So you survived spring recruiting season in Tokyo, hoofing it from job interview to job interview along with the flock of other black-clad prospective salarymen and women, and landed the junior position of your parents’ dreams. Congratulations, you are now employed for life. If you want to stay in Tokyo and make the annual climb up the corporate ladder, and avoid deportation to the isolated branch office in Fukui, here are some helpful tips to stay in the good graces of the faceless HR rep, the person that makes such life-altering decisions.
Become a Meishi Magician
Your meishi, or business card, is an extension of your soul. As such, all business cards are treated with utmost reverence. Your business card holder should be stylish and cost more than your ABC Mart shoes. Keep the holder in your left breast pocket, as it should be carried over your heart.
The business card exchange can make or break a business deal. Grasp the card between the thumb and forefinger of each hand and bow as you hand it over, somehow accepting your counterpart’s business card at the same time with a quick sleight of hand. If exchanging your business card with a superior, make sure your card is below your counterpart’s during the handover. If your counterpart considers you the superior, you can go through a mini meishi battle. If you try to go underneath you can find the process is like trying to insert your Suica card in an ATM machine.
Once the transaction is complete, study your colleague’s business card like a brunch menu and make comments like, “oh, assistant deputy executive manager of general affairs? How interesting.” Then nod approvingly (in actuality this part of the process is to make sure you pronounce their name right).
After inviting seniors to sit first, and butts are in the seat, the meishi dance continues. Place your business card holder in front of you on the table and arrange the cards you just collected in the proper order. The most senior member’s business card goes on top of your holder. You then arrange the cards depending on where the people are seated. Hopefully you remember who is who.
If you have successfully completed this ritual of business meeting foreplay, everyone should leave the conference room satisfied (but be mindful, putting away business cards signals the end of the meeting).
Send a Fax For Your Right to Party
Oftentimes the meetings are held after working hours at the izakaya. As the junior, it is your duty to reserve the restaurant and order the menu in advance. It is also your duty to arrange the seating chart and direct senior members where to sit. Seniors should always sit furthest away from the door of the party room, and your seat is of course closest to the door, as you need to deliver all orders to the wait staff.
The first round of drinks should be beer (or oolong tea for non-drinkers) for the first kanpai. If you are given bottles of beer, you need to fill the glasses for everyone else. When giving cheers, make sure the lip of your mug is below your superior’s. Keep an eye on their glass, as it is your job to keep it full. When filling the cup keep about a third a head of foam. Also, keep pace with your seniors, as you should not finish your glass before them.
On the bright side, once you have filled their glass, it is then their duty to graciously fill yours in return. At the end of the night, after you’ve handled the bill, hail a cab and be ready to shuffle your boss into its waiting, open doors.
Sing Your Heart Out
That is, unless the next plan of action is to head out for a rousing round of karaoke. Again, as the junior assistant it is your obligation to arrange the karaoke room, so try to have membership cards for several chains. The seating arrangement within the karaoke room is the same as the bar, with you seated next to the phone, ready and waiting to place everybody’s order.
Now we know everybody just needs to hear your version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but keep your gun in your holster. Let the senior members have their first go at the song list and pass the machine clockwise. Be supportive, and attentive, of every singer. Don’t mess around with your phone while others are singing. However, don’t grab the other microphone and belt out a duet, unless invited. Also, don’t load up the queue with your song selections. Common courtesy is to wait until your song is performed before inputting your next selection.
Have two or three songs prepared in advance that you can nail. Some Japanese karaoke joints have men’s night, where individual men can rent a room for ¥1,000 per hour to practice. Make sure your song is something everyone can enjoy – no grindcore or spoken word – and don’t show off. Early Beatles is a safe bet, as is Queen – just save “Bohemian Rhapsody” for your boss. Being able to read the karaoke room is important, so try to stick to the same genre as everyone else. If you simply can’t carry a tune, then bone up on your tambourine skills.
At the end of the day, the quality of your work doesn’t determine how fast you move along the promotion track. As long as you can conform to the proper workplace etiquette, you can safely live out your days in middle management.