The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

First-time job seekers and established professionals alike often feel the urge to explore opportunities beyond their own borders. For any given company, the cumulative global business know-how and international experience among its workforce can determine the likelihood of success when expanding into foreign markets. Many young Japanese are realizing the value they can create, not only for would-be employers, but also as part of their own personal fulfillment, in laying the groundwork for a globally oriented career.

But what is required in preparing for a global career? Which common traits are shared among effective cross-cultural businesspeople? What are the most appealing and rewarding aspects of these types of jobs? The External Affairs Committee (EAC) of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Kansai chapter decided to put these questions to a panel of three bright young employees, representing both foreign-owned and domestic companies: Hinano Naruse of Procter & Gamble Japan; Koji Shimada of Kobe Steel (Kobelco); and Atsuko Utamaru of Expedia Holdings.

University students, professors, researchers, and curious professionals gathered at Kwansei Gakuin’s Umeda Campus on July 7 to delve into our panelists’ backgrounds and the motivation of each to seek global engagement. Several topics were thoroughly examined, and pertinent advice was dispensed in turn.

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Naruse spent her early childhood in the US, where her father was assigned for work. Later, while attending the University of Tokyo School of Economics, she had a chance to participate in a seminar on brand marketing. Realizing her interest in the psychology of consumer appeal, she began searching for a related position. Eventually Naruse settled on marketing with P&G, realizing the potential for collaboration with diverse divisions in a truly global firm.

In Shimada’s experience with Kobelco, an immediate need for specific personnel in a given region had to arise before anyone could hope to be dispatched abroad. Otherwise, it was up to the employee to engage with divisions involved in such areas as overseas business, developing relationships with the relevant team leaders, and demonstrating skills in handling business correspondence in foreign languages. By and by, higher-ups would take notice of these inclinations and help guide the member to an international assignment. Since flexibility differs from company to company, Shimada’s experience serves as good advice for ambitious employees in more traditional structures.

From an early age, Utamaru cherished the notions of global peace and economic empowerment. Her worldview and sense of adventure led her to a fitting position with the techy travel firm Expedia. Utamaru had high praise for Expedia’s willingness to allow employees to work abroad for brief periods of time, allowing them to get a feel for the variations in foreign market operations. She had actually just arrived in Osaka from Italy a few hours before addressing the ACCJ, following a self-initiated working visit to Expedia’s Milan office.

One common thread among the panelists was an early interest in international affairs, economics, and full-immersion educational experiences. Indeed, all three had lived or studied abroad at some point prior to joining the labor force. Students in the audience seemed to identify with the sentiments expressed—many of them currently studying abroad in Japan or on track to head overseas soon. Naruse, Shimada, and Utamaru demonstrated clearly how a long-term focus on personal development may eventually open doors to international opportunity.

Encouraging the development of a flexible, globally minded workforce in Kansai and, at the same time, fostering the next generation of ACCJ members is among the EAC’s primary aims. This goal is part of an overarching platform for bolstering the region’s appeal for business expansion and tourism. By highlighting “What’s Truly Necessary to Be Active Globally,” our panelists provided attendees with a clearer idea of what it takes to make it in the big, wide world.

Neal Jansen is director of the State of Arkansas Japan and Southeast Asia Office.
Fostering the next generation of ACCJ members is among the EAC's primary aims.