Story and Photos by Avelyn Ng, LabourBeat
What started out as extra-curricular activities in junior college and university have grown into a full-fledged pastime for 32-year-old Lim Mei Lan after she entered the workforce.
Whether it is animal welfare or caring for the needy and disabled, Mei Lan is always eager to help through volunteering. She has organised several do-good activities and participated in mission trips overseas. A few years ago, she even joined the grassroots to serve the community.
The latest volunteering venture is mentoring youths. Early last year, Mei Lan joined Young NTUC’s Youth Career Network as one of the volunteer career guides. She has guided five youths to date, over a mix of casual meet-ups, calls and text exchanges. Depending on the individuals’ needs, the mentoring can take anywhere from a week to six months to complete.
Outside mentoring, Mei Lan is working as a human resource professional. So, what motivates a busy professional like her to wear double hats?
She shared: “In HR, it helps when you have experience. We all have different personalities. If you have more exposure, chances are, you will come across similar people at the workplace. You will be able to manage them better.
“I’m not the only one giving. I learn from other people as well. It’s an exchange of information. I prefer to do a variety of things in my free time – it makes my life more balanced. Besides, I like meeting new people and helping them.”
To help others pursue their aspirations personally and professionally, Mei Lan regularly looks for avenues to hone her craft. For instance, she took out a six-month, part-time course with the National Career Development Association to become a certified career development facilitator.
For youths who get “over-analytical”, Mei Lan provides the necessary assurance and confidence boost. For new entrants, she shares with them real-life stories to educate them about her industry as well as social norms and Do’s and Don’ts at work. However, she always leaves it to them to make the final decision.
One of the hardest things, she finds, is changing people’s mindsets and getting them to accept something different.
According to her, many of the youths she has encountered have trouble finding their calling. They are unsure about their current job or degree, but are reluctant to move away from what they know.
“I learned from the course that we should follow our interests, our values, and our strengths. It makes absolute sense, but a lot of times we don’t even know what they are, so we go by what we see successful people doing. It’s not the same,” she shared.
Mei Lan, who has a background in accountancy, has also had dilemmas along her career.
She faced much resistance when she decided to venture into HR, an area viewed by her friends and family as a “downgrade”. She received similar feedback as well, when she transitioned from a multinational to a startup. Nevertheless, she followed her heart, even making minor sacrifices in expectations.
Mei Lan advised: “Youths are very much into jobs that pay well, but ultimately they should see whether that can sustain. I’ve seen many who don’t last long in their companies because they don’t love what they do. If they had made another decision, they would not become quitters halfway.”