The fact that German language skills are no longer the singular key competence necessary for entering a German company in Japan was probably no surprise to the participants of the fifth Science-Industry Dialogue Forum on June 11-12, 2021. But what are the decisive skills graduates of German studies need when entering a company, and what should they focus on during their studies? These and other questions were in the spotlight of the Dialogue Forum that was conducted as an online event for the first time this year.

The usual format of the Dialogue Forum was also partially different this year. For example, the Dialogue Forum started with a discussion with five recent graduates of German Studies on June 11. It was moderated by the President of the Association of German Teachers in Japan, Prof. Dr. Tatsuya Ohta from Nanzan University in Nagoya. The panelists discussed questions submitted in advance and live by the students, which revolved around entering and working in a German company in Japan. The graduates also shared their personal experiences in regards to learning German or studying abroad at German universities. On June 12, the traditional company panel discussion with representatives from Audi, Bosch, DHL, Kühne+Nagel, thyssenkrupp, and TRUMPF, as well as the AHK Japan followed – chaired by Prof. Dr. Mechthild Duppel, Sophia University in Tokyo. After the discussion, which was also based on the students’ questions, the dialogue continued – in virtual breakout rooms, where seven other companies and institutions, as well as the DAAD, were present.

But what distinguishes graduates of German studies in the eyes of German companies? According to the panelists, it is the (inter)cultural understanding of German coworkers and the ability to competently mediate between the company and Japanese clients. However, this alone is not enough: The panelists recommended that the students should not ignore the English language in particular, as it – along with Japanese – takes up the majority of communication in the companies. More important than language skills alone, however, is showing initiative, flexibility, and the courage to take on responsibility. This also includes taking control of one’s destiny and gaining as much experience as possible during one’s studies, for example through internships or studying abroad.

The more than 550 registrations indicated a very high level of interest in this year’s event, which – thanks to the online format – allowed participation from all parts of Japan. On the first day of the event, 368 participants joined in, on the second 253. About half of the participants stated that they were attending from outside the greater Kanto area.

This year’s Dialogue Forum was again organized jointly with the German Embassy Tokyo, the Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, the Japanese Society for German Studies and the Association of German Teachers in Japan. It was also supported by the AHK Japan, and the Goethe-Institut Tokyo.

Photo1: Recent graduates of German Studies talking about their career paths into German companies in Japan

Photo2: Representatives of German companies in Japan discussing the questions of the students