On 15th May, AIESEC Singapore had the third networking session in our ‘Thrive in Adversity’ initiative. We were privileged to have Cathy Chang from Rakuten Viki, Yujie Tag from McKinsey & Co., Walton Zhang from Rystad Energy, Gary Chan from Lomotif, Sally Yeo from Saltine Communications, as well as Ruo Mei Chua from SUTW Impact Consulting. The theme for the session was ‘Self Discovery and Career Planning’, for which Ruo Mei shared with us her valuable stories and advice. Besides this, we also learned a lot about leadership, persuading others, and what to focus on in school. We would like to share some of our main takeaways from the learning topic sharing and networking space.
Self Discovery and Career Planning
- Ruo Mei acknowledged that we are in scary times, where it is important to find what anchors us. Not all storms harm us, and some end up helping to clear the way.
- Start a system to collect data points, which will help narrow down what you are good at or passionate about. These data points can involve:
- What you enjoy
- When were the times when you came alive
- When were the times when you lost track of time?
- Things, environments, types of people, types of work that drains you
- From these data points, you can work towards finding your ikigai, or raison d’être. This should involve skills that allow you to succeed in your job.
- If you missed out on some opportunities to discover ourselves, it is fine. Discovery is a continuous process, which stops only when we die. This discovery need not come from things like internships. Instead, you can simply think back on the previous time you felt happy and how you could recreate it.
- Ultimately, each of us is like a different plant. We need to take the inside out approach to match our strengths, personalities, likes and dislikes to jobs of similar nature.
- Ikigai + Kaika + Time = Mankai (Calling/Mastery). Take time to discover yourself and wait for your calling.
What to focus on in school?
- Ruo Mei mentioned that the degree is more important in terms of preparing one on the thinking framework (the ‘how’ of thinking) rather than the ‘what’ of thinking. Students should place more emphasis on the skill sets that can be developed from their course of study. For example, CEOs who studied engineering were thankful that the course taught them problem-solving skills and systematic thinking. These skills helped them to be a better manager.
- Gary also talked about the importance of understanding the fundamental skillsets when it comes to learning. He raised an interesting comparison between two applicants — the first had appeared to have extensive experience, but was unable to answer his coding questions on the spot; the second did not appear to have as much experience but was able to code on the spot perfectly. Unfortunately, the former was good at the ‘what’ but not as good in the ‘how’. The latter was favored and is not part of the Lomotif team.
What if I’m interested in fields unrelated to my course of study?
- Walton mentioned that it is good for youths to try out roles unrelated to their course of study. He shared his personal experiences in exploring different roles in his company and then finding consulting to be a good fit. Even though he came from an engineering background, he was able to bring in additional revenue for the firm through consulting. Ultimately, companies see what people can do for the firm, beyond their past experiences or degrees. He encouraged youths to see the bigger picture and not settle for what they are currently doing.
- Ruo Mei also encouraged students to approach SMEs, startups, or non-profit organizations to gain experience as these companies allow students to gain greater exposure and learn more on the job than larger companies. Her advice to youths is to be daring and take the first step in approaching companies or organizations to suggest ways that they could provide value for the organizations.
How do I effectively convince/persuade others?
- Sally suggested to youths that if what they want to convey does not come naturally, then the next best way is to practice it as if preparing for an exam. One good way is to listen to how others speak, such as in TED Talks, and break down elements that are common. She warns against using expressions like “I feel”, which comes out as fluffy — instead, phrases like “Based on my past experience/expertise” are usually more effective. Often, youths do know what they are talking about, just that they need to impress through facial expressions and voice also.
How should I lead others in teams?
- Cathy shares that managing a team involves getting to know their individual and personal characteristics first. It is important for leaders to be transparent about things like ideology. Besides this, they should be aware of how each team member prefers to work. Ultimately, a leader should be an enabler and a mentor, who does not micromanage but hold his/her team members accountable.
- Sally added that she tries not to stick to hierarchy and instead focuses on being accessible to everyone. To her, it is important to be the boss that she would want to lead her if she was an employee. On top of what everybody else wants, what the team itself wants is more important. As such, it is important to find out what drives them, what makes them wake up in the morning, and what they would tear down walls for. If the leader gives the team what they want, they will also do their utmost for the leader.