Education and Career in an Unpredictable World
Since the pandemic started, youth and young adults entering their fields of study and potential career paths have had to endure unprecedented changes on a global scale. They have had to liken themselves to circus acrobats, flexibly changing and adapting their expectations, skill sets and goals with each new wave of news updates and local mandates. How can young people today survive and find a footing in this changing global market?
Internships and Work Opportunities: Be Flexible and Ready to Work Online/Remotely
From RE:NEW’s Career Panel Discussion back in November 2021, we heard from five successful professionals in various industries and their views on the role of education in landing the right job. Almost all of them agreed that though obtaining a degree has its importance in getting your foot into the door of a company, work experience and proven skills in your portfolio will speak volumes.
“As important as it is to score scholastically, it is also important that you aim and target at any work opportunity that you can so that you can build a robust portfolio,” said Ed Lu, IT Manager for Taco Bell.
Some college students and graduates back in 2020 had their spring and summer in-person internships canceled due to lockdown measures, barring them from precious work opportunities. Others at that time found their companies shifted to online internships which allowed them to still get work experience remotely. If for some reason, lockdowns happen again or new mandates restrict travel, online options are the way to go.
According to a recently updated article from Indeed, a leading job search site, employers are also adjusting and responding to the need for more online, remote working opportunities. The beauty of this is that it opens up the possibility to intern for non-local companies, even international ones. So young people today may be able to cast their net wider than they originally thought possible.
Stay Up-to-Date with Continuing Education and Professional Skills
To keep up with the skills expected for remote work opportunities, however, showing potential employers that you are engaged in continual educational and professional development will show that you are not just sitting around when work opportunities are scarce. And even interim and seasonal jobs not necessarily related to your career of choice can enhance certain skill sets and show the character development needed to succeed in your dream career.
“Learning is nonstop. Learning isn’t just in school,” commented Paul Auyeung, Strategic Project Manager for Channel Bakers, an ecommerce agency. “As soon as you graduate from school, what you learned from school except the basic stuff or the technical – really foundational stuff – all the latest technology you learn from school probably is outdated as soon as you get out. So you need to keep learning. Certificates – yes, useful – probably will get you landed to a pretty good job as well.”
One of the career panel speakers, Queenie Ho, who owns and directs her own bridal dress and photography studio, had a variety of jobs in the creative field after graduating with a degree in graphic design. She did not always find the jobs themselves very valuable but she was thankful for the people she met along the way and the strong portfolio it allowed her to create to land other jobs that provided her the skills she has now to run her own business successfully.
“God still used my different life stages to prepare me,” said Queenie Ho.“Prepare to fail and learn from the mistakes and also allow room to grow but probably in a different direction than you expect.”
Non-Traditional Routes for Business: Having the Right Mindset, Adaptability and Willingness to Take Risks
For those who have dreamed of working for themselves and owning their own business, Queenie Ho suggests that such aspiring business owners have, “to be very open-minded, very positive. This person has to be ready to handle any new challenges and learn new things.”
According to a US Chamber of Commerce article about post-pandemic business trends, ecommerce, cashless and contactless payments and the need for delivery even for local products will continue to grow. The idea of being your own boss may not require a certain degree or certificate but still requires experience and skill.
“My current boss, who built a multi-million dollar company…he didn’t even graduate,” said Paul Auyeung. “But he got the right trend and he can communicate really well and sell really well so he’s really successful in that business.”
Even having skills in areas that support growing trends like ecommerce can help you succeed: “The agency I’m in right now is not just doing ecommerce. Ecommerce is just one of the services. The agency started with advertising,” commented Paul Auyeung, referring to the fact that Channel Bakers was one of the first advertising agencies in the Amazon Advertising environment. “So the businesses supporting it is advertising logistics…how stock flows, how you move stock, how you sell stock and also how you sell overstock as well.” So having knowledge and abilities in a variety of areas can increase your value in today’s market.
Finally, just taking that step of faith and trying your hand at something new can give you hands-on experience and a good idea of whether you like a certain career path and are good at it: “Try it out yourself. You guys are still young. If you want to sell something, try to sell online,” said Paul Auyeung who suggested retail markets such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.
Non-Traditional Routes for IT: High Tech Companies Offering More Opportunities
According to panel speaker Peter Poon who works as a Senior Engineer at LinkedIn, a lot of high tech companies are looking to hire those from non-traditional backgrounds and offer training before possibly hiring them into the company: “We believe that you can be successful in a high tech company without a computer science background because we believe that smart people are everywhere.” These apprentice programs open up seasonally at major high tech companies such as AirBNB, Pinterest, Google, IBM, etc. and last anywhere from 6 months to 5 years before possibly offering a full-time position at the company.
“You should have some technical background but it doesn’t have to be a solid technical background,” explained Peter Poon. “We just want to see how you think, what is your thinking process, whether you communicate well, whether you are a person we would like to work with and if you are chosen then you will be put into one of the teams.”
Through this program, LinkedIn has hired a diverse group of people. They hired a homeless person in Seattle, a former meteorologist mother of 3 who took a career break to take care of her young children, and a dietician no longer interested in her field who eventually became a project manager at LinkedIn.
“The company will actually give you hands-on training, 20% of your time just to dedicate to your learning and we assign a mentor to mentor you and guide you to progress to the next step,” said Peter Poon about the benefits of the program for those who are looking to change their careers toward the high tech industry.
Though the pandemic has changed career goals for many, it has helped young people adapt and become more flexible which is important for the future. No matter what setbacks we may face, there are always new opportunities out there we can pivot toward. Armed with the right skill sets, work experiences and mindset, young people can be resilient and find new ways to succeed.
Even if unexpected challenges do arise and there are perceived failures, we can always trust God’s promises that, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand” (Psalm 37:23, 24) and “the righteous falls seven times and rises again” (Prov. 24:16). We must trust that God will always watch over our ways and entrust ourselves to His wisdom and plans when it comes to our career path in this unpredictable world.
Written by: Elizabeth Hughes | Art work by: Jessie Lo