Interview by Laurin Krekling (@LaurinKrekling)
Is a career abroad in your future? Journalism alumnus Tom Hanaway (2011) is living his dream of moving to another country to pursue his work in news and social media. Tom currently works as a web editor- social media manager for The Japan Times.
What was your major and emphasis when you went to UW Oshkosh?
Journalism with an emphasis in writing/editing.
What made you want to major in this?
I always loved news, ever since I was a child. I knew that journalism was an interesting field that offered many chances to be creative. I also felt like working in journalism is a fulfilling career where you can really feel like you’re making a difference.
Did you always know you wanted to study this?
Yes, ever since I was young. I remember in middle school telling all of my teachers that I was going to major in journalism, so it was my plan for years.
What advice would you give to other college students?
My advice is to do as much as possible! Do internships, join clubs and meet people. There are so many opportunities you can do as a college student, so take advantage of them. There are many study abroad programs and internships only available to current students, so take advantage of as much as you can. Also, befriend your teachers. My professors helped me countless times after college with job and life advice after graduation.
What class in college was the most useful to you?
Writing for the Media is one of the first classes journalism students have to take, and it’s honestly one of the most helpful. I’m still referring back to this class when writing articles, and thank goodness they jammed AP style into our heads because I still use it on a daily basis.
Were you involved in any clubs or organizations during your time at UW Oshkosh that helped you be successful? If so, which ones and why?
I was involved in a few, including the Social Media Club. These clubs taught me a lot of things outside of class and also helped me meet other students. I honestly learned so much from other students, including how they were applying to jobs and how they got their internships. It’s important to network with people in the business world, but don’t ignore your classmates.
How were you able to get your first job out of college and what is some advice for new college graduates on finding their first job?
My advice is to do what I did — in addition to networking, search everything. Bigshoesnetwork, LinkedIn, and yes, even Craigslist to find jobs. That’s how I found my first position. You might assume that a lot of companies will post their jobs on more well-known sites like LinkedIn, but honestly many of the people who are looking for editors or people in public relations have no idea about these sites, so they post on sites like Craigslist and hope to find the right people. I also recommend doing something while job searching. Start a blog, write articles to other sites, and take up photography. Just do something so you can show employers you’ve been sharpening your skills while job hunting. This shows that you’re self-motivated and have many skills to offer.
Did you always want to move to a new country?
Yes! I’ve always wanted to live in a different country — at least for part of my life. Many of my friends and Oshkosh professors told me that my 20s were my best time to do something so radical, so I just dove in and did it.
What gave you the courage to move to a new country?
I have two friends who lived abroad for several years — one in South Korea and one in Australia — and I was always so jealous of the adventures they were having and the culture shocks they seemed to have on a weekly basis. They inspired me to try it, too.
What was your biggest fear about moving to a different country? Did these fears ever become a reality, and if so how did you overcome then?
I guess no having any kind of safety net is the biggest fear. Going to a new country means that your family or your friends can’t help you out. At the beginning, you kind of have to rely on yourself almost 100 percent in order to get things done. The first month living in Japan was extremely difficult — learning how to fill out forms, opening banks accounts, buying a phone, signing up for insurance and so on. But if you can get over that first huge hurdle, then the rest is pretty smooth.
What is the hardest thing about living so far away from home?
The hardest thing is obviously missing friends and family back home. The hardest parts are when you miss important moments — weddings, funerals, births and parties. You wish you could just snap your fingers and be back home, but that’s not how things work. It’s also hard to keep up with friends sometimes because of the time zones. Usually people are asleep when you’re awake, and vice versa, so it can be hard getting a hold of people.
What is the biggest difference about living in Japan compared to America?
Japan is much more about the community, and America is much more about the individual. In Japan, you always have to be aware of the people around you and in your group. Americans might see it as strict, but in Japan you have to be quiet on public transportation, make sure every single person is OK with a decision, and so on. In America we value being an individual more. For example, in America, if someone has a dissenting opinion, we hear them out and try to alter plans to fit them, or at least listen to them. In Japan, it would be seen as disruptive or selfish to ask people to alter certain plans. So it’s tricky.
That, and the language. Obviously English is different than Japanese. Also, in Japanese you tend to be a lot more indirect than in English. Instead of saying “Do this” you would say something like “If it’s OK, could you do this for me?”
Do you see yourself staying abroad or is it more of a temporary position?
I think at the moment it’s staying abroad until it no longer feels right. Currently I’m loving it. I love the challenge of learning Japanese, I love experiencing new things about the culture all the time, and I love how safe and clean it is here. So at this point I’m not too sure.
What is a typical day at your work like and what are your responsibilities?
I work on a variety of things, including editing the website, doing social media, tracking statistics, working with interns, and sometimes I write articles, too. Every day is different, but that’s what I love about it.
Were there a lot of differences between your typical workday in the United States compared to Japan?
Since we have many Westerners in our office, it’s not too different. The only big difference is that when you leave the office, you have to say “otsukaresamadesu” to your co-workers, which kind of means “Thanks for your hard work.” Everybody says it to everyone when they leave.
What is some advice that you have when it comes to networking?
My advice is just to be friendly and open. Attend events, have a business card handy, and have your elevator pitch ready. What you need to know about networking is that it doesn’t always pay off instantly. Sometimes months or years after you meet someone, they’ll reach out to you with a job offer or a lead. So be patient.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with me that I did not already ask?
The journalism program at Oshkosh is fantastic. The professors are amazing and the classes truly prepare you for the real world. Also, be open-minded with your major. Despite people saying that news is dying, there are so many different jobs out there in public relations, editing, social media and more. You kind of have to be a jack-of-all-trades type, but the possibilities are really endless.