Developing the right mindset for success
In such a career and success driven society like Hong Kong, it is common to find students presenting their CV with an abundance in work placements and 'A' grades, but with a deficiency in non-academic activity, and Vitamin D.
When applying for a job, from an employer's perspective it is simply not enough to describe yourself (in cliché terms) as a team player, hard worker, self-motivated and so on and so forth. What makes a candidate stand out is where they can show how their experiences led them to develop these characteristics.
Taking my personal experience as a keen rower in my university years as an example, I have summarised in 5 key points on how taking part in this demanding team sport led me to develop the skills and personality which reflect in my work ethic and respectively help towards my career.
1. Early bird catches the worm
One of the first things many people ask when I tell them I'm a rower is, "Wow, don't rowers have to wake up really early to train?" Although that is true, making a habit of waking up early has integrated into every day life. In the professional world, time is a currency. Generally speaking, having more time in a day means having a more productive one too. Putting into perspective, waking up one hour earlier every day, would mean that you have gained 15 full days in a year - a little scary isn't it?
2. The value of teamwork
It is funny how common it is for a candidate to refer to themselves as a team player when they have had little to no prior experience working in a team. Rowing has taught me a number of things when it comes to this. Firstly, that every team is only as strong as its weakest player. Every success relies upon supporting one another and encouraging each team member to perform to the best of their ability. This goes on to my second point, which is that there is no "I" in team. A company cannot grow and be successful if every employee is only there to further their own success.
3. Self- motivation and taking initiative
Although seemingly in contradiction to point #2, having to train for and compete in solo rowing events has also led me to being an independent worker. It takes a certain personality (or in my case, certain experiences) for someone to be able to take initiative and motivate themselves. Very few employers want an employee who needs to be micromanaged every step of the way, and instead appreciate someone who is able to work productively, independently.
Joining a rowing team doesn't guarantee you a gold medal at the end of the season. It takes an immense amount of dedication and commitment in perfecting the perfect stroke, working as a team, and hours of training at early hours of the morning, under the scorching sun or even pouring rain to bring you closer to that finish line.
Applying this analogy to my experience in recruitment, you can't just expect to close a deal in one day. It takes weeks and months of interviewing candidates, shortlisting them for certain jobs, waiting for clients to review CV's and interview candidates, and even then you are not always guaranteed a job offer or a job acceptance. In other words you can't jump from A to Z in one big step - you have to take all the little steps in order to achieve your goal. Hard work and hard ethic = High reward.
5. Commitment and perseverance
Speaking only out of my personal experiences, rowing as a team sport demands commitment and perseverance to no degree of any other endurance sport. Translating this into more relatable terms, it is inevitable that you will face rejections or set-backs in your career. What is important is that you don't let this slow you down, but instead are able to pick yourself up, learn from your experiences and vow to improve or do things differently, commit to working hard, and persevere to achieve your goals. Only then will you learn that achievements and success in life are limited solely by the magnitude of your drive to achieve them.
So whether you join a football team, basketball team or chess club, not only can you consider it a non-academic interest or hobby, but you will always gain incidental skills that no number of hours sitting in the library, or studying a book would help develop.
Images courtesy of CUHK Rowing.