The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


January 2014
Where to start when assessing career change

By John Ghanotakis, Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan

Arecurring and crucial topic for many Young Professionals Group Subcommittee members is how they can maximize career opportunities in Japan.

A new year often brings with it an opportunity to assess and plan for the future.

Whether a young manager contemplating their chances of promotion or a young entrepreneur seeking career change, this is often the season of reflection, change, and action.

As two of us hail from the recruitment sector, we would like to address some of the most frequently asked questions and offer some helpful advice.

Is there a right time to change?
A change of job or career is never a decision to be taken lightly. Most of us spend around 70 percent of our lives at work, thus the decision should be based on happiness and fulfillment. It should be a personal choice based on what objectives you have set yourself.

These goals differ depending on ambitions, monetary targets, working hour targets, and emotional factors related to personal circumstances.

While other issues such as market conditions, timing, stagnation at work, and workplace issues all factor into this, the core motivator is the pursuit of happiness.

When you are no longer happy, it is time to make a change.

Things to consider
Once you have decided that it is time to make a change, it is important not to rush. Take a moment to contemplate the following key questions.

1. Can the desired change be brought about in your current workplace? If so, what is the risk to your relationship with your colleagues and the working environment?

Realizing that change can be achieved through many paths will ensure you have explored all options before choosing the most promising.

2. Are your objectives reasonable in the set timescale?

We often set ambitious targets, but external or environmental factors can make these impossible. Readjusting these goals in line with achievable short-term milestones will ensure we head in the right direction and stay grounded.

3. Should I use a recruiting agent or apply directly?

This is usually a personal choice. However, if you have a connection you should explore this avenue first. Japan—more than many other countries—conducts business through personal relationships and networks. The ACCJ is a great example of a means to facilitate network generation.

Agents can provide valuable market information and opportunities that are difficult to find. However, they make you a more expensive applicant to a prospective employer. In addition, it is vital you ask friends about who they trust, as well as do your own research.

If you decide to proceed on your own, use a few agents for information sourcing, but keep tight control of your information.

Maximizing your chance of success
Information is king: knowing the market is essential to understanding what options are available and to deciding the best timing. Every application is part luck, part skill, and part timing, with the latter two factors directly in your control.

Tailor your application and resumé: those reviewing them soon become aware of standard resumé content and format. Adjust your key selling points to the position, and focus on the skills most valuable to the role.

Interview is 70 percent preparation: research the company and role thoroughly before the interview. If you do use an agent, make sure you make them work well for you and demand a practice interview and coaching as well as extensive background information on the role and interviewer.

Agent relationships are a valuable asset: if you decide to use an agent ensure to use just one or two so you can control your personal information and develop a close relationship with them. If you find a good agent, be truthful and constant with them; this will increase their motivation to do their very best to help.

Be prepared for a fight: always keep in mind that the road may be long and difficult and rejection is part of the process. For every position there are many applicants and only one winner. Don’t be disheartened if you are not chosen. Keep your motivation high and learn from the feedback, so you will be better and stronger for the next interview.

John-GhanotakisDividerAmirDividerTimothyDividerJohn Ghanotakis (chair), Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan (vice chairs) are members of the ACCJ Young Professionals Group Subcommittee.