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Reskilling in Her 28th Year With the Company. Asking an MBA Holder About Career Development in "an Era of Century-Long Lifespans"

In what has long been termed “an era of century-long lifespans”, many people are choosing to return to school while working. Chiaki Hosoi, a member of Sumitomo Corporation's Disaster Response & Safety Management Department, voluntarily attended graduate school and obtained an MBA at the age of 50 after being exposed to the concept of “Life-Shift”. For this article, we interviewed her about the impact of “reschooling” on her work and her own career development.

  • Work Safety Team Disaster Response & Safety Management Dept.

    Chiaki Hosoi

    Joined Sumitomo Corporation in 1993 and started her career in Tubular Products International Trade Dept. No.1 (former name). After engaging in the tubular products export business for the Asia-Pacific region, she transferred to her current department, the Disaster Response & Safety Management Dept., which was established in February 2022.

This content was originally published in December 2023.

The Concept of "Life-Shift" Made Me Step Out Into a New World

Would you tell us about your career?

It’s been 30 years since I joined Sumitomo Corporation, and I’ve mainly been involved with the tubular products trading business. Aside from the trading business, I’ve also been engaged in system updates in the Metal Products Business Unit, new business development and the management of operating companies. In February 2022, I left the tubular products business for the first time with a transfer to the Disaster Response & Safety Management Department. I’m currently responsible primarily for promoting occupational safety at Sumitomo Corporation business companies.

What made you decide to join the MBA program?

It began with a career design seminar targeting ages 45 and over hosted by the Human Resources Dept in the summer of 2020. That was the first time I ever encountered the concept of “Life-Shift.” The idea is that people are living longer and longer these days, so they should move to a new life cycle, the multi-stage life. People used to live a three-stage life (education, work, and retirement), but it’s time to change that. In a multi-stage life, you can choose and create your life from as many different options as you want in different phases in your life.

Nowadays, people are said to live for 100 years, so if you retire at the age of 60, you will have another 40 years left. I think it’s impossible to categorize over 60 as “old age.” As I explored the idea of how to live an extended life, my own values and perspectives changed. This event made me consider the possibility of working indefinitely while changing the content and location of my work.

After learning about Life-Shift in autumn, I attended Life Shift University (*) for half a year. Then, I moved on to an MBA course at Tama Graduate School of Business, which was introduced to me by the instructors. After learning and graduating from the two-year program, I obtained the Life-Shift Planner Basic Qualification in 2022.

*A program that supports career development and provides reschooling venues in view of people living century-long lives and having 80 years of work life

Commencement (Striving for an MBA at the Age of 50)

What did you learn at Life Shift University and Tama Graduate School of Business?

Life Shift University offered online classes held on weekday evenings and weekends as well as e-learning that students could complete at their own leisure. There were 15 students at the time, most of them between their 40s and 50s. I still keep in touch with some of them. The curriculum was very unique. I took the StrengthsFinder test to figure out what my strengths were. In addition to that, I took courses about marketing and coaching. For our final project, the students were divided into three groups and presented a business plan. Each group was given a theme based on a business issue related to a company, such as regional revitalization and marketing approaches.

As the instructors introduced me to the Tama Graduate School of Business, I decided to join the MBA program. I only needed 30 credits for graduation, but since I was paying for the degree myself, I decided to learn as much as possible. I spent more than 2,000 hours, including preparation and research time for my thesis. At the end, I acquired 73 credits with a double major in Rule-making Strategy and Social Impact Business.

How did you balance work, your MBA, and other things at home?

I explained to everyone at work that I was going back to school. Particularly for my MBA, it was essential for me to leave work on time to attend evening classes, so I was grateful for their support and understanding.
The circumstances at that time were also favorable for my studies. With the COVID-19 pandemic making remote work the norm, I had the flexibility to adjust my schedule and start working earlier in the morning. Plus, my hobby of watching theater performances was no longer possible due to cancellations, so I had more free time.

To be honest, my family wasn’t very supportive at first. They thought I was doing too much for no reason; however, I am very grateful that when I actually started taking courses my husband and two daughters supported me by taking on more of the housework. I started introducing my family by saying we have three female college students in the house (laughs).

MBA Experience Encouraged a New Career

What kind of changes did the experience bring you?

I was satisfied with my work during that time, but as I met more ambitious people with different perspectives at the school, I started to wonder about my career path. In the same year, I circled the option “I want to change what I am currently doing” on my career assessment sheet for the first time.
All of these factors let me change positions in the winter of last year. I chose work safety as the topic of my MBA graduation thesis, and I felt like I could deepen my own business perspective.

On the other hand, I believe that there must be more opportunities to utilize the knowledge I acquired during the MBA program at my work.

Don’t Miss the Chance in Front of You

Why do you think you were able to take the plunge and go back to school on your own time and money?

My whole shift in mindset began with a silly little thing. Seven or eight years ago, I pulled my first fortune slip of the new year, and it read, “Look forward to a year of merriment with others. Don’t decline any invitations.” At the time, I was feeling increasingly reluctant to attend social events at work and was frequently declining invitations. However, I decided to stop refusing and give things a chance. That decision has continued to this day, and I believe it also contributed to seizing the opportunity for going back to school.

People tend to search for excuses for not taking on a new challenge like “I don’t have time” or “I don’t have money.” However, the reality is that those reasons constitute barriers in only a few cases. You can find time if you look for it and, even if you fail somewhat, it won’t be so much that you can’t recover. But most people won’t starve if they spend some money on self-improvement, and they aren’t so busy 24/7 that they can’t find a little time to make a change. I believe that how a person chooses to spend their time and money determines their life satisfaction.

Although if someone asked me whether I should have done my MBA when I was younger, I would say that it would have been too challenging to do while raising my children. At that time, I was learning how to raise my kids, which is something I could only do then. So, your new challenge doesn’t have to be an MBA; it could be something else that you think is interesting to learn. I think it’s ideal if we live our life every day with the thought “I did some good learning today.”

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