the company.

Solution: offering employment opportunities

The biggest fears employers have in this regard is that they don’t have time to train these new hires or don’t know what to do. Admittedly, it takes time to hire, especially when you may not know exactly what kind of bilingual talent you want or need, but the exercise in doing this will bring good benefits. Training a new hire is also time-consuming, especially if you don’t know how to train them on Japanese business manners. A future post will touch specifically upon this topic, and my online training programs will aim to resolve this problem. Please reach out if you are interested in hearing more about this.

In Conclusion

In summary: this untapped resource of local job-seekers who love studying Japanese could become very motivated employees for globally-minded companies. All they need is an opportunity and some training, so please give them a shot!

Kasia (カーシャ) is the founder of Ikigai Connections, a company dedicated to bridging the gap between Japanese/American bilingual/bicultural talent and global companies needing their help (even if they don’t know it yet). She does this via speaking engagements, consulting, (online job board), and online training programs. Contact her to brainstorm your needs here.

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