You Are Not An Executive – Gaijinhan

You Are Not An Executive

There is something wrong with the way we use English at offices in Singapore. Every newcomer to a company thinks they are an executive.

Here’s a true story:

In April 2012, my cousin Z,  who works for a large Japanese trading firm S,  was sent to the Tokyo office for 9 months’ training. That would require her to have an employment visa. So, the company helped her arrange everything and sent her the COE (Certificate of Eligibility) so she could have the work visa to stay here during the training period. For some reason, the people at the Japanese office didn’t tell her what she had to do with the COE, and never having had such an experience, Z didn’t know what she had to do with it either. On the day she was supposed to fly here, Z brought her COE and arrived at the Japanese customs. The staff at the customs saw that she didn’t have a valid visa in her passport. She showed them the COE. They told her it cannot grant her entry to the country. She was confused.

* Side note: You are supposed to bring your passport and the COE to the Japanese Embassy in Singapore to get your resident visa before flying in

The customs officer asked Z if she wanted to take the next flight back to Singapore or if she wants to try to apply for a visa on the spot. Of course there’s no reason for her to return. They gave her a form to fill and in the company name field, she wrote S. In the position field, she wrote “HR executive.” The officer asked in a serious manner, “Are you the CEO?”

I didn’t make this up. I was made to wait at the gate for hours after waking up at 4am in the morning and having put up at a capsule hotel near the airport the night before because of this. Eventually, they managed to reach someone from her company and she was granted her visa.

The point is, “executive” refers to the top management. CEO, COO, CFO, Board of Directors, etc. are executives. You just joined the company. As much as this hurts your ego, you are NOT an executive.

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