It is a scary thought to wake up early every morning and report to work, be answerable to your bosses, and meet assigned targets. All of this and not the work itself sounded stressful to me after being my own boss and had done part-time hustles most of my career.
To continue my business or to join employment? This has been my dilemma since mid-2020. Thanks to COVID-19.
I founded Future Leaders Internship Program FLIP and embarked on an entrepreneurship journey in 2014 with the passion of empowering youths in identifying their careers. Getting my business started literally from my maternity bed, I am super proud to share that it grew and gained popularity with many top International schools and companies thus allowing me to work with academia and corporate. From zero industry partners, we built partnerships with over 80 companies and over 10 education institutions. We developed many interesting programs with top MNC and private companies to introduce career conversations and develop 21st-century work skills in high school children to provide them with early exposure to careers.
I was enjoying my flexible work hours as a career consultant at one of the primary law colleges and progressively expanding the FLIP brand. Within a year of balancing both FLIP and my side hustle one fine day, I was invited by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to deliver FLIP’s Be Career Ready module to one of their high-performing school in Gombak.
I was elated. Work grew too fast to latch on to both FLIP and part-time and it became vital to be devoted to FLIP if I were to see it grow from strength to strength. It was a tough verdict but I concluded to quit my part-time job, built a team of 3, and also succeeded in recruiting a partner for FLIP.
Those were my most amazing and memorable years at FLIP. We provided Internships to high school students at MNCs, delivered modules to empower counsellors to be trained as career coaches, delivered beyond the classroom modules, entrepreneurship modules, design thinking modules. All of these programs were developed with the objectives to develop 21st-century work skills and reduce talent mismatch. 2018-2019 was the pinnacle year. Impacting over 1000 students through our various programs gave me a sense of fulfilment. Then comes 2020 and brings along unexpected and unprecedented events.
At FLIP, we realize that for efforts to be effective and impactful, activities need to be coherent and carefully planned, integrated into a program of careers and employability with clear learning outcomes. As such although everyone was switching to an online mode of learning it defeated the purpose of FLIP’s objective of offering experiential learning to students or you could say we were not agile enough to move online.
Schools across the globe started to close and companies were scrambling through work from home processes. We went on an auto-pause mode as our fate is pronounced by our stakeholders. We did numerous virtual presentations to schools and government agencies during the initial conditional lockdown but none was able to conclude contracts due to the circumstances. Every cloud has a silver lining for FLIP it was an approval letter by the Ministry of Education permitting us to run FLIP programs in all national schools. A great achievement I would say as we had gone through a lot of documentation and presentations. When will this letter be useful only time and COVID will predict. Regardless it is an achievement that I am well pleased with.
My journey with FLIP rewarded me with a galore of awards for myself. FLIP too received an award as the Best career consulting firm in Malaysia by APAC Business Insider. (Not that I was aiming for it or had applied for it nor did I buy the awards ). 2020 was not that bad after all. Unfortunately, cash is king to operate any business and it can’t sustain with awards and recognition. I was in all thoughts to re-strategize my business – develop virtual internship modules, licensing, and many other ideas but the need of the hour was employment.
So here I was like millions of others riding on the waves of seeking employment. It was not an easy task especially when the trend for all companies was retrenchment and not recruitment. Immediately I needed to reframe my thoughts, look for an experienced career coach, work on my linked in and CV, and start my job search. Luckily, I met an excellent coach to guide me.
My gratitude to FLIP I had made good friends and social connections with whom I could share my interest in looking for opportunities. In the process, I shared my CV with around 75-80 of my contacts, applied for 15 jobs posted on various job portals, was called for interview by 3 companies, got rejected by 2 companies and never heard from the rest. Finally, I was called for an interview in September from who I received an offer letter in December and started work on the 4th of January 2021. I was officially an employee and not an employer anymore.
The top seven tips from my seven months of job search journey are:
- Looking for a job is a full-time job in itself
- You need to keep searching and applying
- Just applying on posted jobs is not enough
- You need to connect and communicate with hiring managers
- Linked in presence and branding is important
- Building Social connections are important
- Don’t get disappointed with rejections.
God willing your motivation thrives and provides you with an opportunity like I was by UNITAR International University. Thankfully I am in a role that allows me to do what I am passionate about and I have strength in nurturing and empowering youth in their career journey.
I do ponder my role as a founder of FLIP and my role as a manager at UNITAR International University, what has changed? Being an employer and employee are very different but both experiences are an institution in itself. The landscape of work has shifted and it is all about transferable skills, I am happy that I am able to apply my experiences gathered through my entrepreneurial journey to my current role as an employee. I am able to understand the mindset of my colleagues and my superior, putting myself in both shoes makes me more empathetic and a better individual. It is about adaptability and being agile.
I look forward to my new experiences and learnings. It may sound rhetoric but does it really matter being an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur?