In my waning days in Japan, I still am doing interviews and meeting whoever I can. Yesterday, I got some face time with a principal of a business support firm that I consider to be top-notch. He gave me some good ideas and a sense of how to approach coming back, if that’s what I end up doing.
In a nutshell, this is what has made landing so difficult in Tokyo in the past. My English skills—blog goofs and non-edits aside–are very good. My accounting skills are very good. I am a CPA, backed with experience in the corporate world, usually in roles where I have had to be one to make sure it all happens. In other cases, where I have been the one called in to put out fires.
The hurdle is in that third box, where my Japanese skills aren’t native and, realistically, never will be. Since I am a native New Jerseyite.
However, my native competition here has a different portfolio. Their Japanese skills are really good. Their English (at least spoken) is better than my Japanese. Yes, for sure. Though, I’m not so sure about the reading and writing, and I’m not so sure about nuance. I think complex sentences trip people up here, and that they’re really only getting “general sense” understanding of directives coming from overseas. So there are a lot of question marks about that English language ability.
In the second box: the accounting skills. As I’ve posted before, a lot of “CPAs” running around Tokyo are . . not. They are usually people who are at some stage along the way. But they aren’t CPAs.
My count has been 2 out of 3 are not. They say they are, but they aren’t.
Maybe they passed the tests (all four parts).
Maybe they passed some of the tests.
Maybe they have some of the tests and some of the work experience.
Maybe they actually have a license, or a California or Delaware certificate. This means they can’t audit, they can just call themselves CPA, with the proviso that it’s a certificate. (Usually, they forget to add that last part.) Usually these people have a lot of stateside experience, or are a different Asian background, like Chinese or Korean.
The thing is, this weaker-but-conversational English and questionable-accounting-background candidate will get in before I will. Once they’re in, and the skills gap surfaces, well, then it’s a bit too late. But the hiring firm doesn’t care about that beforehand. They are usually doing this over the telephone from another continent. They just say, “ooh, good. We got somebody.”
Then, when the person is short of what they need, it’s kind of the hirer’s mistake more than those who did the misrepresenting beforehand. So the telephone manager deals with the awkward problem as best they can.
[Update: I have to put a wrap on this topic for now. A point I want to add, though, is that there are a handful of accountants around Tokyo who have all the three bars: great English skills, great Japanese skills, and great accounting ones. But they are almost always well taken care of (this means good money and good work environment), and so ordinarily aren’t on the market for long. The recruiters don’t know them, because they don’t have need to deal with recruiters.]