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The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) seeks to foster the professional and personal growth of its members. And while the more than 500 events hosted by the chamber each year are open to all ages, special attention is being given to working professionals under the age of 35 through the Young Professionals Forum (YPF).

With a focus on interactivity, the YPF provides opportu­nities to actively engage in each of the three chamber pillars:  networking, information sharing, and advocacy. By partici­pating in these peer-led programs, as well as mentorship and training sessions, younger members can improve their skills while meeting new people and expanding their networks.

Two new projects—Next Generation Leaders and Mastermind—are expanding the YPF’s offerings with a variety of speakers, topics, and events. Co-Chairs John W. Carlson III and Anna Maruyama spoke to The ACCJ Journal about the YPF’s goals and recent activities.

Partnering with other ACCJ committees, the YPF launched
in June the Next Generation Leaders series, which brings together distinguished young leaders in an interactive dialogue with members. “Guests are invited to share their personal and professional experiences, exploring their views on leadership and the challenges facing the world today,” Carlson explained.

The first Next Generation Leaders event took place on June 19 at Tokyo American Club and featured Dr. Ichiro Amimori, chief executive officer of Xenoma, a tech startup that is designing smart apparel.

The YPF partnered with the Healthcare Committee, which Carlson also chairs, to invite Amimori to share his thoughts on leader­ship, entrepreneurship, and the future of health tech in Japan.

Amimori is a strong advocate for the development of a startup ecosystem that is being called Japan Entrepreneurship 2.0 and has devoted himself to improving societal values through cutting-edge technologies. Younger ACCJ members were invited to listen to him speak and learn valuable lessons.

“Our inaugural event had a little over 25 attendees, with young professionals joining us from a diverse set of industries, as well as the US Embassy,” Carlson said, explaining that the conversa­tion extended beyond healthcare. “While Amimori works in a highly technical field, attendees appreciated that he not only introduced the technology he is working on but, more importantly, shared advice on entrepreneurship and leader­ship in Japan—advice that many attendees could actually apply to their own career development.”

Amimori takes pride in being a researcher of science, tech­no­logy, and society (STS), with a focus on innovative technologies that enhance the relationship between man and machine. Exploring how society, politics, and culture can affect scientific research and the development of technology—and how these, in turn, affect society, politics, and culture—is relevant for young professionals, especially in the age of disruptive technology. By providing younger members with insightful and relevant content—delivered by experienced professionals—the YPF not only encourages participation but also inspires new perspectives and insights.

“We are currently planning some additional events for the fall that will focus on topics such as cybersecurity and diplomacy,” said Carlson.

The other YPF initiative is the Mastermind group, which, as Maruyama explained, “offers a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability, and support in a group setting through which we strive to sharpen members’ business and personal skills.”

Each Mastermind session focuses on a specific theme, and expert guests share in the group’s discussion of goals, growth, and success.

“The topics simply come from discussions with our members about what they are interested in, what they want to discuss, and what they want to learn more about,” she added. “We will continually seek their feedback to choose themes.”

The first Mastermind gathering was held on July 24 at the offices of State Street Trust and Banking Co., Ltd. in Toranomon Hills Mori Tower with the support of the ACCJ Investment Management Committee.

David W. Nichols, who chairs the committee, led a dialogue on the basics of investing for young professionals. He is also deputy president, representative director, and chief administrative officer of State Street Trust and Banking. Stocks, bonds, personal investment portfolios, and risk profiles were all discussed during the interactive session, giving attendees an understanding of basic investing.

More Mastermind sessions are being planned. “Later this fall, we are planning to invite an executive trainer who focuses on organizational communication,” Maruyama said. “Young professionals will learn how to communicate effectively up, down, and across their organization, to shape their message and blend emotion with logic to be more effective, and to grow the communication skills needed to rectify misunderstandings.”

The YPF also plans many opportunities to meet others, such as the July 31 Joint-Chamber Networking Event for Young
Professionals, hosted by the ACCJ and 16 other foreign chambers of commerce in Japan.

An evening of socializing, food, and free-flowing drinks, the event helps broaden professional networks through nomu­nication (communicating while drinking)—a popular practice in Japan—and is considered a more relaxed way to meet like-minded professionals.

People under the age of 35 are in one of the most important stages of their lives, and feeling encouraged and informed is an important part of progressing through their careers. The YPF is placing significance on these professionals and catering to their needs while helping them broaden their connections and form worthwhile friendships.

“We are very open to the ideas of young professionals at the chamber, as well as other chamber leaders. If you have an idea to collaborate with YPF—or if you are interested in putting together an event as part of one of these programs—do not hesitate to reach out to us,” Carlson concluded.

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Megan Casson is a staff writer at Custom Media for The ACCJ Journal.
By participating in these peer-led programs . . . younger members can improve their skills while meeting new people and expanding their networks.