A SUCCESSFUL WOMAN: Sakie Fukushima

29 03 2009

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Sumber dari NST

FOR someone who has reached the pinnacle of success, it is hard to imagine that Sakie Fukushima’s biggest demon was a lack of self confidence.
The soft-spoken woman said her self esteem took a beating in elementary school.

One of Fukushima’s teachers, when handing out her performance record, had said to her, “You’re not as bright as your brother. Not as smart”.

From then, Fukushima gave up studying hard, shunning any effort to better herself.

She says she lacked so much confidence growing up that she turned pessimistic.
“Every time I’d fly, I’d think that I would be killed. And if we were to go on a trip, I’d get my friend to drive over to my house to check if I had turned off the gas.”

When she came home once with a brochure highlighting a student conference in the United States, it was her father who encouraged her to attend it.

There, she met an American whom she later married, and who is now her pillar of strength.

“My husband is someone who gave me confidence.

“He believed in my capabilities more than I did,” she says with a smile.

In a way, Fukushima’s lack of self esteem worked as a double-edged sword because she worked twice as hard to make sure she didn’t fail.

“Pessimism was also my strength in succeeding in Korn/Ferry.

“I came up with the worst case scenarios and tried to prevent them from happening. That was the critical key to success in this business where anything can happen.”

Hailing from a family of academics, Fukushima had started off teaching Japanese as a second language in Japan before lecturing and furthering her studies in Harvard University.

It took a nudge from her husband to get her to accept a job in a strategic management firm in Boston.

After that, it took a few more nudges and confidence build-up for her to reach where she is today.

As Japan’s regional managing director of recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International, who admits to still suffering from bouts of self doubts, Fukushima says there is no harm in giving opportunities a go.

“Even if you have no confidence, if you stretch yourself, most of the time, you find that you can do it. It may not be 100 per cent. But 80 per cent is enough.

Fukushima, who served as a member of the firm’s global board of directors from 1995 to 2007, was last year recognised by Business Week as one of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Headhunters”.

Also on the board of Sony Corporation, Fukushima has penned Japan’s bestselling book How to Become Marketable Before You Become 40 Years Old.

Life hasn’t always been hunky dory.

Fukushima, who has suffered from heart complications due to immense work pressure, has thought of letting go.

But she draws satisfaction from the appreciation shown by those whom she has helped secure their lives through a career change.

DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?

AFTER 18 years of assessing successful global executives, Sakie Fukushima has identified some of their common traits, of which she is trying to emulate herself:

Take responsibility for your own professional training. Job-hoppers tend to blame their boss, company or colleagues for their own failure, shortcoming or dissatisfaction. Executives who confront the situation, try their best to change the environment, and learn from the experience when they have failed, gain more success than those who take the easy way out by escaping.

Don’t pass up on any opportunities. Take full advantage of any real opportunity that comes your way. After being challenged, you develop your own value system through direct learning experiences.

When confronted with a difficult problem, think positively on ‘how to do it’ before coming up with negative reasons. Creative solutions are often the answer.

Establish your own successful career path rather than follow what’s socially accepted. It helps to take some time to reflect on what you really want to do with your life.

Envision what you’d be doing in five years. List the skills and experience you would need to be in that position. Re-evaluate your skills and formulate a plan to acquire them. Many people learn all they can while working in corporations, such as strategic tools in a management consulting firm and financial skills from an investment firm, before setting out to set up their own company.

Successful global executives are comfortable and confident at the same time. Know your strengths and weaknesses and constantly try to improve yourself. A person who is confident competes with himself or herself rather than with others.


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