“Foreigners may have an edge on the change management roles because it is recognized that it is difficult for an internal person to be the nail that sticks up. Sometimes it’s just easier to find people who are willing to come in and go through the learning curve of the organization – there are more foreigners who enjoy that. I love learning a new organization but I haven’t met too many Japanese colleagues that welcome that challenge (C: why is that?) Well, mid-career hires are still very rare. It’s become a phenomenon only in the last five years or so. This is because it is ingrained into people that you work for a company, you are a company man, it’s your security, you have to support yourself so you take the secure path and you are loyal. This is a socio-cultural based thing. In the west, people will change careers up to five times. That’s a normal career path but it’s still very unusual for a Japanese person to change careers more than once or twice….if that often.
I don’t think that it’s any easier for us to come in, I just think that we’re more willing. It’s possibly easier for an organization to imagine a foreigner going into that kind of role and being successful, because there is a motivation to do it for the challenge. Japanese nationals who also have that quality would probably get the job – and there are a number of those around as well. But, if you have the skill set, you’ve got the motivation, and you’ve got the cultural understanding then that’s a plus.”
This post is part of a series of excerpts from interviews with foreign executives in Japan, focusing on creativity. Excerpts have been edited for confidentiality.
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