The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Matching Untapped Talent with Globally Minded Firms
Embassy seeks partners for hiring initiative

Invariably highly qualified, experienced, and sharp as the proverbial tack, the diplomat’s spouse has much to offer an employer when their partner takes up a new posting in another country. The problem in Japan, until now, has been swiftly matching people with the companies that need them.

While spouses—both male and female—who wanted to keep their careers moving forward previously largely had to rely on word-of-mouth for employment opportunities after arriving in Japan, the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo has recently launched an initiative to bring together companies looking to hire and spouses seeking work.

“We started this spring and we are reaching out to the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan [ACCJ] and other chambers to set up a partnership,” said Jennifer Otto, an assistant in the embassy’s Human Resources Office and herself a beneficiary of the scheme.

“It also helps the spouse’s morale, as they’re in a new country but they want to have a fulfilling career like everyone else,” said Otto, who is originally from Hawaii and whose diplomat husband was previously posted to Myanmar.

The initiative has so far brought together 35 spouses and employers. One diplomatic officer’s spouse is today working as a speechwriter at Japan’s Ministry of Finance.

The scheme is also available to spouses of diplomats posted to the US consulates in Fukuoka, Naha, Nagoya, Osaka, and Sapporo.

“We’ve got two groups of very able people here,” said Paul Wedderien, minister-counselor for Management Affairs at the embassy. “There are obviously the US spouses of diplomatic officers, but there are also Japanese spouses who are effectively bilingual and experienced in both Japanese and Western cultures, who have a lot to offer.

“We have people with masters degrees, experience, and flexibility, and we like to consider them to be an asset to the community here,” he added.

The embassy is able to assist with visas, and there is no relocation fee involved, both major advantages to potential employers.

“I would say there are a number of skills that are most in demand from employers,” said Wedderien.

“Primarily a language capability, English first and foremost, but we do find that spouses here have a wealth of other language skills—three, four, or sometimes five languages. Experience in a US working culture and environment are also important.”

Ultimately, the program is about more than linking candidates with companies, Wedderien added.

“Our broader goals are to be a partner in the revitalization of the Japanese economy and to help promote more bilateral trade,” he said. “We can put forward people who are open to both of our cultures, can act as a bridge, and can have an impact on what we want to get done here.”

Cherie Gartner
The key attributes for anyone arriving in a new city looking for a job are having the right transferable skills, the right attitude and mindset, and plenty of passion, believes Cherie Gartner.

One must also demonstrate flexibility in adapting to a new country and culture. Being open, she said, is the key.

“I have always focused on multi-national organizations that have international offices, knowing that our diplomatic lifestyle will take us to various foreign postings,” said Gartner, 44, who is originally from Minnesota and whose husband works for the U.S. Department of State.

“Maintaining my career aspirations and my own identity have always been extremely important to me,” she added.

Previously posted to Singapore, Bangkok, and Washington, D.C. with her husband and family, Gartner is currently a senior director for Oracle in Tokyo. Her various responsibilities include managing the Asia–Pacific relationship of one of Oracle’s leading global partners in the region.

With a background in sales and practice development, she previously worked in professional services at Grant Thornton LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and insists “opportunities working domestically and in international markets have allowed me to build a solid global network that has made this journey so incredible.”

Bernadette Stewart
After arriving in Japan last October, Bernadette Stewart spent the first couple of months finding her feet here and studying the language. And now, she says, it is time to jump start her career again.

“Many of us have given up our professional lives and support systems to be with our families and support the mission abroad,” she said. “We, too, want to have a sense of purpose, need, and belonging, and, often times, continuing a meaningful career solves that issue.”

With more than 14 years of managerial experience in the private and non-profit sectors, 40-year-old Stewart says she will bring “strong business acumen, an entrepreneurial mind, international experience, and a strong work ethic” to an employer.

“I would ideally want to find a director-level position in operations or project management in an area such as hospitality, advertising, or business development,” said Stewart, who was born and raised in California and whose husband is in the Economic Section of the embassy.

“However, as my skill set and experiences are quite diverse, and because I am accustomed to the flexible capacity needed in working with smaller companies or start-ups, I am open to exploring new opportunities that may challenge me and allow me to try new things,” she added.

Equipped with an MBA from both UCLA and the National University of Singapore, Stewart was previously the director of engagement for the Vital Voices Global Partnership, a non-profit organization that focuses on empowering women.

Not being fluent in the language has been the biggest hurdle to date, Stewart says, but she believes the joint initiative between the embassy and the ACCJ to link companies with potential employees is “a critical first step.”

“It highlights the importance of supporting this unique group of individuals while exposing the abundance of talent that is ready for the taking.” •