How I finally figured out the keys to having lifelong fulfilling careers.
We have been told that there is a particular path of life for everyone of us: study, get good grades, go to university, graduate, get a job offer from a reputable company, work 9–5 (and more), move up the ladder, then 40 years later we can be happily retiring.
If this traditional career worldview is still valid today, there would not be 88% employees who said they don’t have passion for their work (Source).
When I was young, every time when teachers asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I felt like a failure for not being able to come up with an”answer” that really fires me up. My eyes were wide in admiration when I see my classmates rose and spoke with a dose of certainty of who they wanted to, and probably will become 10–20 years later. Call me rigid, but this question keeps popping up from the back of my mind every once in a while since then.
I do have many passions though, which when I look back, they can all be categorised under the “Personal Growth & Development” category. Since I’m interested in helping people grow professionally, it made sense for me to start my career in Human Resources and spent a decade on both the demand and supply side of talents.
My first 5 years was very exciting and fruitful, at least on the surface. As a Corporate Management Trainee at an International Hospitality Group, I got lots of exciting project exposures, working with brilliant people around the world and across various fields. I gave it all in, and my hard work was rewarded with 3 promotions in 5 years. But stress accumulated, together with inhumane workload and hours, challenges and responsibilities that were way beyond what I could handle, I started to question what positive impact could I bring to the world if I continue to work like this.
There were times that I’m forced to make perfectly logical “business decisions” that were actually unethical and unfair to my value standard. This internal value conflict was particularly torturing to me, because, no matter what “hat” I was wearing at any given moment, I just cannot do things that go against my core values as a human being.
My Quarter-Life Crisis
You must have heard of that Dec 21, 2012 was supposed to be “the end of the world” according to the Mayan Calendar. So if things remained unchanged, on the “doomsday” I could see myself sitting at my desk working on those tedious, meaningless spreadsheets; and on my last breath, what I could do might just be looking out to the window from 60/F and say goodbye to this suffocating city Hong Kong. This picture was so depressing and frightening to me that eventually at age 27, few months before Dec 2012, I decided to take a career break to find out what I should do with my life.
And, I had no plan of what’s next, yet.
In Chinese, it’s called “naked resignation”, which refers to those who quit without another job offer on hands. As you can imagine that brought some hassle to those around me. And that was the first time I realised resignation can indeed be “rejected”! I told the Director that I did not want to be in Human Resources anymore. She screamed at me: “Then what ELSE CAN you do? Be a programmer and join an IT startup?! Come on, be realistic, girl! Go take a vacation and come back to work! ”
I was furious — not to her but to that limiting worldview. Just because I worked in a field for 5 years then I become “destined” to a profession ??! This is such a humiliation to human potentials.
Since then, I have decided not to conform to the BS rules that the society places on us to define my future anymore. There must be a better way. My Way.
Soon after that, I made a decision to fully utilise my sabbatical to experience something new and meaningful. I heard an inner calling telling me to organise a Service Trip to India and Nepal, so I started finding companions from random forums. Eventually, a total of 8 of total strangers who met online from Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong spent a month in India & Nepal spreading love and warmth to several local villages. (We have published our photo stories HERE)
After the life-changing trip
That 1-month service trip was definitely a life-changing experience. After many reflections and cultural stimulation, I had the below epiphanies:
- People living in the villages do not have many resources, but they are always so happy with broad smiles. Happiness can be very simple.
- If I cannot explain how I can add value and help people in less than 3 sentences, my work might not be that utterly meaningful to the human race. Like I had the challenge to explain to the village people that why there is such a job category called Human Resources in the first place. Human is not “resources”!!!
- The core reason for my job dissatisfaction stemmed from the mindset that I had “delegated” my personal career development plan to my employers. So if we take back the control of career development, instead of waiting for parents, teachers, counsellors, bosses or even the government to tell us what we should do, we are in the driver seat of our future.
My Next Step
My new discovery prompted me to share these ideas with younger ones — how I wished someone has told me earlier! I also figured out that my greatest passion and job satisfaction comes from helping people to bring out their best, which is coaching! Moreover, my amiable personality, my quiet and attentive nature, and my strengths in connecting the dots and seeing the unique qualities in each person are my resources to become an outstanding coach when I have the proper training and practice.
So that was what brought me into Career Coaching since 2013. I joined a local University and worked as a Career Advisor for 3 years. I’ve learnt and grown so much and have been building so many truthful relationships with my tribe in those 450+ coaching sessions. And right now I’m initiating projects on Talent Development independently.
As my coaching evolves, now I think I’m ready to step up and spread the message to a larger audience. It is my life purpose, and calling, to empowers you to find yours, so you can thrive and be your best. Together, we can contribute to the greater good and make positive impacts to the humanity. I believe I can inspire others by my stories, my message, and my real actions. I have taken my life as an experiment, so you can skip some of yours when we share and learn from each others’ experiences!
Most people are leaving schools with no idea on how to choose and manage a career that makes them happy. Therefore I want to fill the gap where traditional education does not prepare us for managing our careers.
It’s not just about vocational training to get us on handy technical skills to fill the constantly changing market needs, which very likely will become outdated in 3–5 years.
To lead happy lives with fulfilling careers, we all need to have the 1.autonomy of career decision makings, as well as the 2. flexibility in adjusting our course when our life preferences and priorities change over time. Ultimately, we can all become a Career Coach for ourselves.
Career management is a critical life skill that everyone needs to learn and develop. It is just as important as other life skills such as Love & Relationships, Money Management, and Health & Emotional Wellbeing etc which unfortunately are neither taught in schools.
The world does not need us to be robots. Time to free yourself from the “path” that the society told you to take, my friends. Master your career landscape and brave up to move ahead!