As Japan’s economic slump lingers and its once near-universal lifetime employment system collapses, many of the nation’s workers are sharing an increased sense of insecurity. But the top executive of a global recruitment consultancy tells them not to fear change.

“My advice (to individuals) is to think of work as sort of a portfolio of experiences,” said Jon Chait, chief executive officer of the Hudson Highland Group of New York. “The idea of staying with a company for 25 years and moving up the ladder slowly is probably not realistic and not acceptable. . . . So you have to take the first job, use that as a stepping stone, and then take the next job.”

Seeing a great opportunity for his company in the rapidly changing Japanese job market, Chait was in Tokyo earlier this month to strengthen the Japanese operations of TMP/Hudson Global Resources, a division of the publicly traded Hudson Highland Group.

Hudson Global Resources, which has 120 offices in nearly 30 countries, specializes in mid- to senior-level management recruitment and consulting. Its Japan office posted annual sales of around $5 million in 2002, and hopes to increase the figure to $6 million this year.

While its Japan office is relatively small — it has 41 consultants and support staff — the firm hopes to cash in on the increasingly mobile workforce by offering coaching, outplacement and other services for corporate clients looking for talent and individuals seeking jobs, Chait said.

Angelena Wang Cala, Japan general manager of Hudson Global Resources, also urged individuals to “take charge” of their lives instead of worrying about changes in the job market.

Taking a self-assessment test, perhaps through a professional agency, is one way for individuals to find out how they can redirect their careers, she said.

“A lot of Japanese people today have a very good foundation and good skills,” she said. “They just need a bit of direction; they need a bit of coaching.”

There are signs that workers are accepting the changes in a positive light, Cala said.

“They are now very savvy about what they want,” Cala said. “Recently we have looked at a couple of potential candidates coming in and asking us for coaching services,” she said, referring to one-on-one consulting sessions to set career goals and find new jobs by reviewing candidates’ curricula vitae and experience.

Coaching is becoming very popular in Tokyo, Cala said, adding that her firm used to offer the service for free about 4 1/2 years ago.

“We were trying to hold seminars on Saturdays, and no one turned up,” she said. “But today, we have candidates who call us and say ‘I will pay you.’ That is a tremendous change and that is in essence a business opportunity for us.”

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