Career change guide

What is a self-assessment and why does it matter?

A good self-assessment can be the key to a successful job hunt in Japan. However, there might be many of you out there reading this who have never even heard of a self-assessment, let alone know why it is important. In this article, we will guide you through how to self-analyze and self-assess in preparation for your career change. Even if you are not thinking of job-hunting in the near future, it is still beneficial to your career growth to know your own strengths and weaknesses.

Self-assessments are important in other countries as well


Self-analyzing isn’t only in Japan, but other countries do it as well when changing jobs. In other countries, self-assessment is an important step for a career change.


Here are the two main points of doing a self-assessment:


  • To decide the direction of your career and use that to coordinate your job search.
  • To better understand your own strengths and weaknesses so you can better market yourself.


Understanding these two points can also help you in defining your career goals. So, if you are thinking of a career change or you are job hunting now, it’s best to get started as soon as possible in the self-assessment process.



After having self-assessed, you might also notice something new about yourself, like a hidden personality trait. You can use this new knowledge to further help you create an ideal image of yourself that you can work towards.



And, as a foreign worker in Japan, you might have had a variety of unique experiences working here which give you further insight into your values. Look back on your professional experience and reflect on these insights to gain a better understanding of yourself and what you value. Understanding these values will help guide you to a successful career change or landing your next job.



When you are making your self-assessment, make sure to include what you have achieved since you moved to Japan with your strengths, as well as what you wish you could have done better with your weaknesses.


Do your self-assessment in Japanese!

As much as possible, we recommend that you try to do your self-assessment in Japanese. Even though you may find it difficult to fully express yourself in a non-native language, there are nevertheless several merits to doing it in Japanese:


Merit 1: It can be used on your resume and CV

You can use the work experiences and ideas you write out in your self-analysis directly on your resume and CV. If you apply for a job in a Japanese company, you might be expected to write the documents for the job application in Japanese. Creating your self-assessment in Japanese will end up saving you time since you won’t have to rewrite it/translate it from your native language.


Merit 2: It is good practice for interviews

Doing a self-analysis in Japanese can be used not only for application forms such as on your resumes and detailing your work history but also for preparation before an interview.



It is important during the interview to speak in a way that can be understood, especially if the interview is held in Japanese. It can be challenging for many foreigners to answer all the questions in Japanese and at the same time make those answers appealing. But if you have already prepared by having made a self-assessment in Japanese, it will be much easier to answer questions about your strengths and work skills.


Merit 3: It is good practice learning Japanese

When conducting a self-analysis, you will need to use large and sophisticated vocabulary to describe yourself and your situation. Since you will probably have to look up and familiarize yourself with new Japanese words and phrases to do this, you will naturally expand your vocabulary base. In addition, some business terms and expressions are unique to job-hunting and interview situations, so it will also be great training for people of both intermediate and advanced levels.


Step 1: Look back on your past work experiences


Now that we have discussed what a self-assessment is, and some of the reasons the process is important, let’s begin with how to actually make one.



The first step to self-assess is to look back over your previous career and experiences. Write them down in either a Word document (or another text editor of your choice) or on paper. You are going to make a list of all your achievement and skills gained from your career as well as the necessary skills which you want to gain in the future.


Step 1A: Listing your occupation, position, and responsibilities

List your achievements and tasks which you have accomplished so far, both in your native country and Japan.



For example, if you are an engineer you can start describing:

  • Type of projects you were involved in
  • Your position and responsibilities in those projects (design, coding, system testing, maintenance, operations, software development, etc.)
  • Development environments you worked in
  • Products/ software you have developed
  • Programming skills and languages that you are familiar with



For those who work as a salesperson/ business operator 

  • Types of products/merchandise/services that you have sold (tangible or intangible)
  • Types of clients that you were in charge of dealing with
  • Sales methods, business positions, and competitors
  • Experience in project management/ being a leader/boss


Make a note of the information above, along with a timeline of your professional career for each company that you have worked with. If you have experience being a leader or a manager, you can mention how many people you had on your team and what skills you gained from your management experiences.


Step 1B: List your acquired skills

Divide the list of your skills and qualifications into these 3 categories: language skills, business skills, and general competencies:



E.g. Language skills

  • Chinese (Native language)
  • Japanese (Business level: Obtained JLPT N2 in December 2019)
  • English (Intermediate level: TOEIC score 710/990)


As a foreign worker, you should mention language skills like your native language, Japanese level, English level (if not native) and so on. Even if you haven’t taken JLPT N2/N1 yet and if you are studying and planning to take JLPT next July/ December you can still mention that. If you are not an English native speaker you can check your English level by taking a TOEIC test and putting your TOEIC score in your CV. It is very common for Japanese businesspeople to do this, so it is definitely something that you should consider.



E.g. Job-specific competencies and skills acquired throughout your work

List your specialized skills and business skills acquired, such as:

  • Technical skills like familiarity with different Operating Systems, programming language skills, experience working in programming frameworks, or database management systems, etc.
  • Design skills
  • Customer communication skills
  • Professional qualifications and certifications you have acquired.



E.g. General competencies

List general or soft skills that are not related to your occupation or industry per se but that are still professional strengths. For example, your general competencies can be described as:


  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork skills and subordinate management
  • Negotiation skills
  • Problem-solving methods and thinking skills


Step 1C: Examine your feelings and thoughts

After reviewing what you wrote about your work experience from step 1B above, next you will write about your feelings regarding your work life. Writing about your emotional thoughts in Japanese can be even more difficult than listing your previous work experiences like in the previous step, but at the very least you can think of it as good training.



The point is to write down several basic emotions such as “happiness, sadness, fear, enthusiasm, excitement, and satisfaction” and connect them to the reasons behind these emotions. By describing these emotional processes, you might get an insight into your true values and it may lead you to many other valuable discoveries about yourself.


E.g. What makes you feel happy and excited?

  • When a project was completed within the deadline
  • When your clients/coworkers thanked you for your work
  • When you made a good connection and created a relationship with your Japanese colleagues
  • When you feel you are a part of your company or Japanese society



 E.g. When you feel competitive

  • When you get a lead on your colleagues/rivals by being promoted over someone else
  • When you see someone doing a better job than you
  • Working as a team vs. working as an individual



E.g. What motivates you

  • Being in charge of a new project
  • Sharing your skills with your coworkers/subordinates.
  • When you see a problem/opportunity and improve on it
  • Getting a raise and/or getting more responsibilities



E.g. What you are afraid of in your career

  • Having a bad balance between your private life and work-life
  • Dealing with customer claims and complaints
  • Not having any choice and having to sacrifice your family for the job


By looking over your career and writing down your thoughts and the reasons behind them, you can gain a better understanding of yourself and create room for self-improvement.



While self-assessing, you need to try and analyze yourself objectively instead of taking in subjective views of yourself. In doing so, you can avoid your prejudice and see yourself as a professional. Also, consider getting feedback and advice from your old colleagues and bosses about your characteristics and what you need in order to improve.



Other people can sometimes see parts of you that you are blind to. This might also lead to you discovering something new about yourself, which you can use to help guide your career decisions.


Step 2: Make a history book about yourself


After examining your professional history, you can do the same thing with your whole life. Without a doubt, you have probably made many choices and improvements so far in your journey through life. It is a lot to self-assess and it will be a big project but try to examine your life events and the choices that you made as objectively as possible. For example, try thinking and/or writing from a third person’s perspective of you, or like you were writing someone else’s autobiography when you write about yourself.


Chronological map of your life

Highlight important events and decisions in your life to map out your turning points in chronological order. You should write not only the actual events, for example, what happened and what decisions were taken, but also the reasons and emotions behind them. Once you made your chronological life map, add comments on the emotional aspects of each event. For example, what were your concerns about what happened or could have happened, or what was the excitement you experienced like? You can describe both successful experiences and mistakes/failures to get a fuller understanding during your self-assessment.



Some examples of what you might want to bring up in your life map are:

  • What triggered and motivated you to act in the manner you did
  • Why you did or didn’t act at a certain point
  • How you overcame a challenge or improved on a weakness of yours
  • What you learned from your failure
  • How you have changed and grown from your experiences
  • The toughest/best choice you made and what led you to make it


Having self-assessed by adding your emotions to the experiences in your life, you can find the patterns of how you think and analyze your personal growth. If you are able to understand your typical thought patterns regarding how you face challenges and/or changes, you can use that understanding for better self-assessment, which will lead to clearer choices in your career path.


Working in Japan as a foreigner

If you have already worked in Japan, point out your uniqueness working in Japan as a foreigner. Moving to Japan and working in a Japanese company could be one of the biggest decisions you`ve made in your life and it might mean that you have experienced more than others in your company.


Try to answer the following questions:

  • What was your motivation or reasoning for wanting to move to Japan?
  • What did you find difficult/fun while working in Japan?
  • What culture shock did you experience living and working in Japan?
  • What accomplishments and skills did you gain while working in Japan?
  • How much longer do you plan to work in Japan?


There are obstacles and difficulties that you might have had to or will have to face as a foreign worker in Japan. But in overcoming those obstacles, you grow as a person through those experiences compared to how you were when you first arrived. You can and should be proud of what you have achieved. In an interview try to express that growth (without sounding like you are bragging!).


Cautionary note


Be aware of two following points while you self-assess:


1. Try to self-assess objectively

One of the main goals when self-assessing is to have a better understanding of yourself and to not be swayed by your pride or prejudices. It can be difficult to objectively analyze your mistakes/failures, but it is necessary for understanding yourself and can be the path that leads you to a better career change.


2. Recognize both your strengths and weaknesses 

Self-analysis generally begins with a list of facts as discussed above. When creating this list, you need to focus not only on your achievements but also on your shortcomings. You need to try to self-assess as from a third person’s perspective. While examining your experiences and skills don’t take it too personally or feel too good or bad. Self-assessing with an objective angle can make your story feel authentic, both in your CV and when you are in an interview.


Use your self-assessment for job hunting


Once you have finished your self-assessment it is time to put your newfound knowledge into practice.


Select what’s most important for your career change

Now you will write down and prioritize what you want to achieve. Use your self-assessment to create hypothetical situations, focus on your prioritized values and desires and from situations like below:



Situation: I hit a ceiling at work because my Japanese skills are not good enough.

Solution: Study for the JLPT test in order to show your language capability and improve your language skills.



Situation: I like my job, but I always need to work overtime.

Solution: Find a company that allows its employees to work flexibly and offer a good work-life balance. Ask for professional help and consult with a recruitment agency or specialist.



Situation: I want a promotion and want a better salary.

Solution: Consult with a career adviser and ask for an assessment of your market value. Get more experience or management skills and have patience as you prepare for a career change.



Situation: I’m the only foreigner working at my company and I feel alienated working with only Japanese people.

Solution: Try to show your friendliness to your coworkers. Maybe try some small-talk or join in the after-work gatherings. If this doesn’t help the situation, get career advice from Hello Work or a career change support agency.



We also recommend that you keep a diary or find some other way to record your journey of job hunting in Japan. Organizing your thoughts with a diary or other form of recording can be very helpful in managing the problems you encounter in your job hunt.


Good self-assessment can lead to a successful job change


After having self-assessed, you should have a much clearer idea of your personality, interests, strengths, weaknesses, skills and what you value the most in terms of your career.



For a realistic improved career change, you need to prioritize some aspects and compromise on others. Any choices and decisions for your career path are all yours to make but having a consultation with a career adviser at TOMATES AGENT or Hello Work can be worth trying if you are unsure about your career change or you still have questions about making a career change in Japan.



We hope that you find your career change fulfilling and satisfying, and we hope to hear from you about any thoughts or questions you may have!




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