How to successfully transfer your experience into your ideal career

by Michiko Asama 

If you are living in Japan for a reason other than a job assignment, you’re probably in the job market. Like many foreign women in Tokyo, you may have found that your career or job skills don’t transfer into the exact same job as you had back home. This problem leads many to ask how to transfer skills into a new job or how to change careers. Weekender spoke to a few women who found themselves in a similar situation. We heard some inspiring stories and received good advice from those who have gone through it and have come out on top.

The first piece of advice was that if you’re not getting the desired response from potential employers, try reassessing your skills and see how they could be used in a different capacity. You may have knowledge and aptitude that can be turned into a marketable asset and it may even take you down a different career path. Rosalyn, born in England and raised in the U.S., came to Tokyo on a two-year assignment for the Goldman Sachs New York office, and had a successful career in compliance and marketing. However, during this time she attended an art therapy session for relaxation and became interested in psychotherapy. Soon after she joined an intensive program and became trained as a holistic therapist and a clairvoyant. She now owns the Unicorn Center where she conducts personal development workshops and private sessions. Speaking of her new career Rosalyn says, “I’m much more satisfied with the quality of my daily life, and I take great pleasure in knowing that my work is… helping others to also find some happi­ness in their lives.”

Other women recommend those on the job market to be unrestricted with their job search. Laura, a Tokyo resident since September 2004, left the U.K. as a marketing manager. She was initially looking for a job in the marketing field but despite her contacts and networking, her lack of Japanese ability made it dif­ficult to find employment. Search firms suggested she work as a search consult­ant. She had not considered this before, but she took the advice. She soon secured a job and is now an executive search con­sultant at a top search firm in Tokyo. Laura feels that her marketing knowl­edge has proved useful in her new posi­tion, which also allows her to develop now skills. “I’m really enjoying (my new career),” she says. “(It’s) great to have the opportunity to learn about the Japanese market and work with senior level ex­ecutives in many leading, international blue-chip companies.”

Volunteering is also an excellent way to enhance your resume. It’s a great way to obtain new skills and to explore other career options. Alyssa, a Canadian who has been a Tokyo resi­dent for three and a half years, started volunteering for Tokyo English Life Line (TELL), a non-profit organiza­tion that offers free phone counseling and educational workshops. It was her first time working for a volun­teer-based organization but she realized how much she liked the dynamic of the organization, the eagerness of the volunteers and the diversity of the community. Her enthusiasm led her to secure a position as a paid employee after a year as a volunteer, a process, which infused Alyssa with a newfound sense of potential. “Parts of my job here were completely new to me… Probably the most important thing that I have gained is the knowledge that I can do just about anything,” she says.

Anne Good, a senior consultant for the search-consulting firm Oak Associates, believes that a positive attitude and flexibility are as useful on the job market as skills and experience. “Keep going!” she encourages. “Change the way you are conducting your job search. Network! Network! Network! [And] keep an open mind.”

So don’t give up. Take the advice of these successful women and keep trying. The jobs are out there. You may be pleasantly surprised by the new direction your skills take you.