I'm Isao Omine
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
I'm Isao Omine
Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
About Isao Omine
Hello! I am Isao Omine from Okinawa. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 6 where I pursued my primary years of education and lived there until I was 18. I moved back to Okinawa for my last year of high school. After graduating from an international school in Okinawa, I attended Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University for my undergraduate years. I am currently an Associate Director in Finance and Strategy for Kerry Consulting.
I decided to stay in Japan and attend university here because I wanted to spend more time and experience what it was like living in Japan. I would say I was not qualified to attend a traditional Japanese university because my Japanese ability was not that great at that time. Particularly my reading and writing skills were weak compared to my speaking abilities. I looked up several programs where that would offer classes in English. I came across Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) and found it very interesting that they had a dual-type education system where they offer classes in English and Japanese. It was also in Kyushu which would be near Okinawa so I felt close to home. I studied Asia Pacific Management at the College of International Management at APU. I always had an interest in business and always thought about starting my own business.
What did you do during college?
Activities that he put their most effort in・his most memorable experience
I wasn’t as involved during my APU days! In the limited things I was involved in, I joined the Okinawa study culture group for a year where we discussed Okinawa’s culture and history. Besides that, I did part-time jobs. I worked at a Lawson convenience store for about one or two years along with other side jobs as a waiter or wedding staff. Now that I look back at it, working at Lawson was a very valuable experience. The owner wasn’t afraid to be direct with me, and I appreciated someone teaching me about Japanese customs and essentially, basic customer service. It goes back to what I do now, working in a professional client services firm and helping clients.
What were the most memorable or proudest activities or experiences for you during college (clubs, circles, competitions, etc.)?
I think what was most memorable was meeting new people. It wasn’t really the classes or the seminars for me, but the people I met, some of whom I’m still in touch with. It affected me deeply about my own identity and how I view the world. I also spent time with my senpais who gave me direct feedback and where we got to exchange ideas.
Things that he/she regrets not doing during their university/college life:
Maybe I could have been more active, such as by doing internships. Also, I wish I would have been more involved in the Japanese community or taken my studies more seriously in the Japanese classes. I took Japanese as a foreign language, but I could have improved myself more because when I got to the point of doing my job hunting, it took a lot of time for me to prepare my job applications where I had difficulty in reading and writing.
What career advice would you recommend for job hunters?
I would say that it's really important to know what you want to specialize in. With students doing job hunting, they often think about the brand, the name, or a company that's established. Besides that, it's really more about what you want to do. Let’s say you’re in an established company like Google or Amazon but the work you are doing is not utilizing your skill sets or your interests, then it becomes very mundane or a waste because you are not maximizing your potential.
In my case, the industries were very limited in Okinawa. I found out much later about my interests and I really never thought about it. Hence, for students, I think it's so much more valuable to know what you want to specialize in before entering the workforce or at least consider it. You also don’t have to be fixated on that, you never really know until you try. Take as many internships and talk to relevant senpais who can help. People can change careers, but I think having that as a minimum, it is a good base to.
What are your thoughts on big vs. small companies?
There’s also always going to be a debate between big companies and small companies, so I think it's important to look at and assess the pros and cons for you. It’s also normal not to know what you want to specialize in. Especially in the beginning, joining a big company can give you the opportunity to move to different departments and help you find out what you are good at. Maybe you already know what to do, and in that case, you can join a small company where you can get direct exposure and learn from the CEO or senior management which you quite don't get (business relationships) in big companies.
What was your job-hunting process like?
I went through the traditional Japanese job-hunting route, but only for Okinawa. I applied to the limited amount of corporate companies in Okinawa, essentially to experience being a shakaijin (社会人)—”working adult” in Japan— there. It was tough and challenging, especially with my weak Japanese writing ability and the SPI tests. I knew that was my weaker asset, so any time a company required an SPI test, I didn’t proceed with my application since I knew my chances were very slim. I focused on applying to small to medium companies that didn’t focus too much on test results, but on who I was as a person. I did a large part of my job-hunting—or shukatsu—alone, but once in a while, I would visit APU’s Career Office where they informed me about companies coming to visit.
I started in my 4th year—which is quite late in Japan—and took a leave of absence for a year and a half. When I came back I was in my 4th year, and it took me 2-3 months to I landed my first job. I applied to 20 or so companies easily. If you already know what you want to do and which specific company or industry you want to work at, your options will probably be quite selected. If you can get into that more selected focus, I would say it is better. If you apply too much, you can also get burnt out and it can get messy. Maybe in the beginning, if you have an idea of what you do, see what openings are there and apply. I think you can prepare yourself much better by narrowing down your options and selecting your focus.
Can you tell us about your experience at your first job?
My first job in Okinawa was at a small to a medium-sized company called Okinawa Education Company. It was a very good learning experience. I had to do everything in Japanese which taught me a lot. While applying, I thought it would be a good fit because they took the time to get to know me as a person, valued diversity, and appreciated all walks of life. They even hired handicapped individuals. Coming from a unique background then, I thought it would be fitting for me. However, after living overseas for so long, I realized that it was difficult to adapt. I wanted to be in a place that had more diversity, and a more international environment where I could utilize my English a bit more. I moved on to a few contract-type roles since I didn't know what I wanted to do. Being from Okinawa, which has the highest unemployment rate in Japan, there were a lot of people like myself who were quite unhappy with their careers.
I wanted to pursue being a career coach, but I had no qualifications. When I started doing research, I came across recruitment and applied to companies in Tokyo from Okinawa. After receiving a few offers, I moved to Tokyo and worked at Morgan Mckinley, a global recruitment company from 2013 to 2015. I intentionally told them that I had plans to work overseas. I was very fortunate that in my third year, there was an opening at the Singapore office, which was also a place I wanted to work in. Aside from the diversity, warm climate, and being close to Okinawa, the taxes are really low here. In recruitment, a large part of our rewards is based on commission. In Japan, tax rates can be high ranging from 30-40%. With Singapore’s low tax rate, I would also be able to earn more here.
What are the beneficial skills needed for working in Japan?
Soft Skills (Attitude, Mindset, Confidence, Communication Skills)
Most companies when they hire you in Japan, are not expecting you to have a lot of skills in the first place, it's really about attitude and the mindset. For example, one that is very overlooked is flexibility. Sometimes you just want to market yourself in just one way. Every interview has a different style, so being flexible is very important. By shifting your answers in a way that resonates with them, I think you'll do much better in interviews.
Another soft skill is not being afraid to show that you are likable. This is the time to sell yourself—not in an arrogant way—but in a confident way that you are a team player who values team collaboration, so you can market yourself differently in every company or role. Show your personality so you are not easily forgotten. Show your likable qualities- being down to earth, hardworking, etc.— because these are more important than hard skills at times.
The last I’d say is communication skills. In the work context, you can divide this into so many subcategories. It’s really about learning how people communicate, understanding other people’s forms of expression, and changing your approach to fit with others’ communication styles. Going back to being flexible, some people can be very direct. Senior managers don’t beat around the bush. For example, if they ask about A, they only want a response for A, not B, C, or D - they just want A. This is something important to understand to not frustrate them - it’s more important to find their communication style and be aligned with them. Think about it as “this person gets me.”
Hard Skills (Qualifications, Microsoft Office Tools, Data Analytics, and Business Tools)
Any qualifications related to your industry (accounting, getting your degree in that or CPA, internship roles, etc.) Qualifications related to your industry show that you want it and are hungry and eager to be in that position.
Another is basic Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. In any role, excel will help you stay organized.
I see many companies now looking at candidates, especially the younger ones if they have data analytics tools or business intelligence tools. Skill sets like functioning with IT systems, automation, python or Power BI are becoming more and more popular and demanding for employers.
Recommended Job-hunting Resource
I would say many people that I notice from APU do not really utilize the one free resource that should be maximized which is LinkedIn. You can utilize your LinkedIn profile to market yourself out there, and showcase who you are as an individual to companies. It’s also free! Globally, everyone uses it and it’s the most popular professional website to network, though Japan might be an exception.
Another one I would recommend is internships. In Singapore for example, it is almost automatic to do internships during your university years and it gives so much opportunity to explore. I understand in Japan that sometimes it's not paid or it is at a minimum rate, or can override your studies, but if you can get direct experience working in companies where you can practice your communication skills and understand what kind of work goes on day in and day out, I think that would help.
Especially for international students, many talk about Japanese not being a strength. Often it becomes neglected, but it becomes very important during job-hunting. It’s important to learn as much Japanese - both the culture and language. The more Japanese you can speak or understand, the better for you. It’s also good to have JLPT N2 at minimum or N1. Employers in Japan will not look at N3.
Lastly, I’d say to get feedback from Senpais, family, or friends. It’s important to know how they objectively see you. You may be surprised about things they see you’re good at which might not have been something you knew in the past. Job hunting doesn’t have to be an individual process - it can be quite stressful and lonely, and there are always going to be people willing to support you. Having a support system can help you emotionally, during stressful times (which I hope is not the case for everybody).
Did you use Mynavi or Rikunabi - Japanese job-hunting resources?
Yes, I did! I would say that you want to use everything you can. Don’t rely on just one source, especially if you want to work at an international company that utilizes LinkedIn.