The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


JULY 2014
James Kikuchi, sales director for Intelligence Global Search, discusses the implications of pursuing an MBA

    ACCJ Journal: what is the true value of an MBA when job hunting?

Possessing an MBA in the West generally means that you are equipped with an education that earmarks you for management now or in the near future. In Japan, this is also true in most cases.

However, for certain sectors and industries, it is important to consider how you display this prestigious degree.

Humility, one of the most beautiful and misunderstood virtues of Japan, should also be generously applied when speaking about one’s education.

Boasting about your MBA degree on a resume or using complex business terminology during an interview can actually have a counter-productive result.

When the Japanese economy was booming, many large corporations generously sent their young workers overseas to earn their MBAs at Western universities. Upon their return to Japan, some employees were not met with the open arms they were expecting.

The New York Times wrote an article a few years ago detailing the difficulties some Japanese professionals experienced upon their homecoming, and how the Japanese traditional business community had trouble accepting them.

The community here tends to favor knowledge gained from on-the-job experience over knowledge gained in the classroom. While this has changed in recent years, the “proper” way to discuss your MBA is yet undefined.

The best approach we’ve found is to simply have the degree listed in the education section of your resume, and to expand on it naturally during the interview if questioned about it.

Taking the approach of “only speaking [about it] when spoken to [about it]” might help job seekers improve their chances.

    What advice would you give someone who is unsure about pursuing an MBA?

People often misunderstand the benefits of an MBA; obtaining this qualification does not automatically ensure a promotion or higher salary.

However, an MBA course can offer a global view of how to successfully run a company.

If your goal is to remain in your current position and not pursue a senior management role in the future, then perhaps an MBA degree is not suited to your career.

Depending upon your specialization, it would be more productive for you to enroll in courses about project management, accounting, or sales.

In addition, most people don’t fully understand the depth and difficulty of an MBA before undertaking the endeavor.

It is a full-time job over the course of (usually) two years, and it is extremely challenging—quite the contrast to the happy round-table discussions many people imagine.

Before deciding on an MBA, it is extremely important to understand your long-term career goals.

Then, determine if the skills and knowledge that you will gain throughout the course (and not simply the letters MBA that you can write on your resume) will help you achieve your goals. If the answer is “yes, it will help me in my career progression,” then we wish you all the best.

    In what industries is an MBA degree most valuable?

Again, remember to evaluate the MBA in terms of your career goals. An MBA will give you a global view of business and, therefore, is not viewed more favorably by any particular industry.

It is also worth noting that, based on all the research from our company, we can estimate that less than 1 percent of all open jobs in Japan require an MBA degree.

Nevertheless, certain sectors are known for requiring the degree, including management consulting, investment banking, and consulting—but within each of these areas, success comes from having a global view of the business. •