By Isao Ogake, Global Business Promotion Dept., DISCO Inc.
“I want to work at a company where I can use the language skills I developed by studying abroad.” We often hear this [at DISCO] during career counseling sessions with students who have studied abroad. They tend to go into interviews all bright-eyed, emphasizing their language skills and intercultural experience and saying they want to do business overseas in the future.
What companies first look at, though, is whether or not the person can do business at their company. More than language skills, companies consider whether the interviewee has the global mindedness to excel anywhere in the world and the dynamism to be able to produce a certain level of results even when the environment changes.
According to a survey conducted by the Japan Student Services Organization, about 81,000 Japanese students studied abroad in fiscal 2014. That was an increase of more than 10,000 students from the previous fiscal year and was on a par with the fiscal 2004 statistic, which was a historic high and also over 80,000. This hike was due to a dramatic increase in student exchange with partner institutions in countries around the world thanks to universities’ measures in recent years to promote globalization. It is also notable that study abroad has shifted from formal study abroad to exchange programs and that study destinations have broadened from North America to nations around the world.
When asked what the merits of studying abroad are, many students said “improved foreign language ability” and “better intercultural skills.” Many also said that they gained a global mindset: “My values and world view broadened from meeting people with diverse backgrounds and Japanese who are active overseas.” “I objectively saw how Japan is viewed and came to think I wanted to go into manufacturing, one of Japan’s key industries.”
When students were asked about the disadvantages of studying abroad, the most frequent response was “I couldn’t look for a job [to take after graduation].” Most universities in the West start their academic year in September. If students return to Japan after the semester ends overseas, hiring in Japan has already ended.
Last year, Keidanren changed the recruiting schedule [of its member companies], moving the employee screening process from April to August. This year, however, it was changed to June. It cannot be universally said, however, that this puts students who have studied abroad at a great disadvantage. So that it is not thought that studying abroad puts students at a disadvantage, Keidanren is encouraging companies to recruit at various times throughout the year, including hiring in the spring and autumn.
DISCO holds job fairs in Boston, London, and Shanghai among others for study-abroad students and also holds events in June and July in Japan. Before rushing headlong into a job search, students should gather information.
Studying abroad should be a valuable experience when thinking about what kind of job or life you would like to have. We encourage you to grow by studying overseas where things are not necessarily done in the Japanese way.