Personal networking, first impressions, and social capital in Japanese academia

Brent Cotsworth


At this point in the Japanese university calendar a significant number of professional educators will begin looking for work for the next academic year. It's therefore appropriate to think about the importance of personal and professional social skills, and what role social capital plays when applying for positions.

A wide variety of business management publications claim that specific social skills can greatly enhance the chances of success. So, what exactly is the meaning of social capital? The Oxford dictionary defines it as "the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively“ (Oxford Online Dictionary, 2012). As Baron and Markman (2000) state, "specific competencies that help people interact effectively with others can play a significant role in one's success” (p. 106). These skills include the ability to read others accurately, make favorable first impressions and adapt to a wide range of social situations. De Janasz and Forret (2008) state the importance of expanding personal networks along with continuous refinements of social skills in order to obtain more social capital. They state that “developing and maintaining relationships with others for the purpose of mutual benefit can help individuals search for and secure employment opportunities, gain access to needed information or resources—especially on short notice—and obtain guidance, sponsorship, and social support” (p. 629).Social skills can always be refined through effort and training so it is definitely possible for all of us to improve if we have the desire to do so. That next dinner appointment may have more relevance than you realize. Effective networkers regularly use social events as a chance to build professional relationships so it's important to utilize these opportunities.

The importance of reputation is connected to social capital. In our day-to-day working lives, fellow educators often speak about other teachers, some of whom you may or may not know. People whom you have not yet met may already have formed an opinion of you―-justified, or otherwise. Hence, your reputation may play a role in your next job interview, whether you realize it or not-. Most of us have probably been told things about fellow educators, both positive and negative, and it's a fact that bad news seems to travel quicker than good―-a sobering thought. Psychological studies, such as Tetlock’s (1983), suggest that our initial impression of an event or person often influences how we interpret later information, often leading to bias (p. 285). Therefore, first impressions and reputation may influence how we think of the same topic at a later stage.

Endeavoring to have social capital and maintain a positive personal and professional image could be beneficial the next time you apply for a job, since your professional reputation may have preceded you. Good luck!



Baron, R. A.,& Markman, G. D. (2000). Beyond social capital: How social skills can enhance entrepreneurs’ success. The Academy of Management Executive, 14(1), 106-116.

de Janasz, S.C., & Forret, M.L.(2008). Learning the art of networking: A critical skill for enhancing social capital and career success. Journal of Management Education, 32(5), 629-650.

Social capital. (2012). In Oxford Online Dictionary. Retrieved from <>

Tetlock, P. (1983). Accountability and the perseverance of first impressions. Social Psychology Quarterly 46(4), 285-292.