Office story: What is your purpose? Why are you here?

It starts with two questions hovering in my Company recently (and I mean “physically hovering”).

What is your purpose? Why are you here?

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The “flying” questions Credit to a colleague of mine for this pic

 

Few people confirmed to get any idea about its reason of existence in the office (we get used to seeing the balloons hung around during Women’s International Day or Vietnamese Women’s day instead), though I do think they both know about the “purposes” of these flying quotes. When I asked some about what they think about such ideas, they guess that these short questions may be reminders from the leaders to everyone working under such huge hierarchy to think about their purposes of applying to this firm at the first place before making complaints and perhaps have their senses of purposes which have been deeply buried under load of deadlines and working paper awaken. (haha I am trying to be sarcastic here)

Though I have not totally understood the whole rationale behind these ideas, its appearance reminded me about an interview of mine with some representatives from YSEALI which just took place one month ago. The interview was held with a view to choosing some youth leaders in Southeast Asia to attend a workshop on Power of Human Capital in Singapore during the first week of this December.

The name of the workshop sounds big at the first place but the details of the workshop fell short of my expectations with its main focus on skills only as the key element for getting in the workforce (and they may go astray from the main topic, which is “Human Development” not merely “Getting into the workforce”). Specifically, the participants are expected to leave the workshop with:

(i) the ability to articulate the value of developing employer-driven soft skills;

(ii) enhanced soft-skills themselves;

(iii) the ability to impart this information to others in their communities; and

(iv) an expanded network of employers, mentors and trainers who they can reach out to for on-going professional growth and employment opportunities.

Accidentally, human development is among my favorite themes of interest, therefore I decided to go for this opportunity and spent one day working on the application form. There was one question in the application form, being “In about 250-word personal statement, please tell us what about your background and/or interests make you competitive for this particular workshop.” I choose to challenge the above-listed targets by making my own statements in the answer as follows:

“When I first get to know about the workshop’s call for application, I thought that this workshop was perfectly suitable to my liking. However, with a further look, I find myself confused at reading one expected aim of the workshop: “the ability to articulate the value of developing employer-driven soft skills”. As I strong believe that a sustainable employment relationship should be based on a mutual beneficial value exchanges, the idea of being employer-driven makes me feel uneasy. This idea has driven many students I have known to run into the rat race for getting into prestigious firms by participating in short-term soft skill training courses, surviving through interviews by behaving in the ways that people expect them to do without thinking about the value that they will contribute to society when doing these jobs. Lots of them, as I observed, left the workforce after 1 or 2 years of working. Some came back to schools to get another degree or jumped from jobs to jobs with vague ideas about what to do next. The matter was not their lack of soft skills but their lack for a sense of purpose. Therefore, I do think it’s time to rethink on the way that we approach the issue of youth development or human capital development by not merely providing them with short-term aids like career fairs or soft skills but paying more attention to building a young workforce driven by their own senses of purpose for the sake of society’s goodness.”

As I expected, my answer captured attention from the interviewer during my interview with representatives of YSEALI and they have asked me to give further explanation for my answer. I brought out the ASK model (Attitude – Skill – Knowledge), in which I do think that Attitude is somewhat like the sense of purpose I mentioned there. I also stated that such a young person driven with a strong sense of purpose will be more likely to make right career decision and less likely to be a job jumper, which I believe to make up great cost for the employers. Considering about the cost of jumpers (which is commonly incurred by some with good skills but in lack of strong sense of purpose) does more good than harm to the employees. The interviewers challenged me that a sense of purpose may be of more importance for recruiters from NGO than ones from private sectors and they hold an assumption that private companies will prefer ones possessing good skills to ones living with purposes. No matter how much I try convincing with my own arguments, it seems that my ideas did not match their intentions when organizing this workshop and it comes as no surprise to me that I have not received any phone calls from them since then.

Coming back to the story of “flying” (“hovering” should be more suitable but “flying” seems to be much more imagery) questions, I feel a little bit more consoled that my idea about “the purpose” appears to be shared by my employer. Though I am not sure about the determination of the leaders towards promoting the sense of purposes among its employees, the “flying” questions somehow show us that large companies do pay attention to “the purpose”.

After writing all these things about the purpose, maybe I will spare some minutes thinking about my purpose of getting here.

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Note:

1. About YSEALI: https://youngsoutheastasianleaders.state.gov/

2. About the workshop: Find the call for application Annoucement_YSEALI Generation Workshop in Singapore_140912

3. I want to mention this post of mine here for it is kinda related to what I say in this post: “A cause to support”

2014.10.09. Random thoughts

After a quick chat with my Chinese teacher about HSK and realizing that the passing score for level 5 was 180/300 and there exists no minimum passing rate for each separate part, I feel way relaxed and get some symptoms of a serious disease called “laziness”. Actually, I am not a lazy one but spending one or two straight hours looking at the Chinese books after a whole day working my a** off at work makes me really bored. I spend some of my times staring at the laptop and ask myself where I am heading to.

This post is not about to mention anything like work-life balance or idealism or anything. It is just some random thoughts of mine casually jotted down.

I think of buying a guitar to practice my favorite songs but my hesitation keeps me for so long.

I think of studying Russian but busy work along with my trouble with pronunciation in Russian (which was perceived as a huge problem by my father and he seems not to accept this problem) makes me study at such a slow rate.

I think of improving a novel that I have read recently and trying recounting the story from the third person viewpoint but it was way difficult and I have not summoned enough courage to do.

I think of freedom while I still accept the trivial things holding me tight.

I think of flying to the faraway land but I am afraid of booking the ticket online for my fear of making wrong transactions.

I do know that these fears will lead me to nowhere.

I’m divergent!

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These scripts have echoed in my mind for the last weekend:

“Maybe you are not quite dauntless as you thought you are.”

“You’re right. I’m not. I’m divergent.”

Some may realize the movie that such scripts came from. I’m writing about “Divergent”, the latest movie I have seen and it should be the latest one I have replayed three times to catch all the scripts that coming throughout the movie (the latest but “Divergent” was “About time”). While it may be a little bit difficult to find out common things shared between these two movies that make a not-a-movie-enthusiast like me to watch more than twice, the reasons are quite simple:  (1) The plot is quite comprehensible and straightforward. I do not expend lots of efforts understanding what’s going on the screen but save some of them for thinking about the underlying stories; (2) A great number of ideas has come across my mind and it is by no means an easy task to summon all of them in a brief post.

For ones who have not get to know “Divergent”, the setting of the movie is post-apocalyptic Chicago and people living here are divided into five factions for the leader’s belief in the system’s ability to keep everything in control. Some of my friends, on hearing my strong interest in this movie, have suggested me seeing “The Hunger Games” or “The Maze Runner”.  I may see the movies in the future should I have time and enough patience to expend a night for them. The things that I have made it clear that it is not about the theme or the setting that get me that hooked on the movie (though I can hardly deny that I have been overwhelmed by the devastated and dilapidated buildings in the movie) but the ideas that underlie are familiar yet conveyed in a very original way.

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As described on Wikipedia, “the novel explores the themes common to young adult fiction, such as adult authority and the transition from childhood to maturity” and “probes the place of authority and identity within the youth’s relationship to parents and other social forces”. These above sentences have done a good job at recapping the main ideas that run throughout the trilogy. However, I find the story more resonate with what’s happening at the stage of college graduation when young people have to decide the career they will go for. Every year million of newly graduate get out of university and run crazily in a rat race to get into prestigious firms. They also undergo many types of aptitude tests, simulation tests and so on. Some gets hired and some receives a long letter of rejection to describe the only reason of being kicked out “We find other people suitable for the position than you are”. Some may perceive that there should be something wrong with them for not being accepted at any workplace Some are intelligent enough to fake your own identity (like the way Tris acted as a Dauntless instead of improvising like a Divergent to pass the mental test) and get into the firm. You may be the ones who are incapable of expressing yourselves and become Factionless (I mean Jobless there). For instant, you apply for an accounting firm so you should be careful, compliant, and “promisingly committed” as the way how people define an auditor or a tax consultant. I remember the time when I get an interview into these firms, I do feel that people try seeking in the applicants the desirable “fixed” traits that best describes their current highly committed employees and winnow the ones that express the traits diverging from the checklist. I do not mean to criticize for such method, the recruiters should have considered a lot when deciding to hire an employee and playing safe by choosing the ones with similar traits. The story, of course, does not end at the entrance of these “Factions”, it continues even after your “transfer” into these Factions. Some choose to live with the identity that people in their affiliations are perceived to possess. Some struggle if they possess more than one trait and they resist being mixed. Fortunately, the Divergent in our real life is not prone to the risk of being killed anytime by the leaders. Luckily, some will treasured by their colleagues for their unique way of thinking. In some cases, however, a divergent may be stereo-typed by HR officers for ones who have a higher tendency of being a job-jumper and their presence in the offices may not be highly appreciated.

The story also makes me resonate with the ways some young people try to define themselves. While self-defining or self-positioning should be a long process that requires incessant thinking, young people often try to confine the definition about themselves in the narrow or easily put words that used to described the roles in the society like Joe the accountant or Kevin the engineer. They define themselves as woman or man and soon they let these definitions, rather than their own rational senses, decide the way they act. You are women so you are supposed to be more submissive. You are an accountant so it is comprehensible for you to be kind of compliant or stiff. Some may define themselves by the horoscope under which they were born, which results in a great number of statuses on my Facebook newsfeeds trying to defend their actions based on the characteristics deemed for their sun signs, moon signs, etc. And when they try to confine themselves to these lazily put definitions, they confine their ways of thinking as well.

Besides the identity theme that subtly mentioned throughout the movie, I was also impressed at many thought provoking conversations between characters in the movie or the creative situations that Roth put her characters in so that they can fully express their own personalities. The novel has done a good job in telling about the fears, depicting characters’ personalities by the ways they deal with the fears. It also makes me think hard about human nature’s existence, for its goodness that color our lives or for its ugliness that make our lives get complicated. Though the novel has been criticized by some for its oversimplification by setting up a color-coded society, I do think that such simplification makes it easier for us to associate the movie plot with what’s happening in the society.

Perhaps it was too long the post to explain all the ideas blooming in my mind, I may spare the last few words for the movie. I love the way the author chose the settings in her favorite city – Chicago. Such choice of settings surely makes the audiences have a real feeling of the post-apocalyptic era (should it exist), and provokes a kind of nostalgic feeling for the once beautiful yet severely destroyed city (even in one who has not been to Chicago like me). I have been in awe of the author for adding many creative details in the movie like the zip line from the skyscraper or the simulations. For ones who do not take a liking to the sci-fi movies for its unreasonably “creative” stuff, this movie with its creativity based on the real things we may see in our daily life is suitable to my liking.

While the aptitude test of mind on the website of the movie showed me that I am divergent with two most outstanding traits to be Candor and Erudite (Dauntless came out fifth, following Amity and Abnegation, which did not come to me as surprise), I do like the Dauntless for their fearless and freedom (though the Dauntless turns out to be not that ideal at the end of the movie) should I have to make a choice. However, it sounds cool after all to be divergent, doesn’t it?

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2014.09.12.Random thought

I really miss the old days. I usually spend my time regurgitating the past even when I know it does more harm than good. But sometimes I can’t resist replaying all the old songs in the past, the melodies of which hover around my mind and nearly move me into tears. The feeling of time slipping through the fingers and never coming back really makes me sick.

So beautiful the old days.

From the above videos, do you know what drove me crazy tonight!

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Back to basics

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During these days, when Facebook gets stuffed with rubbish media products and lousy debates that head to nowhere where both sides in such quarrel even do not know exactly what they are debating for , another trend that comes after the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and captures my attention out of these aforementioned rubbish is Book Bucket Challenge. The name is kinda funny as some may associate with the image of ones self-filming themselves standing still and pouring a bucket of books above their heads. Fortunately, all the guys I happen to know are not that mad to take this challenge by doing so or we may read lots of tragedy posted on the tabloid the next days. I came across the news-feed and found myself enthralled at the variety of the books that named. (And I thought what the hell have I read during time at college?) Lots of trendy titles were listed while some titles are completely unfamiliar to me. Some titles were listed along with careful explanation while some makes me feel that they are just casually chosen for presenting on the Facebook.

I do not mean to give further comments about the tastes of Facebook users in reading books or whether these tastes have anything to do with the development of national culture :) I, in fact, was kind of hesitating to press “Like” button at any posts like these for my fear of being tagged and having no idea of the books that come out my mind. This tactic seems to be effective as no one has challenged me so far.

But I really want to read books, to be more exact, good books.

It should be so long time ago when I read books passionately. I remember being overwhelmed with books that presented at the small bookstore near my secondary school and spending time after school being in the bookstore and reading as much as possible. This habit, however, gradually disappeared soon after I got into high school. When your time and effort have to be spared more on learning for university entrance exam, which in turn reduced time for wandering around the book store, you will not have enough time to choose a book of your interest. At the same time, publishing industry bloomed in an unprecedented manner and lots of books have been published out as a result. With your limited time and the huge amount of books coming out, it was nearly an impossible task to select a book that worth reading. Especially when your budget was limited, there was no kind of trial-and-error allowed there. (Well, such a long explanation and I do hope that the whole chain does not have any wrong link supported).

I want to tell about my life these days.

I decided to get back to the basics. I try to revive my old hobbies. Just like finding myself wandering in a bookstore near the Old Quarter, picking some books that I longed for when I was at seventh grade and I have left them somewhere in my mind when I was busy growing up. I spent more time learning Chinese grammar and found myself stunned at the wonder of the language as I was 6 years ago when digging at English grammar.  I spent some evenings watching English movies of these old days (“Old days”, as defined by me, is the time of 10-20 years before:) ). I thought of buying an acoustic guitar to realize my dream of mastering guitar when I was a kid. I just wonder how I could be separated from these old habits for such a long time.

The journey back to these old habits is not always smooth as it seems. I admit that the advent of the Internet is a troublesome for some times (You know). But I will try to make things different in the good way day by day. Let’s see!

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Simply Glee

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Of all American TV series  I have ever seen in my recent 3 years (I can easily name some as I have rarely spent time watching a TV series since I started university), Glee should be the one that I like the most for its simplicity (especially for ones who hardly find times following the development of the screen plot) and its comprehensibility (for ones who often find it difficult to make sense of all the lines on screen). After long time at work, the most relaxing activity of mine is to turn on the television and watch Glee. I  love the way they refresh the old songs and make even seemingly disastrous songs (or kind of “too popular”-to-listen songs) become enjoyable. Though sometimes I get fed of the bizarre triangle love stories in the show, it is still okay when the characters start to raise their voices. Though Rachel seems to be a much more important character, who are spared with much more slots in the screenplay, the show is still about a group in which people, possessing divergent characteristics yet, shared the same passion with music. It’s just wonderful to imagine that you can live in such artistic atmosphere where the main language is beautiful verse with pleasant melodies.

About my favorite characters, Rachel and Brittany may be these ones. While  I found myself sharing with Rachel some streaks, Brittany’s unconventional characters is something that interests me.

I will not write about the friendship or kind of messages that conveyed. All of these, while may be mentioned somewhere in the Internet, may trigger criticism from ones who scared about the negative effect of the seemingly dilapidated teenage life that presented on the TV shows. It is the music of the shows that makes sense to me. Here below are some of my favorite songs from Glee:

 

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2014.08.24.Random thoughts

August may be not a good month for writing. I found it difficult to summon all the ideas and translate the chaos in my mind into a decent writing. I had a nice hangout with my friends two weeks ago, in which we shared a lot about our personal stories after graduating or our upcoming plans. After this peaceful weekend, I suddenly fell into the state of disappointment, which have been written in my latest posts. Suddenly I felt upset about all the things around me. I am not sure about the next steps, about the long days coming without finding efforts paying off.

Some beautiful things, however, lightened up the seemingly gloomy month of mine, beside the hangout with my old friends. It was a promise of a friend from Taiwan of a book about Taiwan traveling and lots of Chinese books I have bought recently to serve for my Chinese learning. As I have mentioned many times before, I am kind of fickle people with my mood swinging all the time.  I found the peace filled between these uneasy moments and I am learning to make sure that these uneasy moments, not the peaceful ones, will be the ones that get embedded between the peaceful ones.

Hope that things get better in the last four months of the year.