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Define what the right career choice means to you



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In an open letter to graduates and their parents, editor Anthony Wong explains why working in big-name companies is not necessarily the recipe for success.  

It has been a hectic week for primary school graduates and their parents as they scrambled around town for spots in their dream secondary schools.

The definition of dream schools for most local parents is simple, it has to be a big name.

They believe these schools have better teachers, more resources, enable their kids to gain more exposure and more importantly help build the foundation for landing a big-name major in a big-name university and then a career with a big-name company.

I won’t argue with them whether big-name schools indeed have more to offer, instead I would like to point out to them what makes them think the schools with all the resources on hand will be willing to provide their children, if they are not standouts.

Let’s face the reality, parents and students. It is a competitive world, it can be a disaster to attend a big-time school but not be the big-time students.

Take the case of my nephew Matthew as an example. He was always considered a high flyer in primary school and he made the family proud by landing in a band one secondary school.

He was by no means a mediocre student, but the competition in a big-name school was too intense. He went through five uneventful years at the school before being forced to move to a band five school after the HKCEE.

Let’s face the reality, parents and students. It is a competitive world, it can be a disaster to attend a big-time school but not be the big-time students.

The poor boy was depressed for months for not being able to study the A-levels at a big-time school. He felt humiliated wearing a school uniform with the badge of a band five school sewed to his chest pocket.

Nobody, not his parents, not even Matthew himself expected anything good out of a band five school, with little resources, bad teachers and even occasional threats from triad members.

Well this was what they imagined, but less than three months at his new school, Matthew became a name familiar with the school principal and all the teachers because of his outstanding performance in English.

He went on to be the school’s English debating team captain, chairperson of the English club and editor of the school’s newsletter.

Those were the resources and opportunities that he thought he was guaranteed when he was admitted into a big-name school. He finally found them in a band five school which he thought of as hopeless, where he went from being Mr. Nobody to Mr. Big Shot.

Matthew never landed a big-name major in a big-name university as his parents and him had expected, but two years at the band five school had helped him become a strong, confident young man who knew his goals and priorities.

Building on his strength in English, he became an English teacher.  Now he is working at a non-big name secondary school, helping out other “Matthews” who considered it a shame to be attending the school.

I hope the story of Matthew will lead job seekers, especially fresh graduates to rethink their career plans.

If you feel you are just a spectator watching other high flyers succeed, it might be time for you to move to another company.

Getting an offer from a big-name company does not mean success. The real question is how you make yourself stand out from all the others and grab the best training opportunities and chances to get promoted.

If you feel you are just a spectator watching other high flyers succeed, it might be time for you to move to another company. Why be Mr. Nobody when you can be Mr. Big Shot somewhere else?

I have heard some accounting students say: “I am only going to apply for jobs in the Big Four because they are the best.”

I don’t doubt the greatness of the Big Four. Sorry son, aiming high is great, but you are not putting yourself in the best position to be successful with a goal like that.

There are thousands of graduates who knock on the doors of the Big Four every year, but only a handful are selected and among them only a few are able to move up to be partners.

If you play by the numbers, you are certainly putting yourself in a bad position to succeed by only applying for Big Four jobs.

Don’t let the name of a company or a school define you, build your own legacy.

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Anthony Wong

Human Resources Magazine Hong Kong
Anthony Wong oversees the editorial content for Human Resources in Hong Kong for print, online and social media. He is responsible for reporting and analysing the most relevant HR trends in Hong Kong as well as growing Human Resources readership in Hong Kong through online and print product and industry events, conferences and award ceremonies. Prior to joining Lighthouse Independent Media in July 2015, Wong spent seven years as a senior reporter in South China Morning Post specialising in reports on the local job market and education industry.

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