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Campus Now

Midsummer Issue (Jul.)


Waseda University provides guidance for career formation

A career is more than just an employment history, a professional background and refined skills which all start from selecting an occupation. Instead, a career is the formation of one's life by accumulating a variety of experiences through interaction with society.
With a focus on our Career Center, Waseda University provides students with a variety of opportunities to consider their own career.
This report introduces current actions being taken by our university in order to redefine the concept of a career to allow students to consider their own career.

Part.1 Special discussion on career guidance

The first step to forming a career is to consider the meaning of work

The Career Center conducts a series of career support seminars entitled "Getting to Know Work." Representatives of corporations that cooperate in the seminars gathered together to candidly discuss what corporations expect of students and their expectations for career support at universities.

Judging fundamental ability as a professional member of society

Nishio (MC)   Today is a gathering of representatives from corporations that support the series of career support seminars entitled "Getting to Know Work." Thank you all very much for taking the time to join in today's discussion. Please start by giving a brief introduction of your company.

Kobayashi   I work at AIIA, a commercial firm that operates two businesses. First, our apparel business offers women's brand clothing throughout Japan. We have recently expanded into China and Taiwan as well. In two or three years, we may have a greater number of overseas stores than domestic stores. Second is our media business for contents such as mobile phone games. Although this business was started later, it has experienced dramatic growth recently. We mainly hire new university graduates for our apparel business. 90% of our hires are women.

Muramatsu   My employer is Kose, a company which manufactures and sells cosmetics. We offer a variety of brands from high-price to low-price. In the future, we plan to pursue globalization even more than now. We hire mainly for our sales force. After accumulating experience in sales, employees can transfer to planning or marketing.

Hirota   I am employed at Dentsu. Many people only have an image of Dentsu conducting advertising; however, that field has grown dramatically in recent years. Our company also conducts service development in the digital field, as well as development and global expansion of other businesses. Our employees can select from 100 colors for the back of their business card. This symbolizes the appeal of our company, which is working together with a variety of unique professionals.

Moriyama   I work at Rakuten. Since our founding 15 years ago, we have focused on our e-commerce site Rakuten Market while also developing a variety of internet business such as banking and investment securities. Our goal is to become the top internet service company in the world. English will be used as our official company language beginning next year. We actively hire foreign nationals and are steadily building the infrastructure of a global corporation.

Ito   I'm president of i4. Our company was founded in July 2010 as a facilitator specializing in the fields of career and employment. Since then, we have cooperated with university career centers in order to conduct on-campus career support seminars for students of all grades. At these seminars, I hold public interviews with professionals regarding their work. Students listen to these interviews and gain an understanding of the realities of working. The series of career support seminars entitled "Getting to Know Work" is one example of our company's activities.

Nishio   Thank you. Now, I would like to begin by discussing the qualities sought in employees by corporations. Currently, the mass media says that Japan is experiencing a second "employment ice age." While it is true that some students spend another year at school because they cannot find employment, there are also many students who received multiple job offers from popular corporations. What is the reason for this difference?

Kobayashi   Generally speaking, our company mainly needs professionals to manage our stores. Therefore, we look for fundamental professional skills in addition to fundamental academic ability. For example, we want our employees to have interpersonal skills. We are interested when an applicant talks about their volunteer activities or experiences overseas.

Nishio   Indeed, what you have just said may be true for any corporation. Mr. Muramatsu, what is your opinion?

Muramatsu   When I look at young people today, I get the feeling that their ability to find answers by themselves has decreased. Perhaps this is because they were raised in an environment where answers were provided for them. Once you enter society, no one has prepared any answers. Even more, the answer which was correct just yesterday may no longer be correct today. Young people are slow to react in such situations. Again, this may be because they obediently followed the teachings of their school and parents while growing up. Our company wants students who are trying to break out of their shell and experience a new world.

Nishio   What you say is true. I am often asked "What's the right answer?" by students who are having difficulty writing an entry sheet for a company. Of course, there is no such thing as a correct answer! Mr. Ito, you arranged today's discussion and you have contact with students from many different universities. What is your feeling on this subject?

Ito   I believe that education in Japan is responsible for the large number of students who remain stuck in their shell and who try to resolve problems through numbers. Students themselves are not entirely to blame. However, I would hope that students search for answers by themselves.

Hirota   One thing that is true of the entire advertising industry is that we don't own any factories and don't have any product. We sell ideas developed by people. Therefore, we seek professionals who are capable of creating something. Students who had such experiences during their study at university and students who excel in such creative endeavors are a good match for our company.

Moriyama   Although Rakuten is a large company with more than 7,000 employees, a venture mindset is at the heart of our company. At the same time, we are also an IT company. Therefore, we seek both creative workers who can produce revolutionary ideas and technical workers who can incorporate such ideas into systems.

Ito   Another question which I would like to ask all of you is how much importance you attach to the academic record and amount of effort put into studies by students majoring in the humanities?

Hirota   During interviews, we have applicants discuss the area to which they devoted the greatest effort during their time at university. Not many applicants talk about studying only. Of course, students should be commended for conducting successful research while studying at university, as well as for wanting to enter our company in order to engage in work which utilizes the skills which they have acquired. We look highly upon students who put great effort into their studies. However, we ask applicants about many other things besides studying.

Nishio   Everyone would agree that the primary duty of students is to study. However, our university would be disappointed if that is all that students have to display. In addition to academic contents, we instruct students taking job interviews to discuss the process and intricacies of learning and research, as well as the abilities, perspectives and philosophies which they acquired through their studies.

Kobayashi   Prior to final selection of applicants, our company has students submitted an official academic record for our reference. We consider effort put into studies to be an aspect of an individual's personality. We expect this effort to transfer into motivation towards work at our company.

Hired for the desire shown in obtaining certification and acquiring skill in foreign languages

Nishio   How do you feel about the abilities of students? In the past, it was most common for Japanese corporations to conduct hiring based on the potential of students and cultivate professional skills after students had entered the company. However, I have recently heard that corporations are too hard-pressed to conduct hiring based on potential and now seek students who can contribute immediately.

Muramatsu   Yes, our company looks for students who are capable of contributing immediately. However, I don't want to students to interpret this as meaning that they will enjoy immediate success. The year or two after entering the workforce is filled with difficult and trying experiences which must be endured. New employees who can't tolerate this period soon quit their jobs. It seems that a lot of students think that they can make a living from dreams and visions.

Nishio   Students have to be tough, don't they?

Kobayashi   Compared to a short time ago, the amount of information available to students has increased dramatically due to the spread of the internet. However, students don't understand real conditions in society. Therefore, when they actually begin working, they experience at least some differences from what they expected. Successful students are the ones who can process this gap in expectations and balance their ideals with reality.

Moriyama   I believe that some students are capable of contributing immediately. Particularly in the business world, outstanding professionals who develop interesting ideas are sometimes overlooked because they lack a professional record or the connections necessary to give form to their ideas. Our company periodically holds open recruitment for business plans, and we offer opportunities even for young employees. Some young employees have great business sense. We must consider how to find and cultivate such potential.

Nishio   How about certification and language ability in terms of immediate contribution? Do corporations place importance recent aspiration of students to acquire certification?

Muramatsu   The desire to challenge oneself and acquire certification is wonderful. However, acquiring certification certainly doesn't mean that the applicant will have an instant advantage in all hiring processes.

Nishio   One big question I have regarding the hiring process is how corporations assess the potential of students? Corporations are prone to hiring students who are animated and have high presentation skills. However, I often hear that after actually being hired, such students are surprisingly lazy, only engage in work which interests them and aren't capable of diligent, steady effort.

Muramatsu   There are some students who are unusually skilled at selling themselves. Even if students have acquired worldly wisdom through interaction with older people during club activities and part-time work, talking with such students will reveal their lack of substance. Our company emphasizes consistency and logical thought, so we would never hire someone based simply on great presentation skills. I am interested by students who work hard to express themselves, even if they are sometimes at a loss for words, and I often want to meet such students again for future discussion.

Nishio   It seems that many students seeking employment at Rakuten are energetic and have a venture mentality.

Moriyama   That's true. A lot of our applicants speak eagerly. However, we seek a different type of professional for each department. It's important to post new employees in the appropriate department. We determine the best possible matching through in-depth communication with prospective employees.

It's never too early to start considering your career

Nishio   There is concern about how the job searches of university students are starting earlier and lasting for longer periods of time. What do you all think about this topic? Some students participate in internships as early as the summer of their third year. From a university's perspective, this affects student's studies and needs to be corrected. However, from the position of the Career Center, I believe that students have no choice but to start preparing from around autumn of their third year. It's the only way that they will meet the timeline for selections made in April of the following year.

Kobayashi   The ethical charter of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) was modified this year and registration is now accepted beginning from December 1st. Personally, I believe that it is never too early for a student to start their job search. I think that internships should accept students at any stage, and I believe that an opportunity for students to consider the meaning of working should be provided at an early stage. By conducting their job search activities during holiday periods and on non-school days, students can achieve balance with their lessons.

Muramatsu   I feel sorry for students who start searching for employment from the summer of their third year. However, as pointed out by Ms. Kobayashi, the third year of university is too late to begin considering your career. It is necessary for students to participate in seminars during their first and second years. Students need time to consider what they want to do in the future. There is a book entitled Employment Service Center for 13 Year Olds. Really, children should beginning considering their future from such a young age.

Hirota   I agree. I believe the students should select a university after giving some consideration to their future while in high school. Such consideration is the origin of learning at university. In Germany, there are children who enter vocational schools after graduating from elementary school. In comparison, it seems that career consideration is too late in Japan. There are many students who lack a vision for the future. Such students simply want to enter a famous university and enjoy club activities.

Moriyama   I think that the period for starting job searches in Japan is neither too early nor too late. I also believe it is possible to ensure equality if all corporations simultaneously start recruitment of new graduates. Personally speaking, I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do when I selected the company where I work. After entering the company and learning from my superiors, I have gradually gained an understanding regarding the meaning of work. Indeed, I am still in the process of understanding. I think that most students are similar to me. Simply because someone hasn't considered their future doesn't mean that they can't become an outstanding professional.

Nishio   A common theme in everyone's opinion is that it would be good for students to begin considering their career at an earlier time. Also, everyone seems to agree that having a variety of experiences allows students to solidify their choices. Mr. Ito, you plan a large number of career seminars. What is your opinion?

Ito   I don't think that the elongation of job-search activities is the most pressing issue which needs to be resolved. Compared to what is known as the "employment ice age" in Japan, the jobs-to-applicants ratio isn't bad at all. The same pattern has continued unchanged since long ago-some students have no problem finding employment while other students struggle. The large number of students who have not found employment can be attributed mainly to how students try to select corporations almost as if they were shopping. Another problem is that students aren't familiar with the contents of work. When selecting their ideal work, students can only choose from work that they know. That's why it is important to provide students with an opportunity to become familiar with many kinds of work.

Nishio   In that case, I would like corporations to increase their acceptance of internship students. Is it possible to accept students from lower grades?

Hirota   Our company plans to implement an internship program this year. I'm not sure if it is good for students to think of nothing but employment from their first year in university. However, there certainly is no harm in finding the areas of one's interest.

Get to know work through more encounters

Nishio   In recent years, the job-search sections of universities have been restructured into career centers. In addition to normal administrative work related to employment, such centers also offer a variety of career support. Career education has also been incorporated into the standards for establishing universities. However, some people say that such career education is nothing more than guidance for job-search activities. From a corporate perspective, how do you view the career education at universities?

Moriyama   I don't think that there is any meaning in career education which considers a career to be equivalent to job-search activities. I believe that a career is equivalent to life and that work is a part of a person's life. In that respect, I think that universities should offer instruction in career design.

Hirota   Universities should inform students about working conditions and provide opportunities to meet with working professionals. Students should also be given opportunities to get out of their shell and have new experiences.

Nishio   The Career Center at our university prepares a variety of encounters for students. Of course, we would really like students to take the initiative to meet with people. However, it recently seems that club alumni don't return to the university as often as before, and current students don't know how to seek new encounters. Through career education, we urge students to conduct thorough self analysis. This means that students should analyze themselves as a way to determine a future career. What is your opinion regarding this point?

Kobayashi   There are even some students who create and bring a timeline! However, we are disappointed when these timelines simply reflect upon the past without considering the future. When interviewing students, we want to know how they picture themselves 5 years or 10 years in the future, including their private lives.

Muramatsu   Students believe that they will be provided with a career upon entering a company. Even if students are capable of establishing a goal, they are unable to enact a PDCA* cycle and important immediate matters are neglected. A career will develop naturally if one puts full effort into immediate matters.

Nishio   The point just raised by Mr. Muramatsu is similar to the Planned Happenstance Theory established by Professor Jon D. Krumboltz of Stanford University. The theory states that while chances are encountered unexpectedly, putting full effort into immediate matters will ensure that you are able to make the most of the chances which are provided.

Hirota   There are many students who lose sight of the goal of job searching. There are students who feel satisfied because they have analyzed many corporations and visited numerous alumni who are now working professionals. Despite such efforts, such students seem to lack understanding regarding the essence of searching for employment. These students are well-prepared with information gathered from career centers and books. However, it seems that many such students aren't engaged with any corporations and are simply going through the motions of a job search.

Nishio   It's true that there are some students who feel that they haven't yet conducted thorough job-searching activities even after receiving an employment offer from a corporation of their choice! The process has become a goal in itself. Incidentally, as working professionals, how do you want students to spend their time at university?

Moriyama   I think that there are very few students who have experienced success and failure. There are few students who have experienced pure joy or gut-wrenching disappointment. I believe that some responsibility for this trend can be attributed to adults as well. People don't praise or scold children. It seems that adults are becoming estranged from children. Personally, I try to praise and scold my children as much as possible.

Muramatsu   That's great. Nowadays, there is no discipline at school or home. Growing up in such an environment, children will never understand thresholds or borders for behavior. During their time at university, I want students to take on many challenges. I want them to make mistakes and get scolded. I also expect strict instruction from professors. Indeed, I think that children who are often scolded and disciplined are the ones who will grow the most.

Kobayashi   While at university, I want students to interact with people in different fields and acquire many experiences. I hope that students will start by interacting with the adults around them.

Nishio   There are some students who don't have many opportunities to speak with adults and have little leadership experience. Therefore, staff at the Career Center will recommend that such students speak with their older relatives or be responsible for organizing parties with their friends.

Moriyama   I want students to create opportunities which will raise their heartbeat! I hope that they will have exciting experiences such as speaking in public, or professing their love and being rejected by someone that they like.

Hirota   Dentsu gives the following message to students: "Establish a dream. Realize the dream that you have established. Continue working until your dream is realized." While at university, I hope that students will experience success or the joy of realizing a goal.

Discussing work at home will foster an occupational perspective

Nishio   In closing, I would like to discussion how the parents of student should be involved in career support. Due to the recent media attention giving to the current "employment ice age," the Career Center receives telephone calls from parents seeking consultation on an almost daily basis. Some universities even distribute job-search guides for parents. What is your opinion on this topic?

Muramatsu   At home, I think that it is important to establish a working individual as a hero and to foster an admiration towards working. If the mother complains about how the father is always drinking with his coworkers, then the children will begin to question the meaning of work. Of course, that's not the case at my house!

Kobayashi   Both of my parents worked when I was a child. My parents normally discussed their work at home. My grandmother also praised my parents and I really admired how my parents worked. I believe that discussing work at home will have a positive influence on the occupational perspective of children.

Mr. Masaki Nishio Manager at Waseda University Career Center (at time of interview)

Moriyama   My father was a bank employee. He worked diligently, never being late or missing a day of work. I respected my father, but my personality is also completely different than his. So I knew that I couldn't become a bank employee. In that respect, I may have been influenced by my father.

Hirota   Sometimes, it is obvious that the student's parent is making a telephone call in order to apply for an interview or an explanatory meeting. Of course, it is inappropriate for students to rely on their parents in such a way. Also, I hope the parent's will respond properly when asked by their child.

Nishio   We can respond to parents who want to know the current state of job-search activities. However, students themselves must actually continue job-search activities and decide upon the career path. I hope that parents will encourage their children while giving them the appropriate amount of space.

Thank you very much for sharing your frank opinions today. We at the Career Center will continue to provide maximum support for students while respecting their autonomy.

*PDCA: A process in which matters are continually refined by repeating the 4 cycles of Plan, Do, Check and Act.

Mariko Kobayashi
Director of Human Resources Section, AIIA Corporation

AIIA Corporation
Founded in 1971. Operates both an apparel business and a media business. The apparel business conducts planning, manufacturing, wholesaling and sales of women's clothing and related accessories. The business handles 5 brands and operates approximately 200 stores throughout Japan. The media business publishes magazines such Pakuros and Kanji-Ō and conducts a mobile phone contents business involving the operation of games such as "Prize Puzzle Pakuros."

Tsutomu Muramatsu
Manager of Human Resources Department, KOSE Corporation

Kose Corporation
Founded in 1946. Employs 5,594 employees (as of the end of March 2011). Conducts manufacturing and sales of cosmetic. Offers a variety of brands from low-price to high-price, including Predia, Infinity and Sekkisei. Supports a wide range of distribution channels such as specialty cosmetic stores, mass retailers and drug stores. Offers a full lineup of career support for employees, conducting a variety of education and training such as Skill Improvement Seminars and a Women's Forum.

Motoaki Hirota
Associate Supervisor of Hiring & Cultivation Section, Human Resources Department, Dentsu Inc.

Dentsu Inc.
Founded in 1901. Employs 6,895 employees (as of the end of December 2010). Operates in the field of Integrated Communication Design, offering services such as business consulting, management and supply of comprehensive solutions related to communication.

Takahiro Moriyama
Hiring Promotion Section, Hiring & Cultivation Department, Rakuten Inc.

Rakuten Inc.
Founded in 1997. Employs 7, 119 employees (consolidated; as of the end of December 2010). Operates a variety of business including the internet shopping mall Rakuten Market, personal auction sites, e-commerce, credit cards, banking, portal/media, travel, investment securities, professional sports, and communication. Plans to establish English as the official company language in April 2012.

Atsushi Ito
President, i4 Co., Ltd.

i4 Co., Ltd.
Founded in 2010. Provides career guidance within schools and facilitates planning of corporate seminars. Conducts a variety of businesses for supporting employment and improving fundamental professional skills. The company's philosophy is to create opportunities for students to become familiar with, experience and consider the act of working. The company also seeks to contribute to an increased employment rate, improvement of fundamental professional skills and prevention of hiring mismatches.