Jonathan Garnier - Internship Consultant
Jonathan is the main contact for participants of Internship in Japan. As a former exchange student, an intern at a consulting SME, an entrepreneur, and a foreign worker in Japan, he has lived what interns want to experience and acts as their best honest opinion about what an internship in Japan will be like. His goal is to help every intern grow as a person and a professional.
Your career has taken you from Paris to Berlin to New York to Tokyo. How did you get connected with the International Cross-Cultural Committee (ICC)?
I was looking for a new challenge in my life that would be more in line with what I love and wanted to do. Since I was already helping foreign students find internships in Japan on my spare time, working for ICC was the perfect solution.
International Cross-Cultural Committee is more than 40 years old. How does the organization continue to meet the needs of ambitious students, recent graduates, and young professionals?
Quality and ethics. It’s not only about doing business, but about helping foster the next generations of students who will be in charge of the future. We are here for the students from A to Z; we provide them with great programs to grow as a person, as a professional, and we make sure to be here for them anytime they have a question or need our support.
We are still here and growing because the students know they can trust us.
Why should the students trust Internship in Japan over its competitors?
First of all, we have been helping students for years and the vast majority of them have been incredibly satisfied. Why the vast majority and not everybody? Simply because it is impossible to satisfy each and every one. We understand that, but we still do our utmost to make sure all the students leave with great memories and the experience they were looking for.
Secondly, Internship in Japan is based in Tokyo and our company has offices all over Japan. This allows us to be in constant contact with the host companies and most importantly, always ready to come help our students. We have a 24/7 phone support in case of emergency and all the students benefit from a very comprehensive insurance included in their programs. The students know they can reach me or the rest of the team at anytime if they have a problem.
Thirdly, we make sure to match the students with the right company. Anyone can find an internship for a student at a friend's company, but creating a relation of trust with small and large companies who will come back to you asking if you have students who can help them, that takes another kind of skills. That's why everyday we have new companies becoming our partners and asking us to find them great interns, without us having to contact them first.
Lastly, we do not discriminate. Everybody is welcome. As long as you can secure a visa to come to Japan, we will help you! And if you need help with your visa, we can help you too!
You studied all around the world, how can you relate to the struggles and expectations of students looking to intern in Japan?
I have been very lucky to find a path that allowed to study in my native France, but also in Japan, China, Hong Kong, and the U.S. I also did unpaid internships in the same countries each time plus another one in Germany. As a student on a budget, I was painfully aware of what you have to sacrifice to make your dreams a reality. Mine was to settle in Japan, and even though I did not go on a straight line (I wanted to be a volcanologist as a kid, so it was either Iceland or Japan), with enough patience and the right attitude, I got there.
Nothing is impossible as long as you believe in yourself and accept that you have to give to get something in return. Nothing is due to you and the more you work in your young years, the easier your life will get after that. But don't forget to have fun!
Knowing that everybody is different and that we all have our struggles, I then always try to find what the students really need. And if it means advising them to take another path than joining our program, I will gladly do it because in the end the most important thing is ensuring their future.
How do you bridge the gap between foreign interns and their host companies to ensure every relationship is mutually beneficial and successful?
Anyone can find a student and a company, but the trick is in matching them to ensure that it will be a win-win situation where everybody is happy at the end. So we talk with everybody, but most importantly, we listen to everybody. If you don’t listen, you cannot hear nor analyse nor understand who needs what.
How do you prepare first-time participants for life in Japan?
We talk with them a lot and we do not hide the true Japan. Like any country in the world, there is a huge difference between the idealized version of Japan and the reality of the everyday life. The students are here to gain valuable professional experience so we train them for the reality of the Japanese work environment; but we also want them to enjoy Japan for the short time they will be in the country, so we give them lots of advices and tips on how to create their own wonderful experience in Japan.
What makes Japan the ideal internship destination?
If you can succeed in Japan, you can succeed anywhere.
Work wise, working in Japan and especially in a Japanese company can be a difficult experience for some people, but it will be an excellent way for you to really learn who you are and how you want to work in the future. Working in Japan relies heavily on teamwork, and this is equally important for interns. You will not be left alone or end-up doing photocopies and serving coffee; people will count on you to contribute to the greater good, but they will also go a long way towards helping you, because they understand that in order to make something work, everybody is important and helpful.
Outside of work, you will have a blast. You can go anywhere quickly and conveniently. The Japanese are among the nicest people on this planet and will go out of their way to help you even if they don’t know you, and it sometimes means stopping their work for you. You could live your whole life here and still be amazed everyday, at the small treasures hidden everywhere or the ingenuity and kindness of the Japanese population.
You are a volunteer with the Fujisawa Beach Cleaning Project in Japan. Does ICC offer interns any opportunities to give back to local communities through volunteer work, outside of their internship placements, during their time in Japan?
You are fluent in both French and English, and no doubt have a significant understanding and fluency of Japanese after living in Japan for multiple years. How much power do you think fluency in a second language has in the job market of today?
The world is more connected than ever nowadays, and the trend is not going to change for the foreseeable future. In this context, if you want to go forward professionally, just speaking your native language is not going to cut it. For non-native English speakers, anything below business level will be a huge handicap in their professional life. That’s why, the more languages you can speak properly, the more and better chances you will have to get a good job. I speak four languages, understand the basics of three others, and I still think it’s not enough.
The more languages you speak, the more people you can connect with, and in today’s world, your network is your most valuable asset.
Too many people think that “everybody speaks English” and that learning another language is futile, but they could not be more wrong! Languages are not only about business, they are the key to the world and the knowledge from billions of people over thousands of years! Learning a new language is the best way to broaden your mind, discover things you would not even imagine can exist, and understand those parts of the culture that fascinate you in a country.
Learning a new language is also about good manners. Nobody is expecting you to arrive in the country being bilingual, but just learning a few sentences will be taken as a sign that you respect the culture and try to integrate yourself in the country.
How is language learning integrated into ICC internships in Japan?
Japanese is a beautiful language that takes years to speak properly. We understand perfectly that not all the students have the time and resources to invest in learning Japanese before they arrive for their internship; that’s why we find them companies where they will be able to work in a language they are comfortable with, while practicing their Japanese with their colleagues and/or clients.
Aside from that, we offer customized programs for students who want to learn Japanese at school during the internship, and we give them tips and advices on how to work on it by themselves. As long as you are motivated, you can learn conversational Japanese in a short time. One of our students got to a very decent level from scratch in three months by working in Japanese nearly all day long!
What do you think is the biggest professional benefit of joining ICC in Japan?
The invaluable experience you will get that no one else can offer you. You will gain access to a whole new country, the third largest economy in the world, and thousands of international companies, where you can make an impact while you hone your skills. You will meet people that will be with you for life and who can become your professional future along the way. Several of our interns who did a great job during their internships received offers to work for their host companies after their internship or their graduation.
What is the most important piece of career advice you offer interns before, during, and after their internship?
Keep an open mind and hang on. There is no universal truth. What works for you in your country might not work here. Life can be hard and everybody fails at times. It’s all about how you react to failure. And never hesitate to ask questions!