Monday, August 16, 2010

Q & A

For the past six months, I’ve had the honor of speaking to over two million Korean listeners each and every Wednesday morning on EBS FM. The opportunity has started in me a passion for career advice, personal branding, and persuasive storytelling. Though the show will be cut from it’s roster this next term, I will continue to write tips and advice for job hunters and for those interested in how to make for themselves a great career. Please continue to view my weekly posts.

For this weeks show, I decided to answer a few of the various questions I received over the past six months at my email address

A change of pace is good, so instead of focusing on just one area for today’s article, I’ll try and answer a few questions.

The first question was one I received a short while ago. Jong-Sub wrote me the question:
"I'm a university student. What advice do you recommend I take to become a good leader?"
Thanks for the question, Jong-sub. It’s a great question! It’s awesome that you are interested in this aspect of your future.

The first thing I’d recommend is that you take a look around yourself. I assume you’re in university, which means that you are involved in a club, involved in your classroom activities. These are great places to develop leadership. What are you doing to take on more responsibility in these areas? To me the best kinds of leaders are those that know how to serve the needs of the group they are a part of.

To me there are many kinds of leadership. So, take a look at your leadership style. As well, read tonnes of books on leadership. If you are not finding what you need at school, reach out and get involved in various clubs around town. I am a big fan of Toastmasters. It’s a communication & leadership club that teaches people leadership skills. It is an amazing opportunity!

As well, I’m sure there are youth leadership groups around Seoul, and in other cities. Check the internet, find out what’s available, and put yourself out there. Learn to serve, and from that learn to lead.

Keep searching, Jong-Sub. With questions like that, you are off to a great start!

The next question comes from a person with the cell number 6771. 6771 said,
“I'd like to start my career at an international NGO to do voluntary work. Do you think my priority is to improve my English?”
Again, another awesome question.

I’d have to say a big gigantic YES! I’m certainly not an expert in how NGO’s work in various countries, but I’d say that English would be vital in your ability to work with other volunteers, or to work with people in the country you’re going to work in. A quick Google search for NGO volunteering opportunities shows roughly 700,000 different links. I kept clicking on different links for about 10 minutes. All of them were in English. Now, I’m not sure how to look in Korean, so I cannot compare…but it seems fairly apparent that a large amount of opportunities are available for people if they speak English. In all, it really depends on where you want to go. Do you want to stay in Korea, and then probably you don’t need English as much. If you want to go work in Africa, or India or the Philippines, then English most certainly seems helpful.

A person named Min wrote me and said,
“An international company I’m applying to wants personal references. Who do I ask, and what should they say?”
This was quite surprising to me. I assumed that references were a part of the Korean job search process. Apparently they are not.

The reference finding process can be quite elaborate. Briefly, I’ll say that the first thing you want to know about finding good references, is that you do not use family members or friends. You’re going to want to select people who have actual knowledge of your ability to deliver the duties of a job. You want people who can provide actual proof of your work and your ability and your accomplishments, and your attitude.

You should ask your former bosses from part time work, or your former professors, or former people who’ve you’ve volunteered with, done an internship with, church leaders, etc.

Of course, I’m not sure if your references need to be written in English or not, but if they do, then hopefully you’ve got someone who can write a good letter.

Since it may not be a big practice here in Korea, I really recommend you go online and look at some samples of reference letters. Maybe take that into the people who you have asked to write your letters, and guide them to do something similar.

An important point to remember about these, is that if your getting someone to write a letter for you, I really don’t think it should be completely perfect. It shouldn’t say only your strong points. If there are not weaknesses, I think that sends a suspicious message. Keep that in mind. After all, no one is perfect….so we shouldn’t pretend to be.

Of course, be sure to select someone who’ll say good things about you?

What should they talk about? Well, as I said…accomplishments. Primarily, they should talk about things that pertain to the job your applying for. If you are applying for a sales position, maybe they can talk about your persuasive skills, your interpersonal skills, your communication skills. Maybe they can talk about your ability to learn quickly, work hard, etc.

Great question. Good luck.

The next question comes from Kim. He writes:
“I am a guy 32years old. i am running my own business but I hope to work at a company but I guess because of my age, I almost give up applying for any company. Pls give me any advice.”
Wow! Great question! From my perspective, Kim. You’re not too old at all! I really wish I knew more about your situation. What kind of business, how long you’ve been in it. I think entrepreneurship is a powerful training ground for success. I think about all the skills and knowledge a person gains from running their own business. You’ve got sales skills, management skills, logistic knowledge, marketing knowledge, leadership, self-motivation, and a whole lot of other skills.

Presumably, your company is still running. That means you have the ability to keep a company solvent. That means you are a smart business person. You also understand the value of customer service.

To me, you’re a great person for a job. I’d hire you. I am a big fan of the entrepreneurial spirit. I think more people should do it.

The question I think you should ask yourself is “do you really want to work for someone else?” I think once you get a taste for self-employment, that degree of freedom is hard to give up. But, working for someone can be a great benefit too. There is much less personal stress, I’m sure!

If you are interested in trying to work for a company, I’d look at selling my skills in terms of helping a company grow. Some people might be concerned you’re just getting into a company so you can relax and not work so hard. Assuming that is not your motive, you should absolutely maintain that entrepreneurial attitude, and go into a company interview with a sincere desire to make that company grow and get rich.

You may need to start at a lower position than you think is fair, but…that’s okay. With your skill and age and ability, I think you’ll advance rather quickly. But that’s just me assuming.

No matter what…don’t let fear hold you back. Go get your dream, Kim. That goes for all today’s listeners.

All for today.

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