Alex, works as a Fixed Income Trader in Japan Alex, works as a Fixed Income Trader in Japan

AlexName: Alex

Studied: Economics

Working as: Fixed Income Trader

Upon graduating I did an Internship with a large Swiss bank in New York City for a few months and returned to London at the beginning of 2009 to look for a permanent position in Financial Services. I was hired in the Technology department of a large French bank, with which I was offered an opportunity to work in Asia after about one year of tenure and having initially assume Asia meant Hong Kong, was rather surprised when it transpired the intended position was in the considerably smaller Tokyo office. I have now been in Japan nearly 5 years, a period of time I certainly never intended on being here for but having moved to a different bank and started a career as a Fixed Income trader, a lot has happened whilst I’ve been here.

Tell us a little about the global opportunity you took

I came here with my previous company after having been offered the opportunity whilst working at their London office. The initial period was for 2 years before returning to work in London; a reasonably common arrangement in global organisations like large banks. After having worked in the Technology department supporting the front office, I wanted to pursue my ambition of getting into Trading, which involved a change of company and has necessarily perpetuated my stay in Japan. It is always easier to make these kind of career moves in the place you are living, not least because you are best placed to hear about opportunities to begin with.

What was the biggest barrier to taking this opportunity and how did you overcome it?

There weren’t any real barriers to taking the opportunity since the move was sponsored by my employer and the visa process was not particularly onerous and equally being in the salad days of my career it was not difficult to decide to grasp the chance of working overseas. Of course there are a number of barriers to living, if not working, in a country like Japan that I wasn’t aware of before moving here but in hindsight I don’t think I would have made a different decision.

Was it difficult to fit in with a new culture?

It is incredibly difficult, in fact nigh on impossible probably, to ‘fit in’ in a country as homogenous as Japan and whilst that was a bit of a shock in my first year here, after getting somewhat established professionally and socially it ceases to be a concern if you resign yourself to the fact that whilst you may well be a welcome guest in this country, you’ll never fit in so it is futile to try.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working abroad?

Working overseas is an incredibly rewarding experience that anyone given the opportunity should take because it broadens your horizons, forcing you outside of your comfort zone and subsequently sharpening the senses. It equips you with new skills you didn’t previously need, notably language if you are outside the Anglosphere, and no doubt enhances your resume to the point that it should make you more employable should you return home.

Did you know the language before going and how did you deal with the language barrier?

I did not know Japanese before moving here and living in Central Tokyo for all the time I have been here could survive with only a few words to begin with before taking lessons and learning enough Japanese to do what I need to do on a daily basis comfortably enough. I think it’s accurate to say my Japanese language skill has plateaued in the last two years because I don’t have enough time to take lessons anymore and I don’t need to be able to speak Japanese to do my job. Of course I am still picking up the language, even if not through concerted study, just by living here and being exposed to it every day.

Have you got any advice for other students considering a global opportunity?

Take the chance as close to graduating as you can because you’ll have fewer considerations in making a decision but make sure what you are doing overseas is productive and fits in with your career plan because whilst living overseas will equip with you some of the soft skills your peers may lack, the marketplace for jobs is competitive and an extended holiday won’t give you an edge.

How did taking a global work opportunity help your career prospects?

This is a tough question to answer in the absence of a control study. I moved to Japan in the first few years of my career and have been successful in pursuing what I wanted to do here by sticking to my career plan but I am not sure that is strongly correlated with being here as opposed to being in London. How working overseas affects my future career prospects once I return home remains to be seen but I think it can only be a positive, especially because my job is essentially fungible across global markets.

What is your favourite food from your host country?

Japanese food is very healthy generally speaking and I think I would miss that the most when not living here.