Student stories

BCom alumna launches an international career

Melissa Neilson

Apex KK in Japan

During her time as a student in the BCom program, Melissa Neilson was not planning on doing an international co-op. However, as many students in the BCom program do, she was planning on participating in the 4th year exchange term. “I knew that my top choice for exchange would be Japan, so when I stumbled upon a co-op opportunity that lined up with my exchange term, I jumped at the chance” she says. The quick decision to go to Japan early for a co-op work term was a decision that would later greatly impact her career.  She ended up working as a Human Resources and General Affairs co-op student at Apex KK in the summer of 2015 right before her fall semester at Meiji University in Tokyo.

Two years later, after returning from her co-op and exchange term and finishing up the rest of her degree, she found herself once again looking for opportunities in Tokyo. “My time in Tokyo really impacted my life and I knew I wanted to go back after graduation, the difficult part was how to find a job in a foreign country” she says. She decided to reach out to her previous co-op employer, Apex, and by chance they had an opening for a Marketing Specialist. “The connections I made during my co-op term ultimately are the reason I was able to start my career in Tokyo. Since I had that connection, I was able to line up a job right away after graduation and because they knew me already, I didn't even have an interview!” she says. “I cannot stress enough the importance of networking, especially with your co-op employer. Co-ops are a fantastic way to not only gain practical experience before you graduate but also a great opportunity to network with people in the industry and potentially secure a job after graduation.”

Working in a country where you are not fluent in the native language adds a layer of difficulty to tasks that would otherwise be simple in your home country. Melissa is no stranger to facing these challenges as she manages both the English and Japanese marketing activities at Apex. “I need to make sure the quality of our Japanese content is up to par with our English but unfortunately I am not fluent so I am unable to fully proof read it myself. The language barrier has been the most challenging aspect of my experience working abroad” she says. “The beauty of it is that working in an environment like this challenges you to opening up your mind to a different way of doing things. The personal and professional growth I have experienced as a result is incredible.”

Without her co-op experience at Apex, Melissa feels that she would not have been able to start her career in Tokyo. For current students or new graduates looking for international work opportunities, she recommends looking into co-op opportunities first. “I highly recommend doing a co-op or internship in the country you want to move to beforehand, especially if you have never been there before” she says. “That would get your foot in the door and hopefully give you an opportunity to network once you are in the country and secure a full time job after your internship ends. Also, don’t be afraid to be creative in your job search rather than sticking to only browsing traditional job boards. Utilize networking tools like LinkedIn or try contacting companies directly, this can help you stand out among the competition and even discover opportunities that have not been advertised yet.”

For current students and alumni who are looking into opportunities in Japan, Apex has both co-op and full-time positions available. Apex is a long-time supporter of the UVic co-op program as many staff including the managing director are alumni. Learn more about Apex and their current openings.

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