Interested in what you can do with a degree in Asian Studies? In our Alumni Spotlight Interview Series, we ask our alumni about their career paths, how they became interested in Asian Studies and for any advice they would give to current students. This interview features Austin Bonner, UBC Asian Studies BA’06 (Japanese).
Could you go into some detail about your career path until now?
After graduating UBC in 2006, I moved to Japan and spent one year on the JET Programme as a CIR (Coordinator of International Relations), basically doing event planning, some interpreting/translation and occasional school visits for a small town in Ishikawa Prefecture. I missed the “city life” and moved in late 2007 to Osaka, where I began at a large recruitment agency doing executive recruitment within the pharmaceutical industry. The opportunity to work bilingually in a fun, engaging environment allowed me to begin building a marketable skill set in recruitment sales. After a lot of time working in this capacity, I decided to return to the US in the spring of 2012 to be closer to family and friends. Since then I have continued in recruitment here in the San Francisco Bay Area, albeit shifting industry focus from pharmaceuticals to tech as the latter is so much more pronounced here. Here I work at Google in Mountain View, doing full-cycle recruitment within a business unit called gTech and focused primarily on growing teams that support many of our digital advertising platforms and ad exchanges.
How did you get your first job after graduating?
I applied for the JET Programme in the Fall of 2005, interviewed in San Francisco sometime around March of 2006 and was offered the job sometime around April.
How has an Asian Studies degree helped you in your endeavors?
My UBC degree in Japanese with minor studies in International Relations first qualified me for the CIR role in the JET Programme, which in turn qualified me for my next role that built the learning foundation for what I currently do. Much of what I studied, particularly some amazing courses in IR and Ihhwa Kim’s Advanced Newspaper Japanese course, have helped inform many of my conversations over the years and really was just a gift that kept on giving.
Are there any opportunities in your field?
Yes, recruitment is growing the most in the tech area as well as for finance/accounting related roles.
What can students/recent graduates do to get a foot in your industry?
Recruitment is one of those interesting sectors of sales where many agencies will give you a chance to succeed as long as it’s a personality match (important for client management) and you are willing to do the hard, often repetitious inside sales work that is necessary to build the forward momentum needed to do well. The cold-calling and other grueling work begins to bear fruit, allowing you to focus on more of the client management piece that makes recruiting fun. For upcoming graduates, I would say that having some long self-reflection about whether or not sales is for you is the first thing you should do. If the answer is yes and in addition you consider yourself to be organized and you have a strong attention to detail, I would recommend recruitment. It is a great way to gain wide exposure to many different business areas and better visibility into how companies live, breathe and die.
In your field what does a typical entry level position entail?
Entry level positions in recruitment require you to basically attack the phone and prove your resilience. The role gradually becomes more qualitative as opposed to numbers-focused, but entry-level hiring in recruitment agencies is generally designed to weed out those who are afraid of rejection, or those who aren’t willing to invest the blood, sweat and tears required to do really well.
Do you have any other advice that you would like to impart to students/recent graduates?
If you end up living or working in Japan, check out Osaka instead of Tokyo. The food is better, you can live in a bigger space for cheaper, the people are warmer and despite being a big city of 6 million plus, it’s a lot more navigable by bicycle than Tokyo. I had to visit Tokyo almost monthly for work when I lived there and couldn’t wait to get back to Osaka each time!
Can you recommend your favourite location in your region?
Although San Francisco can be an expensive place to live, I simply haven’t ever lived anywhere this exciting. The weather is generally great, there is enormous amounts of innovation going on here and the city is a haven for foodies and transplants (like me, originally from Las Vegas) who have interesting stories from all over the world.