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?


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 think they did. 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.



1. About YSEALI:

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”

3 responses to “Office story: What is your purpose? Why are you here?

  1. It’s a difficult question of not only workforce but also normal life. I believe that each period of our life, there will be different “purposes”. However, when you think of them, write them down, surely you will catch them all 😀


    • Thank you very much for your comment. Time flies, thing got changes and even purpose is not the exception. I do think that it is essential for us to think and rethink about our true selves, about our purposes 😀


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