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Going against the grain
Published on Friday, 08 Jul 2011
Photo: iStockphoto

Generation Y members - born between 1980 and 2000 who are exposed to digital technology - are generally perceived as slackers. Classified Post talked to four Gen Y workers to find out if this perception holds water.

Kang Wan Chern left her job as a tax accountant with Deloitte to become a full-time writer with a weekly business publication in Singapore. She says she is inclined to place more importance on pursuing her writing career at this point.

The 29-year-old Kang has always strived to break big stories and is selective in what she covers. With a strong desire to learn the ropes, she has managed to expand her knowledge and build her media contacts. She puts her proficiency in accounting to good use when covering business and finance news.

In making career choices, Kang says salary is always a pull factor, as well as good relationships with colleagues and contacts. Having superiors who can guide and help her to advance in her career is another key consideration.

"After four years, I left tax accounting because I did not enjoy the job and was certain I would not excel in it. I was still young and commitment-free at the time, so it made sense to switch to something I enjoyed. I wanted a career in journalism even though it meant taking a pay cut and demotion," she says.

"I think a successful individual is not so much someone who is highly paid with a large office, but more of someone who is focused, enjoys and takes pride in what he or she does for a living. To that end, I expect my employer to take note of my efforts and reward me accordingly," she adds.

Being single, Kang says the need to draw the line between work and personal life hardly arises. She is also passionate about her work, which allows for plenty of rest on weekends.

Kang is not the only one who has faced career challenges. Lee Yiing Yiing, a Singapore-based dentist, left for Melbourne when her husband found a secure work in Australia.

"I previously had a suburban practice," she says, but moving to Melbourne meant leaving her comfort zone and going to the city where general dentists tend to refer more difficult cases to specialists, and the range of treatment is more preventative, such as scaling, polishing and filling.

In her previous job, which lasted four years, Lee attended to more interesting cases such as surgical and full-mouth rehabilitation. Relocating also meant she had to adapt to a new work environment.

"I miss my colleagues," Lee says. "Some patients have become my friends, too. Building up a patient base here [in Melbourne] means starting from scratch once again."

However, Lee strongly believes that if one has the will and passion for one's work, relocation does not set one back but actually enhances one's career.

"I previously had some reservations about cultural differences, but I now feel that it is an advantage rather than a concern," Lee says.

"Relocating is not an easy process, but at this day and age, it does get easier. Besides, it is always good to have a change in environment where we can see things from a different angle," she says, adding that she spends 10 per cent of her time on career advancement activities. 

Job switching and relocation have not deterred Kang and Lee from rebuilding their careers. Meanwhile, two young graduates have also proven that they are not your typical Gen Y slackers.

Having worked for only a year in an insurance company in Singapore, actuarial executive Tan Sze Huey, says she expects to catch up with what she has been tasked to do. 

"I have always wanted to try out different things," the 22-year-old says.

"I believe that if someone works on the same task for way too long, it will become mechanical and stop the person from thinking how to improvise on the current procedure," she adds.

Tan says she expects to get constructive feedback from her employer that would help her identify her weaknesses and strengthen her capabilities.

Like Kang, Tan believes that learning opportunities and relationships with colleagues are important.

Carrie Leung, 22, another young actuarial executive with an insurance company in Hong Kong, is also driven to pursue a career in this field.

"The path of an actuary is not easy, having to endure the nightmare of sitting for actuarial exams and the countless experiences of failure and frustration. It would be a pity to quit after having put in so much effort to overcome these hardships," she says.

Leung works hard to be a competent actuarial analyst with a good "actuarial sense" and aims to be a qualified actuary in the longer term. She says she is up for the challenges of the job, which presumably offers good prospects.

It seems like nothing can hinder these Gen Y workers from charting their own career paths and to fulfil their true calling while giving back to society.