Contributed by Jonathan Tan, NTUC This Week
She may be one of the pioneer mentors in Young NTUC’s Youth Career Network (YCN) career mentorship programme, but 35-year-old Juliana Tay’s involvement with the programme began entirely by chance.
According to the senior manager for sales training who is an active NTUC member, she had chanced upon an email sent by NTUC that called for volunteer career mentors and promptly responded.
“I’m fortunate to have had good bosses in my career who enabled me to develop my potential. It’s my way of paying it forward because I realise that youths are not as strong in developing professional relationships. The work and career landscape in Singapore has changed drastically in the last couple of years and the influences that these youths today have are very different from before.
“This YCN is where we can connect and relate to them, to be a bridge that can help them and share our experiences to help them,” she explained.
Given her professional expertise in the finance sector, Juliana has since worked with five youths through the YCN. She has supported them by sharing her tips on how they can get a headstart in the finance sector and approach their career development in the industry.
The biggest challenges she faces is when youths have unrealistic expectations about what the work entails and their expected salary packages.
Sharing her approach, she said: “I would share my own career experiences, how I built up my professional relationships and how I’ve grown from being a bank teller without a degree to a senior manager in skills training within a short span of 10 years. I feel that when I share details of the different career decisions that I made, it is like experiential learning for them,
where they just need to talk to someone who is just a few steps ahead of them.”
Juliana added that this approach helps her mentees gain insights into what to expect in the workplace and bridge the mismatch in expectations between school and actual work.
“I learn from these youths as much as they are able to learn from me. When they reciprocate the effort by sharing their thoughts and experiences, I am able to pick up new perspectives. This is where it is very satisfying, and it excites and fuels me,” she added.
Mentoring these youths also sparked Juliana’s latent passion for career coaching.
“Getting to interact with other veteran career coaches got me interested in a Career Development Facilitator programme. I thought that if I enjoy mentoring youths, I might as well do it well. I have the passion; and I want to be a better career guide who can more effectively help others,” she shared. Upon completing the required assignments, Juliana will be certified as a career coach in July 2017.
Mentoring others has also helped her better frame her own career development. “It has definitely given me a different perspective on how I communicate in my workplace. I feel younger and better able to relate to the youths I work with. It has helped me identify new potential job opportunities for myself as I am better able to navigate my own career,” explained Juliana, adding that becoming a professional career coach one day is a prospect that she is considering.
But until then, Juliana is focusing on mentoring the youths and pursuing a passion project with some friends – funding a technology startup that is a final-year project by a group of Singapore Management University students.
TAKEAWAYS FROM A MENTEE
Recalling how she benefitted from Juliana’s mentorship, 25-year-old researcher Goh Xi Hsien said: “Juliana helped me realise that the thought process in decision making is important. I also picked up some of the social skills that Juliana possesses. Be it talking to strangers or people you already know, they will probably have something you can learn from, which I believe is an important skill for the workplace, and life in general.”
She also recounted how Juliana’s sharing of real world experiences left an impression on her and how she will be able to use the skills to better communicate with colleagues and superiors, and be more open to learning from them.