tokyodev forum

Will this hurt my career in the long run?

I’m a junior dev that has been working for about 1.5 years in the US. I’ve had two jobs, one which I’m doing right now, both exclusively C#. Most of the coding I’ve done was trying to fix and update pre-existing code, rather than developing new functionality.

I’m half-Japanese and have been interested in working in Japan as a developer. However, after researching, it definitely sounds like you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket and move to Japan, expecting to love it there. I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take 1-3 years off and just live in Japan and teach English or some other kind of job*? That way I can really see if the country is a place I would like to spend the rest of my life, then decide on committing to learning the language fluently and getting a job as a developer. However, I’m worried that if I spend a year or so there and I end up actually not liking it, if I go back to the US, will this gap in my resume be a problem for finding a job again as a developer? My guess is that it won’t be that problematic, but if I took as long as 3 years, that may be too long of a time span away from coding. I honestly don’t know how long it would take to have a reasonable idea whether a place is where you want to live.

*The reason I don’t say I would look for a developer job while I’m in Japan is because I am not a particularly skilled developer, and I also have very little Japanese proficiency. I would try to seek out dev jobs in Japan, but I am fully prepared that I may not be able to get any. My expectation is that I would either need to have better Japanese proficiency or have more skills/experience in coding to bring to the table to get a developer job, the former of which is of more interest for me as coding is not something I particularly look forward to doing each day (it’s really just a job to pay the bills for me).

If you’re specifically interested in how US employers will view your taking a couple years off, that’s a question that isn’t really Japan specific. While it’s hard for me to say how it would affect your chances there going forward, I’d suspect it would depend a lot on the individual. For someone who hasn’t struggled to find jobs as a developer, I think taking a break would affect things much.

For a low risk way of experiencing life in Japan, coming here for an extended temporary stay would be the way to do it. This could be taking a long vacation, working out something with your existing company so you could work remotely from Japan, or taking a leave of absence.

While you could come to Japan as an English teacher, and there are certainly some people who find it rewarding, I think for a lot of people, it can end up just as a break from a real career. For some people, this can be a good thing, and after a year or two, they go back to moving their career forward. But these people usually have something they enjoy that they can go back to.

In your case, it sounds like you might be disillusioned with being a developer, and are searching for a new career. While it’s certainly possible a stint in Japan would shake up things, and could help you move forward, it’s also more challenging to change careers here in Japan.

The general advice I give to people looking to change careers is to see if there’s a way they can leverage their experience so far, rather than restarting from scratch. While you may not look forward to your current job, I’d see if there’s some aspect of it that you do like. Perhaps there’s another job that’s similar to your current one, but has more emphasis on the parts you like. Slowly pivoting your career in a better direction is less risky than switching to something completely new, which might seem like a good option just because you don’t know the bad points of it.