It’s 80,000 Working Hours & 40 Years Before Retirement

That is why your career choice matters.

Speaking at a Scholarship Guide webinar as part of the Raffles Institution Scholarship & Career Fair on 3rd June 2021, Mr Felix Cheok, a veteran in the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry, put into perspective the total amount of time an average person spends working before retirement – to emphasise the importance of one’s career development.

“How meaningfully will you spend the 80,000 working hours ahead of you?” Addressing an enthusiastic 300-strong young audience, he hoped to reinvigorate the great minds of tomorrow by implying the significance of a career decision and have them start thinking about their future today.

YOLO in the Big C Context

“Career Development is an ongoing process of choosing a career, gaining knowledge, improving skills, and advancing in one’s career path. It is a lifelong process of learning and decision-making, bringing you closer to your ideal job and lifestyle.”

Resonating with the YOLO (You Only Live Once) motto of today’s pop culture, Felix encouraged students to approach career decision-making by choosing to do what they love to do rather than to “feel miserable doing something you don’t like for the rest of your lives”.

He noticed that youths today exhibit the following behaviours as they step into the workforce: (1) not planning for the future, (2) following the crowd on career choices, (3) being easily influenced by peers and job trends, (4) accepting a career path dictated by others, (5) diving into any offer that comes their way, (6) lacking in motivation to establish a career plan, (7) aimless with no personal life goals, (8) having unrealistic career expectations.

He urged students to view these trending behaviours in a positive light and to leverage them as a self-check list, highlighting that the desired outcome is to be an empowered individual capable of choosing one’s career path.

Support System

Throughout the webinar, as he detailed steps to career decision-making and articulated the career development lifecycle, Felix emphasised the importance of a “support system”, one that comprises people and elements that shape and contribute to an individual’s career development. They include the students themselves, parents, family, educators, schools, society, government, and influential leaders that people look up to.

Whilst he assured students that they are not alone in their career decision-making, encouraging them to always turn to their support system for inspirations and guidance, he also reminded them not to forget to give back and return one’s gratitude in time to come.

5 Steps to Career Decision-Making

Felix introduced five steps to career decision-making: (1) Discover Yourself, (2) Explore Options, (3) Make Decision, (4) Take Action, (5) Evaluate.

At the self-discovery stage, he concocted a simple formula: Abilities, Aptitude & Interest + Personality & Motivation = Career Choice. He suggested to come up with three career options for starters, consequently pointing to the three respective college majors to explore. He highlighted that having identified a niche does not mean that one is anchored to a career option for life. Instead, the decisive move will offer a much-needed direction in the pursuit of self-discovery in a sea of career options.

To demonstrate the vast availability of career options and how individuals should never limit themselves in their exploration, he cited the travel trade as one example. There are multiple subsectors within the travel industry, including airlines, accommodations, destination management, and travel planning. Diving further into the multifaceted hospitality segment, Felix listed an array of functions, from revenue management, sales & marketing, events & catering, front office, and housekeeping to interior design, estate management, and many more. Individuals passionate about the travel industry can pick, mix, and choose one or more disciplines to specialise in, with an abundance of education avenues to support their interest.

He advised students to immerse themselves in their career interests and explore informational interviews, job shadowing, internships, service-learning, civic honours programs, and student organisations to gain the first-hand experience. He encouraged students to read more, read widely, keep up with current affairs and trends, and continuously seek to upskill. In today’s intelligent age, where it gets increasingly hard to retain fleeting digital information, Felix suggested cultivating the practice of taking notes for future references.

He stressed that career development requires an investment of time, commitment, and perseverance. He added that having a vision is crucial because it contributes to career advancement as we go full circle and back into cycles after cycles of career deliberation. At the same time, we must maintain self-belief to keep our vision alive. Felix underlined the importance of taking action, where all talk but no action is like a rain cloud with no rain. Having a definitive goal, timeline, and an actionable and realistic plan with a thorough evaluation of possible barriers and critical factors is key to success. As said in his own words, “Proper planning prevents poor performance… There is no shortcut to success. It is all hard work.”

Interview Tips

In the Q&A session that followed, the student audience was particularly keen to hear from Felix, his perspective as a seasoned hirer, on how to present themselves in job interviews and tips on overcoming interview anxiety.

  • “As a hirer, the candidate’s personality is the first thing I consider, as it gives me an idea of his or her suitability for the role and with the company.”
  • “Employers will want to know how you can contribute and how long you plan to stick around. Never say in a job interview that you have not thought about the future.  Always show that you have a plan for yourself in the potential role within the organisation. Say things like – ‘I would like to lead a team in time’ or ‘I want to earn my way to a promotion.’ Be honest and positive, and illustrate your desire to excel.”
  • “Stay composed and breathe! Always prep yourself thoroughly before an interview. Anticipate questions, not just on-the-job knowledge but also about yourself, finding the right words to describe yourself to help the hirer get to know you better. Rehearse.”

A Promising Outlook

The webinar concluded on a promising note, with students engaging intently and seeking expert advice, demonstrating what Felix had hoped to instil at the start of the session – the motivation to start career planning and thinking ahead for the future.

He reiterated his opinion on how one should pursue their passion. “No one is good at everything”, as he related his personal experience on how finance was never his strong suit, but with commitment and practice, he learnt on-the-job, and now excels at it. For those seeking to discover their aptitude, he suggested that they continue immersing in what they like to do, taking on internships, finding every opportunity to practise, and being open to evaluations and criticisms. He believed that talent emerges over time.   The bottom line is to “love what you do” because, after all, you could be spending 80,000 hours at it!

The intelligent age will precipitate demand for hard skills in eCommerce, user experience, big data, machine learning, software development, process automation, robotics engineering, cloud computing, information security, human-machine interaction, and blockchain – roles built on and enhanced by technology.