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Japan: Call us social beings now!

Initiation Ceremony. Flickr id: norio.nakayama

Initiation Ceremony. Flickr id: norio.nakayama

Though the date April 1st is linked to April Fools Day for most people in the world, in Japan it represents the start of a new year.
On April 1st, the fiscal year begins, as well as a new academic year for students and the first day of work for the young, new employees.
For those who graduated last March and secured a job while in their last year of university, as is the Japanese custom of ‘job hunting’, last Thursday meant the beginning of a new phase of their life.
To distinguish them from the students, who don’t pay taxes and have no civic responsibilities, those who work and contribute with their job to ‘society’ are referred to as ‘social people’, or 社会人 shakaijin in Japanese.

Shakaijin. By Flickr id: iMorpheus

Shakaijin. By Flickr id: iMorpheus

To mark the entrance to this new social group blogger misaki decided to renew her blog: new life, new url, new layout. From day one at work, she started posting what’s she has been learning now that she is a ‘social person’.

働くということは
身を削ってお金を得ることなんだなって思い知らされました・・・。

Working means earning money by breaking your back. This is what I was made to realize.

Also kurumazuke shares his account of what starting to work means for many in Japan who move to the company’s dormitory and receive a one month training period before being assigned to their department.

少しずつ慣れてはきたけど、寮で生活したり電車で通勤したりとガラッと環境が変わって何かと大変です。
研修も思ったよりキツいです。朝早起きして通勤するだけでもそこそこ疲れちゃうからどうしても眠くなっちゃうし、毎日日報書かなきゃいけないのが辛い。どこの会社でも最初の研修はしんどいのかなぁ。
その代わり、土日がものすごくうれしいです。学生の頃は土曜日は毎週バイトしてたし日曜日もちょくちょく大学行ってたとはいえ、週末まともに休めるのがこんなにも幸せだとは・・・

I’ m getting used to this new life little by little but still, it's hard living in the dormitory plus commuting and a completely changed environment.
The training is harder than expected. and waking up early in the morning and going to work make me tired and inevitably sleepy. Moreover, I have to write a daily report which is a pain. I wonder if in any other company the initial training is so tough?
On the other hand however, when the weekend comes I am the happiest. When I was a student I used to work on Saturday and it often had to go to university on Sunday. I would never have thought that being able to rest properly on the weekend was such a wonderful thing…

Asmodeus-DB gives some advice to those youngsters who have just become part of the social community.
“By becoming accustomed to these basic habits, it’s possible to learn how to be a proper social being”, he says.

挨拶と笑顔
とにかく挨拶をしっかりしましょう。
いきなり精神論かよ、と思われるかも知れませんが、挨拶超大事です。はっきりいって、挨拶がちゃんとできる人とやらない人は、上司や顧客(特に年配)からの見え方が違います。また、笑顔も大事です。

Greeting and smile
First of all let’s greet properly.
Some might think why are you starting with this lesson in manners, but greeting is very important. People who can greet properly, and those who cannot, are seen in a different light by superiors and customers (in particular by the older ones).
Smiling is also important. […]

報告・連絡・相談の技術 […]
自分見積もり[…]
習慣化すべきことはただ1つ。作業前に作業時間を予測し、作業後にどれくらい掛かったかの実時間と突き合わせてズレを調整する。これだけです。この繰り返し。
[…] 大事なのは、自分が何を得手不得手としていて、それにはどれくらいの時間が掛かるかを、なるべく正確に把握することです。[…]

Ability to report – inform– ask for feedback (note: this is commonly known as hourensou, a concept explained with clarity at the Work Life Kaizen blog)
Self-estimation […]
You have to get into the habit of doing this one thing: estimating the time needed to complete a job before commencing it and then after the work is finished, comparing the times. Only this, but you need to do it over and over. […] What’s important is to understand as precisely as possible what you are good at, or not good at, and how much time it takes you. […]

図を描く[…]
人間の頭の中には、情報は整理された状態で入っていません。色んなものがゴチャゴチャになって詰め込まれています。悩んでいるときや考えがまとまらないときなどは、情報が脳内と随所に散らばっているため整理が付いていないのです。では、整理するためにはどうするか。簡単な話で、図に書くのです。[…]
質問の技術 […]
メモの技術 […]
成果を残す […]

Visualize […]
Information is rarely structured in a systematic way inside the human brain. Most information enters the brain in a very disordered way and gets stored randomly. When one is undecided or unsure of something, it's difficult to order your thoughts because the information is scattered inside the brain. So what should you do in that case? It’s simple; make a visualization. […]
Ability to ask questions […]
Ability to take notes […]
Record the accomplishments […]

まとめ
以上、新社会人が半年間で習慣化すべきことです。
どれも簡単で、やること自体は簡単です。これをまず半年くらいでコツをつかんで習慣化しましょう。こういった基礎的なことができるようになって始めて、応用的なことができるようになります。[…]ま、焦る必要はありませんけど。一番大事なのは、基礎的なことを時間を掛けてでもしっかり習慣化すること、です。一見たくさんあるように見えて大変そうですが、一個ずつこなせば大したことは有りません。時間が掛かってもいいので着実に、です。

Summary
New shakaijin sshould get accustomed to the above habits in six months.
They are easy and simple to put into practice. First of all, learn the tricks in six months and make a habit of them. When you become able to do all these basic things, you’ll be able to apply them. […] There’s no need to get anxious but the most important thing is to take time to learn the basics and get properly accustomed to them. At a first glance, it looks like it’s a tough job but if you take them one by one, they aren’t that hard. Take your time and learn them steadily.
Job Training for New Employees. Flickr id: norio.nakayama

Job Training for New Employees. Flickr id: norio.nakayama

Also joruri has some words to spend to encourage the new blood.

「今の君達には何も期待していない。でも、君達の将来には結構期待している。」
誰かの言葉だった気がするけど、思い出せない。
新しく社会の、会社の一員になった君たちに対して、会社は、社会はこう思っている。
不安で当然。辛いことがないなんて、嘘でも言えない。でもね、ちょっと興味をもって仕事をするだけで、面白くもなるんだぜ。せっかくだから楽しまないと。ね。

“We are not expecting anything from you now but we are expecting a lot from your future self.”
These words were said to me by someone, but I don’t now remember who.
As a new member, this is how society and your new company regards you. It’s natural to be anxious and I won’t lie by saying that it will be easy. But if you take an interest in your work, it will be fun. At this point, try to enjoy it!

Essa, gives his version of what ‘being social’ means.

「社会性」という言葉で、僕がイメージするのはそういう感覚だ。自分たちと違う考え方をする人たちと、双方向のやり取りをしようと思う気持ち。相手が変わる分だけ自分たちも変化する、双方にプラスになるような方向を模索する気持ち。それが社会性だ。

I feel that the word ‘sociability’ has this meaning. It refers to the desire to interact with those who may have a different way of thinking in an empathetic way. The feeling that only by understanding the other person will we change and the commitment to seek for a middle direction will become a ‘plus’ for both of us. This is ‘sociability’.

In an entry immediatley before April 1, Essa posted the draft of the speech he was to give to the new employees of his company. In it, he explains how a new concept of ‘social person’ must be thought of as society has been changing rapidly and dramatically in recent times.

これから、このメモをポストして会場に向かい、iPhoneで自分のブログを見ながら話す予定です。どこを話すかは、その場の雰囲気で決めます。

• 挨拶・導入
o 入社おめでとうございます
o 今日から皆さんは社会人としての一歩を踏み出すわけですが、今日は、「社会人とは何か」ということを一緒に考えてみたい
o 私が就職したのは25年ちょっと前。「もう学生ではないんだから」と回りからよく言われた
o 社会人とは「今ある社会にスッポリはまる人間」だった
o つまり、社会人という穴が空いていて、そこに自分を押しこむイメージ
o 社会は変わらない、個人がそこに適応すべきという前提がある
o それでいいのだろうか?社会は変化している

After I post these notes I’ll head out to the meeting place, with the intention to make my speech while having a look at my blog from my iPhone. I’ll decide which parts to base my speech on, depending on the atmosphere of the moment.

Greetings – Introduction
– Congratulations on entering the company
– From today, you will all take your first steps as shakaijin but on this day I’d like to reflect together with you, what being a ‘social person’ means
– I started this job 25 years ago. Everybody told me, “you are not a student anymore”
– At that time, being a shakaijin meant “being a person who completely fits in with the current society”.
– In other words, imagine an opening which is the ‘social person’ and then pushing yourself into it.
– The premise then was that the society doesn’t change, it’s the individual who must adapt.
– But is that still OK? The society is changing!

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