I recently watched a documentary based around the Japanese economy, and more specifically employment issues in particular. What struck me as somewhat alarming was the extent to which aspiring professionals were forced to go to in order to secure a career.
It is very clear that the job market in Japan is gruesomely fierce. Similarly to the UK, a degree is not enough, and neither is additional experience. In order to be ahead of the game, individuals have no alternative but to go to extreme lengths. Standing a fighting chance of being considered for a graduate opportunity in Japan means taking further qualifications, endless training and development courses and hours of intense emotional, physical and mental development. They engage in rigorous programmes such as 'How to Behave at Interview' and 'Employer Psychology'; where 'experts' explain how to sit, look, what to wear (including colour and labels), how long to hold the interviewers' eye contact, the exact grip when you handshake and most importantly the right amount of smile. This was practised and achieved by holding a chopstick in their mouths and ensuring that each side never left the chopstick! Attendees receive a recognised certificate to add to their portfolio.
In addition to offering an edge, these courses are extortionately priced. The candidates attending are those that can afford to, or are supported financially by another. The ones that are forced to take another job, outside of their qualification subject, it seems, would commit career suicide. For example, if a graduate didn't have the finance to fund said courses and were forced to take say a job as a waiter/waitress, they would never have the opportunity to enhance their career in the professional world - and they would certainly see themselves stereotyped to this particular industry for the remainder of their working lives. By contrast however, and regardless of the money invested in further courses there are still thousands of educated young professionals in Japan unemployed due to the fear of taking a 'side-track' for financial gain.
This all inevitably got me thinking of the UK's current employment state and the similarities I observe daily in recruitment. Firstly, our own discrimination against those who choose a 'job' over a profession through the need to support families and so on - and how fierce our employment market has become in recent years. For example, an experienced qualified accountant unable to find work may take 12-24 months in another role for cash - and essentially become less in demand when applying for vacancies within the accounting profession. This is regardless of their qualifications, previous experience and so on.
The number of people pursuing professional qualifications and high education has undoubtedly increased over the last 20 years or so. It appears it is becoming a 'must' to have a degree qualification as minimum, yet can you really substitute education for experience? Surely a balance between the two makes for the perfect candidate?
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