Hindsight is 2020 (#HI2020) is a ground up initiative founded and led by SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business Class of 2020 graduate Jessica Lee Yi Ling. In this series, she uncovers personal stories of resilience, courage and love amidst the crazy year that was 2020. Through the reflections and learnings shared in #HI2020, she hopes to empower internship and job seekers to improve their status quos and encourage aspiring entrepreneurs and volunteers to pursue their passions in 2021.
By Jessica Lee, Alumna, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business
Spreading positive vibes—that’s what Anna Quang loves doing. Despite having her original job offer rescinded, this SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business Class of 2020 graduate stayed resilient. Leveraging her network and strategically using the graduation break to hone her technical skills, she has since secured a full-time role as a Business and Solutions Executive at FPT Asia Pacific.
Here are three key takeaways from Anna:
- Count your blessings, not your troubles.
- There is no shame in asking for help. It just means you’re human.
- Be thankful for the hard times, for they have made you.
Hey Anna, how time flies. We were both in the same ethics module group in Year 2 and have since become Class of 2020 graduates. What plans did you make prior to our graduation last year and how did that play out?
Around two months prior to my graduation, I received a job offer in one of the biggest tech firms here and was happily planning my graduation trip with my family and an additional solo-trip in Vietnam. With those in place, I mostly focused on completing my final semester and part-time internship. Even when the circuit breaker was announced in Singapore, followed by news of cost-cutting implementation by various companies, I was not too worried about losing my offer.
Things, however, did not quite go as planned. Less than a month into the circuit breaker, I received news that my job offer was rescinded due to a new human resource policy introduced by the company.
What went through your mind upon receiving the news of your original job offer being rescinded?
The initial period was tough as I was totally unprepared for this. I didn’t quite know how to respond to questions on this job offer rescindment. Reaching out to others seemed a bit awkward, too, as I feared that they would think I was trying to ask for job opportunities from them. Plus, everyone was also facing their own set of difficulties, so the question I found myself asking a lot was: who am I to bother them and why would they help me?
“That period was without a doubt, the most stressful time I’ve ever had in Singapore.”
From that point, looking for a job pretty much became my new full-time job. I had to restart my job-hunting journey and networking all over again. That period was without a doubt, the most stressful time I’ve ever had in Singapore—living here all alone, jobless, unable to return to Vietnam and still having to pay for living expenses.
What did your family and friends say when you shared the news with them?
Honestly, I didn’t share much with my parents. I just briefly told them that I was still looking for a job and that many other students are going through the same difficulties. I didn’t want them to worry too much about me.
I did eventually talk to some of my close friends and seniors about this and they really helped me out. My ex-boss, my seniors and even a professional contact I first met on LinkedIn spent time with me, cheered me up and looked out for relevant opportunities that suited me.
Following this event, what steps did you take to boost your employability?
I actively reached out to seniors, even those without any mutual friends, not specifically for job opportunities, but rather for their experience in industries and companies of my interest. I was also keen to explore areas that I had not been previously exposed to but were in fact a good fit for me.
A typical day for me would be spent applying for jobs, tailoring my resume for applications, and preparing for interviews. In the night, I explored some online courses, like Python, Tableau, or basic Machine Learning and Cloud Computing for business students. Tech is my go-to industry, so equipping myself with such knowledge is always useful.
What kept you going?
One thing for sure was that I didn’t want to go back home and be a burden to my parents. I knew I had to do something. Instead of being overwhelmed and stressed, I consciously reminded myself to take things in my stride and work harder.
I was also well aware that I’m just one amongst the many other thousands of foreign students and workers in Singapore going through this tremulous phase.
Through this journey, I was incredibly grateful to have my friends and family as my pillars of support. In the mock interviews conducted with my ethics groupmates, the behavioural questions and role-play exercises they put me through were challenging but useful. I realised that in cases like this, reaching out for help is nothing to be ashamed of.
Shout out to my boyfriend as well, who is currently more than 15,000 kilometres away from me. His continued support made the experience more bearable. While he has personally gone through even more challenging times, he always there to pull me out of negative thoughts.
How did you manage to secure your current job and what was the interview experience like in times of Covid-19?
Anna and her SMU senior Alice Duong Nguyen
My dear SMU senior, Alice Duong Nguyen, whom I’m super grateful to, helped connect me with my current employer.
Due to Covid-19, all the interview rounds were streamlined into one. It was a four-hour online interview with the CEO, CTO and Solutions Director from a Tech company. When I went for the interview, I had not yet received my transcript and degree. All I could bring to the interview was my past working experience, transferable skills and my keenness to learn. In my case, I also chose to be very honest, about areas of expertise that I was not familiar with. This was followed by an interview with the HR team the next day.
How do you think you’ve grown over the past six months?
It has been a fulfilling learning journey for me thus far. Landing a job in a tech company has always been my dream. Here in my current company, I’ve been exposed to clients from multiple industries and at all different levels of seniority, including the C-Suite. Similarly, I am also involved in meetings and discussions with the internal management level.
While it’s still fresh in your mind, what would you say are the main differences between your previous marketing roles and your current business and solutions executive role?
I would say that the two require very different mindsets and focus. In Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing, my work largely revolved around strategic planning behind the scenes and tracking campaign results. As a solutions provider, I am at the forefront facing clients, gathering their requirements, and playing the role of a consultant sometimes. Interpersonal skills is of the essence in this role.
I think both you and I would agree that this graduation break was far from desirable. That said, what are some things you’re thankful for?
I’m thankful for all the hardship that I’ve gone through. If not for this experience, I may not have grown so much professionally and personally. I’m thankful for my family, all of my friends and colleagues who were always there to offer a listening ear and help too.
Now that things have stabilised in your new role, how are you spending your time in 2021?
2021 will still be another year full of challenges. I’m still new to my job and the tech industry, so I’ll turn my learnings from 2020 into a concrete plan for 2021.
This might be a little ambitious but I plan to earn at least two new professional certificates this year. Of course, I’ll try to balance it out with my hobbies such as baking too!
Any final words of encouragement for our juniors who may be struggling to find a full-time job/ may experience getting their offers rescinded?
This might be the worst year you’ve ever experienced, but who knows, you might just see the best YOU from this.
This article has been adapted from LinkedIn for republishing on The SMU Blog with permission. Learn more about Hindsight is 2020 here.
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