Special Supplements / Career Development 2020

Taking the next step mid-career

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Every businessperson keen on climbing the corporate ladder or switching to a higher-paying job wants to brush up their business skills — and returning to school may help one acquire those specific skills.

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GETTY IMAGES

Working on an MBA is one of the most popular ways toward taking the next step in one’s career. That was the choice for Kaori Poon, 34, an American whose mother is Japanese.

Poon entered the MBA program of McGill University in Tokyo in April 2017. While working for a foreign investment bank, she attended classes on weekends. She graduated in spring last year and almost simultaneously changed her job to a Japanese investment bank.

“I wanted to obtain an MBA since I was in university,” said Poon, who majored in international business and economics at Sophia University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts for her bachelor’s degree. “I thought it would be better to first have working experience and then pursue an MBA. And as I advanced in my career, I started thinking having a two-year blank in my career would be risky and thus studying abroad was not an option.”

For English-Japanese bilinguals like Poon, McGill in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and Globis University in Chiyoda Ward are options for those who want a classroom environment. Online courses are also available, but Poon did not opt for those.

Temple University Japan may have been an option for Poon, but it stopped accepting applicants for its MBA course in fall last year. The university will stop offering MBA classes this June and will instead offer a business-related master’s degree program that is not an MBA in fall of this year, a university official said.

For Poon, McGill was the right choice as it gave her education topped with an opportunity to interact with people with diverse backgrounds.

“I guess McGill has a concept of an ideal businessperson and the course structure seems designed to create such businesspeople. Students from different backgrounds study under this structure,” she said. “Everybody discusses the same subject and exchanges opinions to achieve similar goals. You don’t get much experience like this after graduating university.”

Poon’s investment in time and money for the MBA clearly paid off. She is happy with her current job that gives greater responsibility than her previous post.

“Work is something you spend a lot of time on in your life. You can better yourself by interacting with people with different life experiences,” she said, adding that her short-term career goal is to continue in her job, which is “a right fit” for her.

For people who want to boost their careers, her advice is “to be curious.”

“You should always try to obtain new information. Skills in high demand will change constantly and you ought to be on top of such change,” she said.

Also, language skills are always said to be necessary for people to be successful in their career and Poon echoes the notion.

“People from different countries have different cultural backgrounds and different ideas about many things. If you want to understand different ideas, language skills are definitely a plus,” she said.

Poon is blessed with her life environment in terms of becoming an English-Japanese bilingual. She spent most of her childhood in Massachusetts and has lived in Japan since entering Sophia University. She mainly spoke Japanese at home in her childhood.

In advising people with several years of work experience who want to go back to school for better career opportunities, she understands the feeling of hesitation to return to school mid-career, but stands by her decision. “It’s never too late to study,” she said.