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Career breaks beckon bankers

Out of work and struggling to find a decent job? Would now be a good time to take a career break?

James Incles, managing director of Morgan McKinley’s Tokyo office, says there has been an increasing number of financial services professionals in Japan either taking a career break or, in the case of many expats, returning to their home countries.

“The tightening financial services hiring market has meant that competition amongst candidates for the limited number of available jobs is fierce. Typically, if an individual is secure in their role, they are staying put. However, for those financial services professionals who are not employed and who are looking for a new role, the competition is so tough that some are taking a career break instead,” Incles says.

Nao Batangan, a global markets recruiter at Michael Page Japan, suggests an increasing number of bankers are deciding to spend the next two years doing an MBA, figuring the market may improve after that.

“We understand that the competition for places at the top schools is stiff, with a lot of applications from people with elite undergrad qualifications and experience in a top tier bank. It’s debatable whether their resume will be enhanced as a result, versus a peer who manages to battle through the downturn. But it’s a popular risk management strategy,” Batangan adds.

A career break can be positive career step as long as it is used constructively, says Kyoungjin Lim, a manager at recruitment firm Pinnacle Consulting. “For entry and mid-level people, a career break that is longer than six months requires something to fill the gap. If a person has tangible proof that he or she spent the time fruitfully, the break can be a benefit.”

Yi-Hsing Hung, manager, financial services, Michael Page Japan agrees that a break needs to add value to your resume, with something like the acquisition of a top MBA or useful language skills. “There’s no real substitute for continued practical experience, but where there is no option, the key is to do something as relevant as possible,” Hung says.

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