(No, not today. But in April!)
I don’t feel my age. I feel like I have the same vigour, sharp mind, and fieriness as I had when I was 18 — 20 years old. Like, come at me, Imma take on the world!
I want that fire within to keep burning bright even in old age. There’s so much to experience, so much to learn, so much to conquer. But it’s not just about living life fully and boldly.
If not for this fierce drive — in a way, killer instinct — I don’t know where I’d be.
“Many people die at 25 but are not put in the coffin until 75. The learning stopped for them early.” ~ James Altucher
I joined the civil service right after graduation, only to leave a year later. I don’t think I make an ideal civil servant.
I had to forge a new path for myself from scratch. My Honours degree in International Relations, my stellar university grades, my experiences studying overseas, my work in public policy implementation, my internship at another government body … very few people in the private sector cared about those! Some harsh post-graduation truths all students will learn:
- The only employers who care about good grades when they hire are the Singapore civil service and some MNCs
- Internships are no big deal these days; almost every student has internship experience
- Even if you studied a relevant subject, most of what you studied will be outdated by the time you graduate
Anyway, I realised that I must reinvent myself or stare down the abyss of unemployment forever. But what sort of niche should I carve? I had some vague idea that I wanted to work in “communications”, whatever that entailed. Because I thought I had the strong language skills needed to “communicate”? Because working in “communications” just sounded fun?
But I didn’t know how to break into “communications”. There are no industry-recognised certifications that I can study for, like PMP for project managers or SAP certification for IT professionals. People show that they know “communications” by … doing. But no employer would let me “do” any “communications” unless I had X years of minimum experience. Well I’ll get the experience if you would just give me a chance!!!
So 2015 was a challenging year of trying to find my place in the world. I interviewed for many jobs, most of which left me feeling disappointed and inadequate. In desperation, I interviewed for a junior role — an internship, in fact — at a Public Relations agency. I didn’t care, I just wanted to get my foot into Public Relations, where I thought my future in “communications” lay. I even agreed to a pay that was a small fraction of what I made in the civil service (whatever it takes to get my foot in, right?). After I got the job, I went out of my way to read about the industry, network, and whatever it took to get up to speed. Unfortunately, things did not work out for various reasons, so after several months, I was back in the job market.
Then, a miracle. A month after I left Public Relations, I clinched a content marketing job at a digital agency. Never mind that I did not even know what content marketing was, I got a job! With a much better pay! Oh and it was a “communications” kind of role where I could apply my strong language skills! That was the beginning of my current content marketing career and an ongoing learning journey. Training or certification is not enough to succeed in content marketing or the wider field of digital marketing. There are so many emerging and evolving digital and technology trends that best practices get outdated fast (case in point: SEO in 2012 versus SEO in 2017) and you just get used to relearning things. An effective content marketer also needs some basic knowledge of other digital marketing fields like SEO and UX, so I learned what I could from colleagues from other departments.
Today, I am doing a stint at a different agency. I don’t dare get too comfortable with where I am though. I keep up with the news, I speak to people in the field, I try digital marketing tasks in my personal life, and I seek skills that can augment my knowledge. It helps that I have a genuine love for learning and an unquenchable curiousity about the world.
It’s also a survival thing. I know too well how it feels like to be irrelevant and not good enough. I also know that the day I stop learning will be the beginning of a slow slide towards averageness, then mediocrity, and finally, oblivion.
“Do not go gently into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
At first, I didn’t understand these lines from Dylan Thomas’s famous poem. Why wouldn’t Thomas want his father to have a peaceful and gentle death?
Then, one day, I just knew. It’s an exhortation to live boldly and fight fiercely against whatever’s holding us back in life. Killer instinct raging till the very end.
I live by those words now.
Recently, I got back in touch with a friend. He works in the aviation industry and is currently based in India.
My friend and I are both civil servants who left to carve niches for ourselves in the private sector. That’s a rare thing by the way; people who join the Singapore civil service often stay for a very long time. “How did you get to where you are today?” I asked “How did you succeed?” He told me his story, and one thing he said struck me:
“The civil service makes it easy for people in it to stay on and become comfortable over time. Work becomes predictable while salaries increase. Most who have decided to stay on will often remark that they might never be good at anything else apart from what they are doing. I supposed they would never actually know, would they? :)”
So here’s to another year of being alive and well, of raging against stagnation, of living life with a burning passion and unquenchable curiosity!
Happy birthday to me.
WordPress image source: 27707 @ Pixabay