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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov.)

Career compass Students and career choices

A working career is like an ultra-marathon race-Therefore, passion is needed

Miho Yanagihara
HR Manager (Leadership Development)
Human Resources
Unilever Japan Holdings Co., Ltd.

"Career Compass" features discussion with staff in charge of hiring at corporations. Issues discussed include new developments in job-search activities, as well as what kind of things hiring staff normally look for in applicants. In this installment, we spoke with Ms. Miho Yanagihara of Unilever Japan.

Daily effort makes a big impact on the world

Our company is the Japanese subsidiary of Unilever, a global consumer material manufacturer that conducts business in about 180 countries throughout the world. Since our founding in Japan in 1964, our company has been rooted in the local community. We conduct domestic development, manufacturing and market supply of products which match the culture and needs of Japanese people. Our company has plants in Japan. Perhaps due to this background, new employees entering our company in mid-career often say that the feel the advantages of both a global corporation and a Japanese corporation. Personally, I feel that the casual, open atmosphere and the sincerity of employees towards work are unique features of our company.

The first thing that our company looks for when hiring new employees is the desire to grow. Since we conduct business, we want people who interested in both personal growth and growth of our business. Furthermore, in order to bring a single product to market, it is essential to cooperate with a variety of people from different departments. Therefore, it is important that applicants have the ability to work as part of a team. Although hiring is based on specific job positions, we try as much as possible to give employees experience with other positions after entering the company. For example, sales staff will get experience in the marketing side of business. Such opportunities expand the perspective of our employees. We cultivate our employees to understand that products sold in stores are not the result of one's department alone. Rather, all departments overcome challenges and cooperate in order to create successful products.

Secondly, since we are a manufacturer of consumer goods, our company seeks applicants who want to provide a happy lifestyle to customers through our products. Each one of our products plays a very small role in daily life. However, our brand is used by an extremely large number of people-about 2 billion people throughout the world every day. Our company seeks employees who recognize the large impact that our work has on the world and feel fulfillment in that accomplishment.

Workplace where everyone can display their ability and gain fulfillment, regardless of gender

Unilever is a company with ever-increasing diversity. Women compose about 35% of the total number of employees at our Japanese subsidiary. Approximately half of female employees are under 35 years of age. Moreover, women account for 28% of managers at our company. Considering that the average ratio of female managers in Japan is about 7%, the number at our company is extremely high. This ratio is not simply the result of Unilever Japan offering a workplace that is comfortable for women. Rather, it is the result of hiring and advancement based on entirely on ability, regardless of gender, age, nationality or race. Therefore, we place high expectations on both women and men. However, even while implementing an ability-based system, our company has a culture of mutual cooperation and help. Employees often say that there is a harmonious atmosphere at our company. Our employees have a variety of nationalities, with 14 different countries represented throughout our company (as of April 2011). Regarding communication within our company, if someone who cannot speak Japanese is participating in a meeting, then the meeting is held in English. Although English is required, there is no need to speak "queen's English" just for the reason that our headquarters is in England. Furthermore, employees do not need to be fluent. Since we respect diversity, no one minds English being spoken in an accent unique to a particular country. Furthermore, according to the need to develop the abilities of a particular employee, there are opportunities to work abroad in offices throughout the world. I believe that a fulfilling workplace is created by taking advantage of individuality and cultivating our employees on a global scale.

Logical thinking is the basis for all work

Many university students believe that it is necessary to practice giving presentations before becoming a working professional. However, we provide training for required business skills after entering the company, so there is no need to worry about acquiring such skills in advance. Instead, please use your time at university to refine your logical thinking and communication ability, which serve as the basis for all other business skills. It is not easy to cultivate these abilities. I hope that you will take advantage of your free time during university to engage in activities which are only possible by students. I would like you to encounter new people, read books, have many different experiences and make yourself a stronger person.

Moreover, search for what you want to do. However, it is important to believe in your own sensibility and not over-analyze yourself. I often tell uncertain students to believe in their own gut feeling. A working career is like a marathon that continues for many years. You will not be able to continue if you lack passion. Work can sometimes be difficult and arduous. However, passion will enable you to overcome such difficulties. It may not be possible to find a specific profession which you want to try. Still, I believe that everyone possess some standard that they will not give up when searching for employment. When I was job-searching, there was still little hiring of new female graduates. Therefore, I decided to focus on work which suited my own style and attitude.

Only you can make yourself happy. Please find a career which will bring you happiness.

Message from the Career Center
Do not search for the correct answer; rather, create your own unique answer

When starting to search for employment, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sudden rush of information. It is extremely important to select the useful information that you require from all the information available. The abilities and experiences which you have acquired will form the basis for this selection. While reflecting upon the past 20 or so years of your life, please conduct your career search while focusing carefully on where your passions leads you.

Miho Yanagihara
HR Manager (Leadership Development) Human Resources Unilever Japan Holdings Co., Ltd.

Graduate from Hitotsubashi University in 1990. Entered employment in the marketing division of Nippon Lever Co., Ltd. (currently Unilever Japan Co., Ltd.). Supervised brands such as Lux Personal Wash, Ponds and Lipton. Transferred to human resources in 2003 and is now in charge of hiring and employee development. Also, drawing upon her personal experience of balancing child-raising with her career, continues to create systems for achieving work-life balancing.

Unilever Japan
Established in 1964 as the Japanese subsidiary of Unilever, one of the world's largest manufacturers of consumer goods. Through top brands such as Lux, Dove, Ponds, Axe and Lipton, conducts business in the two markets of food products and home/personal care.