Wise Words From A King: Tips Fresh Graduates Need For Navigating The Corporate Jungle

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The man before me exudes a stately aura, poised in a dark suit and burgundy tie.

With over a decade of managerial experience across various industries, multiple awards under his belt and 182 endorsements (and counting) for skills in recruitment and management, King Chang is undeniably a HR maven.

I, on the other hand, am undeniably intimidated, gleaning information about him in bulk from my laptop screen.

King Chang’s LinkedIn profile is nothing short of impressive, the more I scroll, the more nervous I get

Yup, you guessed it. Prior to meeting King Chang in person, my impression of Shopee’s Regional Talent Acquisition Manager is gradually formed through the blatant stalking of his LinkedIn profile. Given his seniority and accolades, I briefly consider addressing him as “Mr Chang” or “Sir” in our email correspondence, slightly worried that an absent salutation might appear disrespectful.

Sitting opposite me, King gives off friendly soccer-dad vibes, quite unlike what I was expecting

Thankfully though, such fickle concerns are allayed when a 3D, real-life King graces me with his unassuming presence. No suits are worn and all stiff, monotonous pleasantries are avoided. Instead, this dynamic 46-year-old warmly welcomes all my questions without any judgement. He sits across me in the cafeteria in a hoodie and joggers, openly spilling wise tea on how best to survive the corporate jungle — especially if you are a fresh graduate entering the workforce.

1. Enjoy your work, even if it means exploring multiple options to find your best fit

As a manager currently overseeing a recruitment team, this marketing and advertising graduate is far from what he originally set out to do a decade ago.

But does he regret it? Absolutely not.

“My first job was actually marketing,” King chuckles, then pauses. “It was absolutely the worst thing ever.”

A stifling top-down corporate culture in his first company left little room for original ideas. Disappointed and discouraged, King left. That was when he entered the recruitment field to give it a try. Little did he know then that this would eventually be the area he would excel in. Now, he is thankful that his younger self took that leap of faith.

“From there I found that, okay, I didn’t like that [aspect of my work] but liked this [other aspect]. And I just kind of went in along with this direction.”

King talking to undergraduates at Shopee’s career fair at NTU

So now, King encourages young people to spend time exploring their options before narrowing down on a specific role. He reasons that the first couple of years in the working world should be spent experimenting with different roles in various companies. This is useful for individuals to gradually discover where their skills and passion really lie.

He understands, of course, that practical concerns regarding job stability and financial security also plague people’s minds. Hence, experimenting with different jobs to shape one’s career path may not be an option for everyone who first enters the job market.

Nonetheless, King stands by his view that individuals should ideally be able to find some fulfillment in what they do. Only then would one be motivated in the workplace to press on when the going gets tough.

2. Assimilating isn’t easy, but your attitude in a new work environment helps… a lot

A group of new hires during a staff induction event in Shopee

After being in seven positions across several companies and accumulating years of experience in navigating workplace environments, I am curious to learn from King if easing into a new position gets easier with each subsequent transition.

I’m assuming it does — but to my surprise, King tells me otherwise.

He explains that no company is identical; physical space, culture and people vary greatly. And such factors interact to influence how seamlessly an individual integrates into the environment.

If anything, placing a judgement on a new workplace environment when first entering it could prematurely stunt opportunities for personal growth. Instead, King suggests keeping an open mind when assimilating into a new employment endeavour.

Open discussions in the workplace provide a fertile ground for original ideas to take flight

Having the ability to humbly accept constructive criticism from superiors is a big plus. But it’s even better if you feel brave enough to suggest innovative ways of completing a task, or actively share fresh ideas and solutions with your team. This way, you not only contribute positively to your work environment, but are likely to create unique and valuable experiences for yourself in return.

This, at the end of the day, is a win-win situation.

And perhaps, even before you realise it, the once foreign workplace might transform into a second home.

3. Fail, that’s the best way you’ll learn

“Fail,” King announces firmly, looking at me dead in the eye when I ask him for a piece of advice he wished someone could have given him when he started out his first job.

“I tell my team now to fail, but I think nobody likes to fail, right? They are afraid of failing. But you should fail, because it’s best to learn from your mistakes.”

While he is a proponent of learning through failure, King acknowledges that for individuals who are working hard to prove their worth, failing may not be the easiest thing to do.

Failure is never the end; it merely opens up a path for self-improvement and excellence

Therefore, to assuage any apprehension his young team may have towards failing, King ensures he provides ample support for every individual there. He does this by actively creating and sustaining a nurturing work environment, one that welcomes mistakes and champions personal growth.

Polaroids of King’s team in his office

No question is a stupid question. In addition to maintaining an open-door policy that allows for all queries to be heard and answered, King sets time weekly to check in with every member of his team. I quell my surprise when he mentions that he spends a minimum of thirty minutes for each person, though I can’t help but think: oh wow, that’s a lot of time.

“I always tell people that it’s okay, the idea is that I’m here so you can ask me things. My time is for you… you’re not wasting it.”

And as he completes that sentence, I silently pray that all my future bosses are as supportive and encouraging as King is.

Don’t worry, I’m praying that the same happens for you too.

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Feeling lost? At Shopee, we grow in cohesive teams under the guidance of supportive mentors. If you’d like to discover your hidden potential with us, do check us out here!

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