Project Y to Z: Hindsight 20/20 from the Class of 2008 to the Class of 2020

This is the first of a seven part ‘Project Y to Z’ series

Project Y to Z is a ground up initiative spearheaded by three university students—Jessica Lee and Ray Leow from the Singapore Management University (SMU), together with Lim Xuan Zheng from Nanyang Technological University (NTU). They may be a small team of three, but their ambitions for this initiative are far from small. Their hope is for Project Y to Z to be a community catalyst that brings Gen Yers and Zers closer together by sharing experiences, encouraging interactions and sparking conversations. In this project, they lay bare the realities of past job search experiences told by Gen Y 2008 graduates in Singapore who survived the Global Financial Crisis and lived to tell the tale. 



By Jessica Lee, Class of 2020 Graduand, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

We are living in extraordinary times and we see that our Gen Z friends are having it tough. That’s why we are here to help, because we can and we want to!

Three university students. Two months. One goal.

My friends, Wei Jian Leow (Ray), Xuan Zheng Lim and I wanted to inspire and empower current job seekers to get a step closer to securing their first job amidst this trying period. Coming together as a team, we are here to support fellow graduating batchmates through our ground-up initiative: Project Y to Z.

The mindset with which you approach present problems and the immediate actions you take will determine your future. This point was highlighted time and again through the personal stories of the class of 2008 graduates we had spoken with.

SMU alumni such as Chen Weili, Aldric Chen, Chng Li Ming, Julia Hee, Woo Jian Sheng and Lionel Gao have graciously shared with us their stories which we are extremely honoured to be able to feature to our readers.

Here are just some of our favourite learnings from this Project Y to Z series:


Take Your First Step with Chen Weili [Read Interview]


"I always believe in not closing the door on yourself." – Chen Weili


Sometimes when you look at the job description, you feel that the role’s requirement is beyond you and you are underqualified. There’s no harm sending the resume—if you don’t hear from them, so be it. […] You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. If you like the role, just try it.


Stay in Motion with Aldric Chen [Read Interview]


"Have a goal, plan ahead and work towards it relentlessly—don’t stop." – Aldric Chen


Sitting back, today, waiting for better times to come around is the exact wrong thing to do. If you want to win the competition in spring and summer, my friends, it’s not about hibernating in winter, it’s about training in winter and giving yourself an absolute advantage, to put yourself at the front of the queue when things turn around.


Be Resilient with Chng Li Ming [Read Interview]


"See the first role as a stepping stone to something potentially better." – Chng Li Ming


I would say unless your financial situation allows, don’t reject a pretty decent job offer that comes along, just because you’re holding onto one ideal role that you want to land yourself into, because you might go into that along the way on your second or perhaps the third role.


Never Say Never with Julia Hee [Read Interview]


"I actually did everything that I said I wouldn't do." – Julia Hee


Life is always about choices and your choice to hold onto a certain idea or ideal may not necessarily put you in the best position. You may end up doing more harm than good by merely pursuing what you think is best for yourself, or pursuing what you want at the expense of meeting real needs.


Get Your Game Face On with Woo Jian Sheng [Read Interview]


"To get the job, you need to get your game face on and show your eagerness for the job." – Woo Jian Sheng


Make an effort to understand the company and competition. Keep in mind that employers are looking for people to provide solutions, not problems. When there’s a problem, you have to come up with a few solutions and present it to your boss. Show that you are more than willing to roll up your sleeves to get your hands dirty to get the job done.


Boost Your Employability with Lionel Gao [Read Interview]


"Adapt: Embrace uncertainty" – Lionel Gao


I would encourage your current cohort to not be overly concerned at this time and look at the big picture. This is year zero of what could potentially be a 30 to 40 year career—really a drop in a bucket! It is only worrying because it is the first step into the unknown, and it’s not really a great first step into the uncertainty. But one thing I’ve always found is that uncertainty is not always a bad thing, there are positives too.

Did you find an insight that resonates with you from our list? There are more to be found in the next six features of this series.


Success is a journey, not a destination.


As we wrapped up the last of our interviews, our team reflected on the process we had taken from envisioning, executing to finally evaluating Project Y to Z. During these 8 weeks, we have received messages of encouragement and support from our readers, about how these stories have widened their perspectives and given them a little motivation in their job search.


Here’s one last message our Project Y to Z team would like to leave you with:


A dream without a plan is just a wish. 


When this dream of connecting graduating Gen Z-ers with Gen Y-ers whose job searches had been affected by the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was first conceived, we weren’t quite sure how we would go about it. However, one thing was clear. We knew and believed in our ‘Why’. Our ‘Why’ is to support, inspire and empower our fellow graduates, the batch of 2020. Our ‘Why’ kept us going, and the ‘What’ and ‘How’ just naturally fell in place.

We also knew that success is never achieved alone. This would require the combined effort of our team and our alumni complementing each other’s skill sets and having a heart to help. Once again, a big shoutout to our awesome alumni who generously set aside their time and wholeheartedly shared with us their experiences.

Helping others is a privilege and an honour. We are honoured to have been able to do this for you, our readers. If you’ve secured a job already, congratulations! We hope this inspires you to reach out to your peers who could use a little boost. Share with them this summary filled with important lessons. A little help can go a long way.

If you’re still on your search for your job, hang in there. Our seniors survived the Global Financial Crisis and ultimately thrived. You are capable of overcoming the Covid-19 recession too.

Let’s overcome these uncertain times together. Thank you for supporting Project Y to Z!


This article was originally published on LinkedIn and has been republished with permission.