President's Message at the 2014 New Employees' Initiation Ceremony

April 1, 2014

Good morning. I am Masahiro Okafuji, President & CEO of ITOCHU Corporation.

Today I am very happy to welcome 135 new colleagues to our company; 121 of you in career positions, and 14 in a clerical capacity.

For this fiscal year, 10,652 applicants took the written exam for career employment at ITOCHU, while another 2,007 took the exam for clerical positions. The competition was 88 to 1 for a career opening and 143 to 1 for a clerical opening. This means that each of you overcame a number of extremely difficult obstacles in joining our company.

By the way, did you know that by and large one in every three new recruits at Japanese companies quits within three years of being employed? This is according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. And according the survey, the most frequently cited reason for quitting is an employment mismatch. New recruits are ambitious and enter companies with dreams of what they want to accomplish. I am sure that all of you feel this way, and this is certainly the way I want all of you to feel.

However, soon after you begin, it may cross your mind that “work isn’t turning out as expected.” I suppose this is natural because new recruits are first assigned to perform daily routines that may seem ordinary and repetitious. Companies are organizations, and organizations require individuals to painstakingly learn to follow the routine rules and procedures. Even if you graduated from university with honors, or were a star athlete as a student, you can’t expect in your first year on the job to be the chief breadwinner of a company.

If you will allow me to paraphrase, André Gide, the French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, once wrote that he saw an extraordinary quality in people with ordinary mindsets performing ordinary deeds each day.

Please be assured that the experience you gain from ordinary and repetitive routines will pay a big dividend later on in life. Mastery of ordinary work also means learning to live up to expectations, and I can’t emphasize how important it is to achieve this early on in your careers. By repeatedly living up to expectations, you can build a foundation for significant work accomplishments in the future. The same can be said for the obstacles that you may encounter. You will be overwhelmed and discouraged if you can only see the tall peaks you must climb in front of you. But if you can instead focus on the job at hand and take one step at a time, you will reach the summit sooner than you may realize. It has been said that three days, three months and three years are good timelines to keep in mind as horizons. Don’t try to evade hardships and slumps when you encounter them and look too far out into the future. My advice to you is to look squarely at the small tasks in front of you, clear your mind of worries, and do a good job of finishing those tasks. If you follow my advice, you will surely find a way.

The other goal I want you to embrace is to become a professional in the divisions where you are assigned.

There are professionals in every sphere of business, no matter how small, and I want you to become that professional. Learning the ropes and essentials of your job comes with having the professionalism of becoming an expert in your field. People seek advice from those they recognize as professionals. When you are in that position, information helpful for honing your knowledge and experience comes to you, and you can leverage the people who are seeking your advice to expand your horizons as a professional. Please become a true professional and become that knowledgeable person who we will be counting on one day to pioneer new businesses for ITOCHU.

Also, in my experience people who have become professionals in their own right, no matter what the job entails, tend to remain successful when they find themselves in different divisions and industries down the road.

At ITOCHU, you will find opportunities in an endless array of business fields. Be confident and proud that you were chosen to be here. Please have a sense of responsibility and know that I am counting on you to realize your full potential by competing in a friendly way with your colleagues.

Once again, I welcome and congratulate you on joining ITOCHU Corporation.