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Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Job-hunting system needs work
With university graduation ceremonies coming up, at least one-third of graduating students will have little reason to celebrate. Only two-thirds have found jobs, the lowest percentage since 1996, the first year official records were kept. In light of the low number of new hires, companies should take this chance to reconsider their hiring procedures and initiate changes, especially their obsession with hiring only new graduates.
The social and psychological pressure on students to get a job starts too early and lasts too long. Nowadays, students start the rounds of job fairs and resume-writing workshops at the start of their third year of college. The series of explanation lectures, interviews and exams required by most companies is exhausting and intense. The Japan Business Federation has called for a two-month delay in the start of the cycle, but that is hardly sufficient.
To keep up, most students have to skip lots of classes and ignore their studies at that point in their education when they should be acquiring higher-level thinking and specialized skills. Protests have taken place on several college campuses the past several years, but it is really up to the companies to change hiring procedures. It is doubtful that the current system is best-suited for producing excellent employees.
Some forward-looking companies have started to shift their attitude. Mizuho Bank, Takashimaya and Dai-ichi Life Insurance have all stated that they will give equal consideration to any student who graduated within three years. If more companies followed suit, students could actually focus on their studies without outside distraction until they are finished. After graduation, students could mature by acquiring basic work skills and life experience in real-world settings at internships, volunteer work or cultural exchanges. At the very least, companies might consider this a cheap way to outsource their training in interpersonal skills.
George Bernard Shaw joked that "Youth is wasted on the young." But in the rush for jobs, Japanese young people hardly get to experience their youth at all.
Without a broad, varied and extended education while young, meeting the demands of adult employment become more difficult. The easily instituted, highly sensible policy of delaying pressure for three years after graduation would benefit companies and students alike.