We were doing spring cleaning the other day and well, you guys might think that this year’s spring cleaning was a lot easier for me with my broken leg, since I get to sit around and watch my helper and the wife do most of the work. Sadly that’s not the case for me. I hate it when I’m made to sit on the sidelines and watch instead of being part of the action. Like watching the two of them doing things slowly and wishing that I could just do things myself instead. Maybe I shouldn’t complain that she is slow since I believe she does read this space once in awhile. (By her, I mean the wife :x )
So while we were cleaning out some of the old stuff we actually found one of our many old photo albums. If I’ve not talked about it before, I shall say it (or maybe again), I’m a MAJORRR hoarder. I guess it’s one of those Cancerian things where you are overly sentimental to everything around you, living or not. I dug out an old photo album and saw some pictures of us taken during our school days.
There are a lot of things that my wife and I do not agree on these days, from waking up early or sleeping in, to where should we have our dinner, but one thing for sure that we both agree on is that we had some of our best times of our lives during our school days.
We were doing computer engineering and we managed to nail ourselves an industrial internship. During my time, not all of us were given an opportunity to get an industrial internship. Most of the students had to complete their internship in school. We were kinda blessed (or so we thought) that we both managed to get one.
Sadly, it was a major waste of time throughout that period of 6 months. We did not exactly learn much from the company nor did my mentor really help me in my academics or even work. My mentor was almost never there, he was focusing on his own project, the company gave us tasks which were unrelated to my studies and in fact, they didn’t even prepare a computer or a proper desk for us until the 2nd week of the internship. (Yup, I remember all the details even after over a decade. You’d better not offend me.)
I hated my internship experience and I swear to take good care of my interns when my time comes. I might not be the kindest guy around but I make sure I do what it takes to ensure they learn something from their short stint with us. I’m proud to say that I think I did keep this promise to myself. (So I guess I did learn something from my internship after all - How to be a good mentor for interns.)
Over the years, I’ve handled so many batches of interns and nothing beats the feeling of seeing them graduate and do well in the industry. I’m not exactly the easiest person to work with but like I’ve said, my main objective is always to make sure that you learn as much as possible about the industry to have a clear understanding if you want to pick it up as a job or career. There are a few interns that I still keep in contact with. Not exactly as mentor and mentee anymore but as friends. In fact, one of my closest co-workers now used to be an intern of mine.
I met Labour MP Desmond Choo recently for a game of basketball. Nah, that didn’t happen but it could possibly happen soon since he is also a basketball fan (although he is a Detroit Pistons fan and I’m a Lakers fan but I’m fine as long as he ain’t a Celtics or Lebron James Fan... I guess.)
But the meetup DID happen! He was sharing with us more about the Youth Career Network (YCN) under NTUC. For a start, a lot of you guys might still think that NTUC is just for rank and file workers but NTUC is actually getting very ready for the future and nothing says “future” more than our youths. They have a suite of career programmes to support a youth life cycle from a student to a graduate and to a young working professional as well as programmes such as Learning Journeys, Career Advancement Workshop, Mentorship Programmes which taps into NTUC’s network.
The whole idea of YCN is rather simple but yet I must say that it is a pretty impactful one. It’s a career support for youths and young working people. I’m not sure about you but I do have such experience where my younger peers, ex-interns, or even peers will come to me for career advices. I’m not trying to “old Wong sell papaya” (I mean, I’m a Leong after all) and say that I know a lot better but I guess I *cough* look a bit more approachable.
What about people who doesn’t have a “Smith” kind of friend in their social circle? Or youths who are too shy to approach their own peers? The basic concept of YCN is such that they have a network of industry practitioners who are career coaches and mentors to guide and provide peer to peer career support to the youths. Besides just “talking” and giving you advice, there are four key aspects of YCN:
- Quality of mentors: Thorough screening process to ensure relevant industry experiences, coupled with training for quality assurance. Which means ah, not every Tom, Dick or Smith also can just anyhow sign up and become a mentor. In fact, these volunteer mentors will be given basic training to ensure that on top of just having industrial knowledge, they will also know how to handle youth and their problems. (I mean career problems lah, not like i love you and you love me that type of problems.)
- Virtual platform to support physical mentorship sessions: Working towards a mobile-based system to support the mentorship process; to match, manage and measure.
- A 4-month journey: Not a one-off mentorship session. Deep engagement between mentors and mentees. You might ask, (or rather actually I did ask) what happens after 4 months if the person still needs help? The duration of 4 months is just a rough guide, the ultimate outcome of this program is about building bridges and relationships. Like I mentioned, most of my interns became my friends and not only do they ask me for help, we also catch up as friends and in fact I do learn from them as well.
- Labour Movement’s Network: The YCN is not restricted to any particular school/org/association, full access to the Labour Movement’s and their partner’s network of mentors who are on board this programme. FOC too.
As much as I have some experience working with some other MPs or Ministers, I would have never imagined myself sitting down and actually enjoying a conversation with an MP. I might be biased considering that we are both basketball fans, new Dads (his girl is 15 months while my boy is 12 months), and both really good looking. (Fine, he wins. He has better skin. And a better bod.) That aside, I must say that Desmond is really easy to have a conversation with.
To be honest, I was doing some CSI homework before I met him in person. By that I mean Wikipedia and I read that he was actually a police scholar and I got to admit, I was quick to judge. I mean how much could he possibly know about students like myself who got caught in crossroads about having to decide whether to take a private degree first or to join the workforce with a diploma? Since he is a scholar he probably doesn’t have much experience in part-time work or like my constant worry of being obsolete when I’m 40.
I was wrong. Dead wrong.
I was really impressed by the understanding Desmond has of our youths these days.
What if I spend another 3 years taking a degree and end up not using it for my career?
What if I jump into a career and I end up not liking it at all? Does that mean I’ve wasted time?
Generally, youths are more often unclear about their career plans. They look for opportunities to build their own career identity. Youths are faced with varied career options available but lack real industry information to help them make informed decisions.
During the candid conversation peppered with some of his personal stories, Desmond shared some of his observation as well as experience. One of it is something that I always tell my peers and interns as well….
You are probably going to work until your late 60s which means you will probably be in the workforce for a good 40 - 50 years. Is it really that important to find “the one” right at the first job? Even if you spend 2 years to experience something to find out that it isn’t exactly the best fit, it’s only 2/50 years. It’s not THAT bad, right?
Sounds about right.
I guess a lot of young people these days have the luxury of waiting out and taking their time to find the job they want since most of their parents can support them. They can go without a job for 6 months to do the whole “eat pray love” thing before even sending in their first resume to end up quitting their job after 3 months because it isn’t what they really wanted. I feel that you will never really know what is it you really want until you try.
And on a totally unrelated note, Desmond also told us that he used to crack jokes during management meetings when he was still a newbie and junior in the whole foodchain at work. And the feedback he got from his mentor was, “If you want to tell a good joke, you have to make sure it is funny.” His joke didn’t make the management laught but it sure did make my day. LOL. See the importance of mentors?