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I'm a computer science student living in the United States graduating this fall. Going into the workplace immediately after graduating, my employment prospects look pretty good. I've got around a 3.75 GPA, I'll have 1.5 years of internship experience with a company in the industry, and I'll have been a part of two research projects presented in my school's annual STEM symposium. At the very least, I'll have no issues continuing to work at the company of my internship.

That said, I've also been studying Japanese, and would very much like to achieve real fluency. I don't believe I can achieve that without spending some time living in the country. There are programs, such as the JET program, that allow Bachelor's degree-holders in any field to work in Japan as an English teacher.

While a program like this could give me the time and exposure I need, I'm worried about my prospects afterwards. How much of a negative will spending a year working in an unrelated industry be on my resume? And finally, could I reasonably offset this by attaining CS certifications or completing freelance programming projects while abroad?

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    Not that teaching English would hurt your career.. but have you considered applying for a job in your field in Japan? Depending on your current Japanese level I can give you some resources to help find employment if it is something you are interested in. – さりげない告白 Feb 22 '18 at 2:40
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    What do you want more? Doing computer work or studying Japanese? That is not only a question you should ask yourself but it will be a question future employers will ask themselves and/or ask you. If you would be an employer would you prefer someone who is keen to do what he studied? Or would you prefer someone who like to do something else for a while? – Edgar Feb 22 '18 at 2:43
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    I appreciate it, but I definitely will not be at a point where I would be ready for work in my field, in Japan, by graduation. For reference, I'd estimate that I could currently pass the N5 JLPT, but would be far from a perfect score. – Sharpevil Feb 22 '18 at 4:39
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    It won't affect it at all. Just say you were studying in that period or don't mention it. It can often take people more than a year just to find a job. – insidesin Feb 22 '18 at 5:46
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A lot of people will tell you that you need to be "just a programmer". A lot of people, it seems, do not see the big picture.

The most difficult thing to find in IT right now is not "people who know the tech". It is actually "people who can communicate".

Engineers and programmers are notoriously terrible at talking to anyone else. A technologist who can do so is worth a lot - they are the people who work out what the real problem/requirement is.

Anything that gives you leadership skills and communication skills - and what you're proposing does - will largely set you apart. This doesn't mean you can forget your tech skills, but rather, on a par footing, you will rise far faster than your peers with such experience.

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    Engineers and programmers are notoriously terrible at talking to anyone else citation needed – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 23 '18 at 19:25
  • @idrink hahahahahaahh good one! – bharal Feb 23 '18 at 19:37
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This is actually a very normal thing to do, not only in the computer industry, but also in virtually every other industry. I have found that the majority of people in cyber security for example, were usually in a branch of the armed forces. What's more important is that you go after the things you are interested in and pursue opportunities. You have just graduated, you still have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do. Because you mention the computer industry, I can confidently say this will not affect you at all. Some even may look at it as a very positive thing. This is a decision only you can make, but it certainty will not affect your future employment. You have a long, long career

  • How can you say "it certainty will not affect your future employment"? I am sure lots of employers want just someone who know the computer job and don't care about Japanese. It might be good for some jobs but definitely not for all. – Edgar Feb 22 '18 at 2:47
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    @Edgar Because that person pursued what they wanted, and then came back to live their life as a developer. They already got going off and doing their own thing out of the way, and now they are willing to focus on their career. Many people find that aspect to be admirable. While it may not be every single employer, I doubt they are so scarce that it will harm their career to a noticeable extent unless they absolutely wanted to join a specific company. – さりげない告白 Feb 22 '18 at 3:49
  • @Edgar it is entirely possible that you can learn Japanese and be good at computers... OP is talking about a couple years, not a decade. People who take time off and pursue different passions are usually happier with their lives – pm1391 Feb 22 '18 at 4:10
  • @Edgar because 1 year lost in a career of 50 years is not important. But 3-5+ years? That's important. – insidesin Feb 22 '18 at 6:01
  • I am happy if the OP does what he wants to do, many years if he likes. But the question is if it may hurt his future employment opportunities. Yes, it may hurt them, depending on what he wants to do. – Edgar Feb 22 '18 at 9:51
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They won't ask, but if they do.. tell them you were studying/searching for the right role

Just say you were studying in that period or don't mention it. It can often take people more than a year just to find a job. Even better, while you're in Japan, use the free time that you get (there will be a lot) to work on your experiences in computer science.

Teaching English for a year or 2 is fine. It won't affect your career at all. I wouldn't advise any longer though. It'll be a great boost to both your confidence, adult-skills and more.

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