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ESSEC Alumni in Japan: “This is an exciting country to live in”

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Japan is home to around 380 alumni. Laurent Wolff (E91), President of ESSEC Alumni’s Japan Chapter, tells us more about the local community – and how they cope with the ongoing crisis, as the country is facing a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ESSEC Alumni: What are the profiles of our alumni in Japan? 

Laurent Wolff: We have a long history in Japan, with institutional links dating back to the 1980s. The community includes 100 exchange students from Keio and Hitotsubashi universities, and 280 who actually graduated from ESSEC, mainly from the Grande École (55%) and the Luxury Master (10%). Overall 60% are Japanese. The 3 biggest areas of activity are finance, luxury and automotive, followed by such areas as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food, hotel and restaurants, trade, consulting… even politics!

EA: How famous is the ESSEC brand in Japan?

L. Wolff: ESSEC has a good reputation, as demonstrated by our partnerships and collaborations with top Japanese universities, such as Keio, Hitotsubashi and also Waseda. Japanese who are interested in France know the concept of Grande École, and are likely to know our school.

EA: What opportunities are there in Japan for alumni?

L. Wolff: Even with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, unemployment rates remain quite low compared to European economies. There are still opportunities here, especially for jobs requiring high skills. Japanese language is a strong requirement though; Level 2 at JPLT (Japanese Proficiency Language Test) is usually a minimum. Only a few sectors, including tech, might overlook the language barrier if you have the set of skills they are looking for. 

EA: How does the COVID-19 pandemic impact those opportunities? 

L. Wolff: As Japan has enforced strict bans on foreign travellers, it is becoming increasingly complicated, and many demand that the applicant already live in Japan. We also see a growing number of companies who are restraining hiring, as they do not know where the crisis is heading – just as in other parts of the world. 

EA: What news from the local ESSEC community in this context?

L. Wolff: We still see graduates arriving in Japan, and some departing. I feel it remains touchy to organize big size events, so we had some lunches with a couple of people, but no big parties so far – I would hate to have a cluster, as there sometimes is a trend to name-and-shame, as well.  

EA: What advice do you have for alumni moving in Japan?

L. Wolff: Japan is an exciting country to live in, but again, even for graduates with expatriation contracts, developing local language skills is a must, both to enjoy Japanese society and to develop relationships with colleagues. 

EA : What is the offer of ESSEC Alumni's Japan Chapter?

L. Wolff: We organize a number of events throughout the year, mainly get-together dinners, networking events, and joint conferences with HEC, Science Po, Polytechnique and EDHEC alumni. We also have the chance to have activities around visiting ESSEC professors; they come to Japan regularly, as there is a partnership between the school and the French-Japanese Chamber of Commerce. We recently held a survey with a number of suggestions, which we will try to deploy – however the current COVID-19 pandemic is of course disrupting us a lot. Thankfully we can keep in touch through our LinkedIn group ESSEC Alumni Japon! Come and join us! 

Interview by Veary Ngy, International Community Manager at ESSEC Alumni, and Louis Armengaud Wurmser (E10), Content Manager at ESSEC Alumni 

Want to read more? Join ESSEC Alumni for us to be able to bring other quality contents about the community to you.

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