President's Message at the 2012 New Employees' Initiation Ceremony
April 2, 2012
Good morning. I’m Masahiro Okafuji, President & Chief Executive Officer of ITOCHU Corporation.
Today, we are extremely happy to welcome a total of 123 fresh, new colleagues; 113 in the managerial career track, and 10 in clerical positions. We know that landing a job is becoming more difficult with each passing year. This fiscal year, those of you joining ITOCHU in the managerial career track have been chosen from among 8,668 people who took our written exam. That’s a rate of competition of 77 to 1. For those in clerical positions, that rate is 103 to 1, since you were chosen from among 1,030 people. So needless to say, this has been a highly competitive year.
As you embark today on your new journey as members of ITOCHU, there are two points in particular that I want you to keep in mind through your long career in the corporate sector. Since you are just joining, you may not be able to form a clear image of what I’m about to say right now. Nonetheless, there are keywords that I want you to be sure to remember, because the day will come when you will finally understand what they mean.
The first point is to recognize just how important trust is to society.
ITOCHU is a free and open company. While you’re still young, you will be given the opportunity to take on a number of challenges. Not all of those, of course, will necessarily end successfully. But while you may end up being reprimanded by your supervisors, remember that you can apply the lessons learned from hard work that ended in failure to the next job that you take on. Don’t let one or two setbacks break you. The important thing is to stay positive and do the best job that you can.
With that said, beyond the ins and outs of a specific job, you need to recognize that if you ever lose people’s trust in you as a person, regaining it is next to impossible. Looking back on your time as a student, was there ever a time when you forgot something your friend asked you to do or something you said you would do? Have you ever put your own situation first and failed to help someone in need? Or perhaps you let slip something that was supposed to be kept secret or betrayed someone’s trust in some other way? One difference between being a student and being here is that in the business world that same behavior can be devastating. Once your customers, supervisors and peers start to think, “that person can’t be trusted,” not only will opportunities to do certain jobs dry up, but regaining that trust will become a huge, time-consuming burden. In contrast, jobs will always be given to people who are trusted. If they perform admirably, then a virtuous cycle begins where they are entrusted with bigger jobs and more responsibility. Never failing to keep promises, faithfully doing what you’ve been asked without forgetting details, and properly reporting afterwards–these will all matter whether the conversation happens at work, over a meal, or simply chatting to someone you happen to meet. While it sounds easy on the face of it, being consistently trustworthy can be quite difficult. But keeping your word time and again is what will earn trust. So I want you to always remember the importance of trust.
The second point I want you to remember is to aim to be an industry professional, and a leader at what you do.
The ancient Chinese text “The Doctrine of the Mean” says that a person should act to fulfill the role expected of their position in society, and should want for nothing more. In other words, whatever the situation, a person should always carry a sense of responsibility regarding his or her current position. They should consider what their mission might be and any contributions they can make to it, and, after discerning the scope of their own abilities to accomplish those tasks, should focus on accomplishing them with no concern for anything beyond that.
Having emerged from grueling competition, my guess is that many of you here have great ambitions in mind as you attend today’s ceremony. That ambition, and the fresh sense of possibility that goes with it, is a good thing. But I ask that you temporarily put those big ambitions aside to concentrate first on being able to steadily and diligently perform the job you are initially assigned. Your first assignment may not be to your desired department, and the job you’re asked to do may not be what you imagined, but don’t allow that to make you complacent. However seemingly small the business or the world around you, aim to be a professional at what you do. Why? Because only through becoming a professional and being dedicated to that course can you learn about the essentials at the heart of a particular job. When you’re recognized as a professional, others will come seeking your input. This will allow you to gather information that can further enhance your own knowledge and experience, and thereby expand your scope as a professional.
Once you have mastered those early assignments, the day will come when we will want you to distill the knowledge you’ve gained and use it to develop new businesses for ITOCHU. When this happens, the big ambitions you have in mind right now will materialize again before you know it.
In closing, I urge you to have confidence and pride in being chosen to join us, and hope you are able to be as active at ITOCHU Corporation as you desire to be. Finally, I offer you our warmest wishes and a hearty welcome to the ITOCHU family.