The call came on a sunny afternoon.
At that time, I was sitting in a small office near the Central Business District, stewing in misery. I was in a career rut that I did not know how to get out of. A year or so ago, I had left the civil service to explore other career paths.
The problem was that I had no concrete skills or certifications that the private sector cared about. With just one year of work in the civil service, I had not much career track record to brag about either.
I tried and failed at a few things, before taking up a grossly underpaid position at a PR agency. The work was crap and I knew I had to leave soon. But what would I do next? I wanted to get out of there, but I was afraid of leaving too.
There was no caller ID displayed when my phone buzzed. Thinking that it was perhaps a recruiter or hiring manager, I took the call right away. It was neither.
The person on the other end was a male who spoke in a friendly voice. I had no idea who he was. He said he knew my Dad from work and had a lot of respect for him. Somehow, he heard that I was looking for a job. Was there anything he could do to help?
I think I teared up on the spot. Yes, please help me, I’m lost!
I walked out of the office and sat on the dusty wooden staircase outside. I told him about my career rut and how stressed it made me. I’ll see what can do, he said.
Over the next few weeks, he called every now and then. Mostly to find out more about the work I’ve done so far and the kind of work I was interested in.
One day, he told me about an up-and-coming job portal that targeted young job seekers. He said he knew the two founders, who took a break from their Ivy League studies to start the portal.
I never heard of this new job portal. But I had nothing to lose, so I created an account and browsed the job postings. One of them was for a content marketing executive position at a small digital agency.
I had no idea what content marketing was. But the ad called for someone who had strong writing skills, and I had that. I polished up my resume, crafted a succinct cover letter, and sent my application.
To my surprise, I received a reply a few hours later, asking if I could do a phone interview.
The phone interview lead to a written test, which lead to an interview with the hiring manager, which lead to an interview with the managing director.
I passed them all.
That was how I got started in the dynamic and fast-paced world of digital marketing.
I sometimes wonder what life would have been like had that call never happened.
Would I still have gotten into digital marketing? When I was studying in university, I planned on working in the foreign service, or becoming a journalist. Digital marketing never crossed my mind once.
I would most certainly take a longer time to figure out my post-civil service career on my own. Maybe succumb to depression or anxiety along the way.
Back then, I was inexperienced and naïve. Trying to navigate a harsh and confusing world that was different from the school environment I had always known. Not knowing anyone who could give me concrete guidance and advice.
Then I received the call.
What amazed me (and still does) was that it was a simple gesture of kindness. Yet, it had such a huge impact.
The stranger and I never met before, but he threw me a lifeline without expecting anything in return. All he did was listen to my problems, recommended a solution, and then it was up to me to take action. I could never thank him enough for his help.
Today, I still work in content marketing. I’ve had opportunities to work with brands from various industries, including some big names. I’ve also gained a variety of skills, met and worked with people from all over the world, and got exposed to many new ideas.
My stint in the civil service seems like a lifetime ago now.
I’ve always wanted to tell this story, but never had a strong reason to, until recently. I went through some tough times that felt almost as dark as when I was trying to find a post-civil service job.
So, I’m recalling this incident, and sharing it with you too, as a reminder that:
- Kindness is not dead; it exists even in the darkest of times. There are people out there who care
- People can be kind to us, but we need to be willing to receive kindness, for it to work
- Simple gestures of kindness can have a profound effect
- Just taking the time to listen and connect is one of the most powerful gifts
I aim to pay forward the many gifts of kindness I received over the years, whenever I can. At least make someone feel less alone, lost, or sad.
If my gesture of kindness turns out to be a life-changer, then that is a bonus.