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What is the trending “parallel career” work style that can transform the sheltered care industry?

Many people feel concerned and lost about their life and career, as they experience dissatisfaction in their current job, or are interested in a dual career but do not know how to pursue it. As one of the options for “work x life,” we will be focusing on “parallel careers,” which is a work style that is different from a dual career or side business, whose purpose is to gain additional income. We talked to Hisako Takase, who oversees the non-profit organization (NPO) “Kaigo Cafe" (Nursing Cafe),” while also working as a care manager in a nursing care facility, and Yuki Hiro, the representative of an NPO called “Nimaime no Meishi” (second business card), about the diversity of nursing care and the far-reaching potential of parallel careers. Hiro’s NPO encourages people to carry a second personal business card to represent their involvement in initiatives for creating the future society, aside from their primary occupation.

Takase (on the left) and Hiro (on the right) both talk about the importance of taking initiative

––Society demands that people “tackle work with a sense of fulfillment,” but in daily life, it is sometimes difficult to gauge the meaning of “fulfillment” or to “work energetically.” Particularly in regard to nursing care, how can one seek fulfillment or enjoyment in their jobs?

Takase: Many of the people who participate in “Kaigo Café,”*1 which I host, are nursing care professionals who want to take their first step toward finding their personal work style. They are mainly people in their 30s and 40s, who are uncertain about their future and are hoping to discover their next career move. I understand what they are going through because I used to be in their shoes.

*1 Kaigo Café: Abbreviation for “Kaigo Café to Create the Future.” Founded in 2012 as a forum to create opportunities to take the next step forward based on open discussion on familiar topics related to nursing care, and through free expression regardless of job titles or positions. The sessions are held based on the concept of “changing the image of the care industry” and “revitalizing the care industry.” Currently, the NPO is launching communities similar to Kaigo Café in various areas of Japan.

––Takase-san, why did you decide to start “Kaigo Café”?

Takase: I wanted to create a setting where people could talk freely about nursing care without having to worry about job titles and positions. When you work in nursing care, it is rather challenging to go out by yourself, and you do not have many opportunities to learn about the world outside. However, having a place where you can exchange thoughts and ideas may allow you to discover possibilities that you have overlooked or awaken something inside of you, giving you the chance and strength to take a step forward. For example, many people tend to think that an upward career progression in the care industry means that you either gain a lot of experience and assume a managerial role or gain the expertise to become a care manager; that your choices are basically limited to those two. However, through dialogue, you will likely realize that there are a variety of options available.

Hiro: I think that there are similar issues in various industries, and not just in the nursing care sector. Under such circumstances, companies have in recent times come to realize that it is better to give their employees opportunities to experience working outside the company or the industry. Rather than keeping employees within the organization, there is a focus on sending employees out to encourage their growth, which in turn would be able to create value for the company upon their return.

––What kind of changes can be expected by stepping out into an unfamiliar setting?

Takase: While it is important to be focused on a single job, being exposed to different places or settings allows you to look at things objectively. The nursing care industry is very sheltered, and when you are immersed in it, you lose the ability to see what is wrong clearly. By getting to know the outside world, you can gain a fresh perspective on your work, such as finding ways that can make both the caregiver and the recipient more comfortable. In addition, if you are always in the same place, you do not have enough breathing space, and it is easy to become mentally stressed.

Hiro: I agree. What may be considered “normal” in the care industry can often be quite different in the outside world, and I think that people who realize that are the ones who will be bringing change to the industry. Also, I believe that setting foot on unfamiliar territory allows you to encounter diverse values. It can also serve as an opportunity to redefine why you wanted to work in care and what kind of care you wanted to provide. On top of that, it would be nice to be able to make your own choices and design your life: your work in nursing care, and if you choose to do so, other work, in addition to your personal life including your family.

Takase: You are quite right. Because if you make your own choice, you have a sense of self-responsibility; people who are clear about their goal or purpose persevere. When a person comes across something that they genuinely want to do, they become very enthusiastic. On the other hand, if a person is always passive, feeling that they had no other choice, or if they are doing their work begrudgingly because it was assigned to them, then they have this sense that it is someone else’s problem, and often do not last in their jobs.

Creating a link with society with a sense of ownership

Hiro encourages people to take the first step to a parallel career, through his activities at NPO “Nimaime no Meishi” (Photo courtesy of NPO Nimaime no Meishi)

––Hiro-san, what type of people hold a “second business card” at NPO Nimaime no Meishi*2?

*2 Nimaime no Meishi: Advocates a business model based on the concept of holding a ”second business card,” which promotes the development and growth of members of society while simultaneously supporting the development of the social sector and companies by acting as a bridge between NPO organizations and business professionals. In addition to operating “support projects” to encourage business professionals to hold a second business card, its activities include collaborating with companies and the government to create an environment where it is readily acceptable to own a second business card. Founded in 2009.

Hiro: In addition to the first business card that represents a person's primary occupation, the “second business card” is a personal business card that represents the person’s initiatives in creating the future society. It is also generally known as a “parallel career.” If traditional side businesses are for the purpose of gaining additional income, the second business card is both a means of expressing one's values in society and an opportunity for personal growth. Many people want to be active in something other than their primary occupation that links them to society, but do not know where to start or are unsure about the type of activities that are suited to them. At NPO Nimaime no Meishi, members would form a team and carry out a project to promote NPO businesses for a limited period of 3 to 4 months. We encourage people to take the first step toward a parallel career by offering the experience of a trial period of holding a second business card and participating in a project that they can relate to.

––What changes did you see in the people who continued to own a second business card?

Hiro: Many of them tell me that their values have changed. By being exposed to the values and passion of NPOs and team members, redefining personal values, which tend to become obscured in daily work routines, comes naturally. As you begin to have a clearer understanding of who you are and what you want to achieve in society, you are able to take ownership of your own life; not persuaded or determined by someone else. A life that offers you the chance to choose what you want to do is much more enriched, and I think it is a wonderful thing.

Takase: It also makes you feel vibrantly alive. Because you are making your own choice in life, you begin to discover more and more things that you want to do.

Hiro: Up until now, if you wanted to achieve something, you were limited to realizing it within a single occupation, but with a parallel career, you are not necessarily limited to achieving a goal within a single job. By making your own choices, you are able to work with enthusiasm and a sense of ownership, and I think that you also feel rewarded.

––It seems that it would also be a good influence on those around you.

Takase: Once you gain insight from outside sources, I think that you are able to look at the nursing care workplace from a new perspective. I also believe that people can be more positive about their work if they have other places where there is a sense of belonging.

Nothing said, nothing gained…The need to be proactive

Takase offers various settings at “Kaigo Café,“ which allow the participants to engage with each other actively (Photo courtesy of Kaigo Café)

––What kind of advice do you give to people who cannot decide what they want to do, to begin with?

Hiro: First off, I think what is important is taking a step out of your usual work and lifestyle. By getting out of the force of habit, you might gain unexpected inspirations or chance encounters, or you might discover something that you want to pursue or a new aspect of yourself that you had not noticed before.

Takase: I think it is okay to start by taking action and participating in something that remotely interests you. Or, I guess it is just as well if you find a person you want to share experiences with. Because in finding that person, the chances that something new will come out of that encounter become greater. I think that is the whole point of places and settings like “Nimaime no Meishi” or “Kaigo Café.”

––So, first and foremost, it is important to take action.

Takase: For the most part, things in life do not come to you; you need to reach out for them yourself. However, it is also true that perceptiveness is required to link two different things. So, in that sense, I think that it becomes necessary for people in the nursing care profession to also have the ability to come up with proposals and conceptional ideas. Many people lack the ability to assert themselves in front of other people about what they want to do. If by coming to ”Kaigo Café,” people can improve their communication skills by speaking in front of other people, then it might make it easier for them to talk to their superiors at work about any questions they may have, or to present recommendations and proposals.

Hiro: Talking allows you to organize your thoughts, and you can also learn from the reactions of the person you are talking to.

Takase: If it does not go well, you may realize that your method of delivery was not quite right or that you have not yet built a trusting relationship with the other person. However, if you do not say anything, you will not be able to get through to the other person…it is just repetition.

Endless possibilities to create new combinations of ”care x something else”

“In the future, we will be seeing many efforts in combining ’care x something else’” says Hiro

––Hiro-san, as an outside spectator, do you think there are any aspects in the care industry that should be improved?

Hiro: I think that the nursing care industry is one of the sectors where the incorporation of the latest technological developments and outside resources has not progressed. On the other hand, some people are trying to bring in new ideas to resolve the issue of the shortage of care workers and to further improve the quality of nursing care. For example, the use of AI to develop care plans and the digitization of the physical condition and nutrition management based on advanced sensors are being introduced. In the care industry, a new crossover of “care x something else” will conceive various approaches to solve the issues in nursing care. I think that efforts to incorporate the ”new“ are necessary.

Takase: I also agree that aspects of nursing care can be effectively applied to any field because it is closely related to everyday life. One could even say that in this super-aging society, it is a genre that can be collaborated with all fields. So, in fact, I think it is something that is required everywhere.

Hiro: From a corporate perspective, in order to deploy new technologies as required at the workplace, we need to pay attention to and understand the real issues. To ensure that we are able to develop a product or service that meets the demand, I would like to seek guidance and suggestions from the people who are active in the field. So, that is why knowing what is going on in nursing care workplaces is extremely valuable.

––Rather than concluding that people who work in nursing care are isolated, it would be good if people became aware that there are many combinations, and that message could be delivered.

Takase: In order to find “something else” in the equation ”care x something else” it is essential to have a vision of what kind of care you want to provide. If you can place a flag on your ambition, interested people will gather around it. However, to make that happen, you need to break out of your shell, and to link nursing care with “something else” you need the aptitude for it, and I would also like for people to use “Kaigo Café” to refine that sense. In fact, there are actual cases where we use our expertise to cooperate with people from general business corporations.

Introducing ”nursing care” as a parallel career

”I hope to create a society where we can all ’care‘ for each other, without being bound by the title of a nursing care profession,” says Takase

––Do you have any advice for people interested in becoming involved in nursing care as a parallel career?

Takase: First of all, I think it is necessary to determine for yourself what different types of work styles are available, how involved you want to become, and what kind of nursing care you can provide. I think it would be best if you visited the actual facilities or offices that interest you to see for yourself whether it is something you can take on.

Hiro: It is said that by the year 2040, the population of people aged 65 or over will climb to almost 40 million. Although the definition of terms such as the nursing care profession or long-term care and/or support (nursing care level) is narrow, when considered in a slightly broader sense of the term, the job of nursing care is to also support those who have behavioral constraints. To put it another way, I think that the expertise of nursing care professionals can be applied not only to those who are institutionally recognized as requiring long-term care and/or support, but also more widely. Care related work may be enjoyable in the sense that it is a dynamic sector, and the emergence of various approaches to care work may make it easier for you to exhibit your own style of nursing care compared to the past.

Takase: The term “care” may be more apt than “nursing care.” I think it is becoming increasingly vital that we support each other, rather than just categorizing ourselves as the giver or receiver. Moreover, there are various types of occupations even within the nursing care profession. There are many ways to get involved, so you can leverage on the knowledge and skills that you have acquired from other career experiences. Nursing care is nothing special, and it is something that everybody does in daily life although it is described differently. Solving various issues that occur in communities together is also a form of nursing care. By increasing the number of opportunities for people with specialized knowledge to casually blend into a local community to apply their strengths will help motivate them to broaden their expertise and also aid in creating a community where people can live comfortably. It would be good if more specialist professions could be connected with the outside world and we are able to support and encourage them.

(Interview and text: Reina Tominaga, Photos: Ayako Shimobayashi, January 17, 2020)

Hisako Takase / Representative of NPO “Kaigo Café to Create the Future.” Certified Care Worker, Certified Social Worker, and Care Manager. Takase operates “Kaigo Café,” while also working as a care manager. Practices a parallel career as a care manager and café operator in the nursing care industry, and actively promotes communication on topics such as new working styles, the future, and expertise in nursing care.

Yuki Hiro / Representative of NPO “Nimaime no Meishi.” Founded NPO “Nimaime no Meishi” in 2009 (authorized as NPO in 2011). Hiro works in business development of domestic and overseas food/food products at a trading company, while also taking on the role of connecting schools with local communities and businesses as the Community Coordinator of the Shibuya City Board of Education. He is the father of four children.