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
Helping brands grow, getting that yes from customers, and embracing a creative mind—those are just three of the many reasons Dilesh Kumar, a SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business Class of 2019 graduate, is in love with marketing. While his journey after graduating in 2019 hasn’t been the smoothest, he continues to persevere and value every available opportunity to learn. Afterall, grit is living life as a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s check out what this marketing enthusiast has been up to!
Here are three key takeaways from Dilesh:
- There is no failure unless you stop trying.
- The magic happens when you step outside your comfort zone.
- Lifelong learning is no longer a luxury but a necessity for employment.
When did you graduate and what plans did you have upon graduation?
I completed the last ever exam of my university life in April 2019 with the official graduation in late July 2019. Shortly after my exams, I went on two graduation trips; first to Korea and then the second one to Bali. Those were also the last times I travelled given that most people has been grounded since 2020.
After my exams ended, I started applying for a full-time job around March and was hopeful about securing a job by July or latest, August. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I applied for more than a hundred full-time jobs from March till June but received zero invitations to interviews. I was disappointed and frustrated; I started thinking that maybe this was due to a lack of experience on my part. It then occurred to me that perhaps getting an internship was a better approach.
Share with me your internship application experience as a graduate.
Well, applying for internships was a better experience, in the sense that I was at least receiving calls from companies to attend interviews. However, it was not all good. When I went for the interviews, most of the interviewers asked me for one thing that you wouldn’t really find in an intern—experience! I believe many others would be able to relate to that feeling, of hoping to get internships to gain experience and skills.
I went for over thirty interviews before securing one at a startup called digitus.sg, a digital agency handling B2B marketing. Despite my lack of experience, they took a chance on me. My supervisors took time out of their busy schedules and taught me all the important skills from scratch. They gave me hands-on experience on how to use different systems such as Hubspot and Google Analytics, etc., essentially all the skills that companies generally look for in marketing graduates and even interns for that matter. I am very grateful to them for the opportunity that they gave me.
Dilesh (1st on right) with friends on one of his graduation trips
What did you do upon completion of your internship?
Like when I graduated, I looked for full-time jobs towards the end of my internship at digitus.sg. The internship gave me the confidence of finding a full-time role but once again, I received no invitation to interviews. This was mainly due to Covid-19 circuit breaker measures which was expected.
In June, I started applying for traineeships when the government launched its traineeship scheme. It started when a friend sent me the job description of a SGUnited Traineeship position, and I thought why not since there was nothing to lose. So, I continued to apply for other traineeship positions and received calls for interviews which was great given the situation!
Do you think that traineeships are the way to go to mitigate the rise of unemployment in Singapore?
Traineeships help when the economy is down and graduates are unable to find jobs to get that head start in their career owing to their lack of experience. The traineeships will help especially new graduates to stand on their own feet. The one-year timeframe of the traineeship is also sufficient for the trainee to gain the necessary experience to land a full-time job after the traineeship ends.
How was your interview experience for the traineeships like and how did that work out for you?
In the first round, an interviewer asked me what I wanted to learn and briefed me about her working style and the company’s startup culture. In the second round, I was asked to complete a competence test in the form of a content calendar.
Roughly over a week later, I was offered the role. Oh man I was extremely happy! At the point I was already deep into the long job search process.
I was excited to start in August 2020, to learn new skills and meet new people in my team, especially after being at home for months. My expectation was that this traineeship would give me the opportunity to gain more experience and learn more skills in marketing such as search engine optimisation (SEO), social media and much more.
I am glad that my team is a supportive one and we help each other out a lot. I really am learning what I wanted to learn, and I am glad I am growing professionally and as a person.
Give us an idea of what a day in Dilesh’s life is like these days.
Facing the challenges which will put me outside my comfort zone because is what gets me up every morning. One learns the most through these challenges.
I start my day by checking my email, my team’s group chat and Trello (a task management tool) for notifications on new or ongoing tasks. I would then go about completing them.
I have new interns now, so I will spend some time guiding them on how to do things just as how I was guided when I started my internship with digitus.sg in 2019.
What are three things you have learned since taking on this role?
- I have learned the importance of being detail oriented. The smallest details can make all the difference, and not getting small details right could cause a huge negative impact.
- I learned to learn from everyone—and not just from my direct supervisor and teammates but also from co-workers in other teams. This has helped me to grow and become better at what I do.
- I am learning how organisations function, how different teams each play an interdependent role towards business success, and how I can help teams that depend on my team to do our part before they can do theirs.
How do you plan to make the most of this 8-month traineeship?
The company has a few business units. My team which is the growth marketing team, is a shared resource amongst the units. I aim to expose myself to the different business units here, continue to improve my skills, and build strong people relationships that can hopefully evolve into friendships.
Dilesh (in foreground) with his co-workers
What is your boss like?
My boss is invested in my learning experience, often asking me what I want to learn and giving me the opportunity to pick up the knowledge. She also makes it a point to expose me to other departments, their projects, and learn how things work there. This is something that one might not find easily in other bosses and I appreciate her effort for that.
Is there anyone else you would like to give a shout-out to?
My supportive family—they remind me that there is a reason for everything and that it’s not about getting the job done in the shortest time; it’s important to see every rejection as a redirection to something better.
Before we wrap things up, do you have any advice for other internship and job seekers today?
Keep an open mind, don’t give up. Be hungry to learn and keep on improving yourself by learning new skills—this shows your hunger to learn and improve which sits well with employers. Never ever stop learning even when you have found an internship or a job.
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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