The quest for inner growth

The quest for self- improvement is a quality that needs to be nurtured long before one embarks on a task. Every other day I receive resumès in my e-mail asking for a chance at an interesting career. After opening the mail, I usually scroll down to look for anything, that makes me want to read further and usually it would be the section on hobbies and other activities.

I must admit that I am particularly drawn to those who have excelled in sports and activities that are not work related. Besides this, conferences, meets or expeditions be it a scout jamboree or leadership training programme will help the resumè stand out too.

The sports you took part in while in school can bring benefits to your career The sports you took part in while in school can bring benefits to your career

During one team-building programme I conducted for young executives of a company, I had an interesting conversation with a participant who talked about his college days and how he and his friends used the great outdoors to their benefit while living on a tight budget.

“We would go camping, trekking and fishing during college break. We wanted to go to Sabah but had no money, so we took up part time work in a fabric shop and even set up a roadside stall selling fruits we bought from the wholesale market! Up in the air: The group unable to contain their joy and excitement as they wave their hands.

“Finally, we raised enough money to get to Sepilok, Sabah. We also managed to climb Gunung Kinabalu,” he said adding that he and his friends would try to make a yearly trip just to be together.

When I left, I was thinking of how I could fit him into my company. Although he did not have the relevant experience, I was willing to train him as a trainee facilitator because I was encouraged by his attitude.

A quick assessment told me he was creative (from the way he went about raising the money for his trip) and curious in his quest to seek information. He also had self-motivation (the limited funds did not deter him from being adventurous) and was a team player (he made a collective effort in raising funds and wanted to keep in touch with his friends).

There is one quality that is immediately obvious from a resumè that includes a list of extra-curricular activities and that is the writer’s quest for knowledge and self improvement. There are also some things that will never change with time, regardless of which day and age we are in, and that is the desire for growth

If we dwell further into this topic we will also find that it is not about the conferences or the number of training programmes that one has attended. In fact, it is about the attitude towards learning. The desire to question and the keeness to know about whatever that’s happening around him. It is about wanting to be better. Despite the rapid changes in the training milieu, employers still want and need the same thing — an individual who takes it upon himself to grow and does it with a great attitude.

My corporate contemporaries have complained about sales employees who would not go any further to reach out to a bigger market because they cannot speak a different dialect or language as a reason for not venturing out. My contemporaries are disturbed that their employees are not taking the initiative to learn a language or dialect on their own and instead expect their employers to formally hire speicalists to teach languages.

Employees cannot demand to get training as training is not a right. An employee is expected to constantly improve himself and keep up with trends in the market place because being paid a salary would mean they are expected to add value to the company.

Employees are expected to be independent Employees are expected to be independent

On my first job, that was exactly what I was told. Being young and fresh, I was naive to think that I would be given the opportunity to learn and be an asset to the company.

How shocked I was when my boss took me into his room and told me that he was cutting my pay because I was learning too much at the firm! “If I pay you to learn then you are gaining more than me, so I should not pay you so much.”

He highlighted the reality that organisations pay for talent. The more talented you are and add value to the business, the more you will be paid. You are not paid to learn in the company. You are paid to apply what you have learnt. So, before one can apply his knowledge he must first acquire it even before he sends out his resumès.

This takes the discussion back to extra-curricular activities while in school and colleges.

To make these activities work for you during the interviews, always relate it to how it can help you perform better. For instance, tell them you were a King Scout in school and that has taught you to lead and keep a group of people with different personalities together. Talk about the challenges that you have learnt from all your activities that were not course-related and how you have learnt to network with others.

Also remember not to overdo the focus on extra-curricular activities. This may lead the employer to think that you will be distracted and that you will not put the job as priority.

Extra-curricular activities are meant to help you at the interview, so chart it carefully for a winning number.

This article is extracted from Workable Tips by Paul Kam in StarEducate, Jan 15 2012 issue.

Paul Kam is a lawyer by training. He has worked with private and public sector leaders and has designed and led several transformation, alignment and strategic change initiatives. With his understanding of market conditions in various industries, he is passionate about shifting and aligning mindsets and behaviours of leaders and employees. He is a member of the Malaysian Institute of Management and is also a certified team profiler and a life and wealth coach.