Stepping Out of His Comfort Zone
In 2017, Faris Toh embarked on his first foray overseas. Armed with only his inquisitiveness and eagerness to learn, he applied for the role of Business Development Intern with Alyne via the NTU OEP (Nanyang Technological University’s Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme) to gain exposure to a new culture and a different social norm. All for the sole purpose of stepping out of his comfort zone by working in a completely new environment miles away from home, to improve his adaptability and versatility in acclimatising to an entirely different culture from what he was brought up in.
With his background in Banking and Finance, the expertise he brought to the table was not a perfect fit to the job scope he was to fill as a Cyber and Risk Consultant at Alyne, a GRC SaaS (Governance, Risk and Compliance Software as a Service) company. His company implements tailored solutions using Alyne’s proprietary software to help their clients manage aspects of cyber security, risk management and regulatory compliance.
However, what Faris fell short of to offer in terms of his hard skills set, he made up for with his soft skills. When Faris applied for an internship 4 years ago, Alyne was looking for an individual with the ability to fit into their company’s culture, and who possesses the dedication and earnestness to learn. The interview questions were centred around deciphering Faris’s motivation for working in a FinTech company, for working in London (also branded as the leading financial hub of the world), Faris’s adaptability to different cultures and the contribution value he could bring to the company with his expertise and skills set.
Like the typical job interviewee, Faris prepared his responses by anticipating commonly asked questions so he could articulate his thoughts well during the interview session. However, more importantly than simply providing the right interview answers, Faris believes the interview stage is an important platform to truly showcase your communication and interpersonal skills. Clearly enunciating your opinion on the topics at hand and providing a logical rationale with confidence and poise greatly helps in displaying your analytical and communication skills. These are vital traits in FinTech companies where they often operate in a highly agile and collaborative environment, and everyone’s opinion is highly valued. FinTech companies are especially keen on hiring individuals who fit well into their vibrant culture, individuals who are not afraid of voicing their opinion to contribute to the company irrespective of hierarchy, and individuals with an outgoing personality who bring positive energy to the team.
“Diversity represents progression.”
Faris notes that the work perspective in Europe is vastly different from that of Singapore’s. Diversity in academic major is embraced. It’s normative for individuals to be working in a field vastly different from their major in university. An individual’s field of study curates how an individual thinks and equips them with different analytical skills. Diversity brings different perspectives into a project. He finds that companies like Alyne are keen on hiring employees from across the world to bring new perspectives into the work environment.
The Overseas Experience
There was also a paradigm shift with regards to work culture in the UK. In contrast to the more hierarchical organisational structure in Asia, he realised workplaces in London encouraged two-way discussions. As long as they were within boundaries and are constructive, he could enter into a healthy debate with his team on what he felt was the best course of action. Despite being a new hire, he was also offered lots of autonomy to explore ideas and solutions for the team. The number of hours put into his work was secondary as long as quality work was delivered satisfactorily.
Of course, working overseas is not entirely rosy. Throughout the 3+ years living abroad, Faris noted that winter months made homesickness especially prominent. The UK’s rather gloomy wintry weather did not help either. There were also the occasional delinquents; drunk street strangers who were verbally abusive for absolutely no rhyme or reason. It was a real concern that Faris faced when he was out late in the night, especially during the coronavirus period with the virus being labelled as the “Asian virus”.
Advice for aspiring global citizens
To aspiring global citizens, Faris advocates that you maintain an open mind and be willing to voice your opinion confidently. Try not to be too restricted to the mindset we were brought up in, and don't try to mirror our work culture to the work culture abroad because it can certainly be quite different.
“Show your versatility. The ability to adapt.”
More than your academic qualifications, focus on displaying your soft skills (e.g. overseas experiences, leaderships skills). Employers in the UK are often on the lookout for individuals with soft skills set who portray their ability to adapt well to different cultures and environments.
Finding employment in a world leading financial hub like London can be rather challenging. London is a transient city with a saturated job market, attracting a multitude of ambitious and zealous individuals from all across the world. A good approach for finding employment in London would be to undertake an internship opportunity first. This is a good first step to showcase your skills to your employer in warranting a consideration for conversion into a full-time role.
That said, unpaid internship placements in the UK are commonplace due to the stiff competition from the throngs of motivated students and graduates who prioritise gaining work experiences over a stipend. This makes the cost for an internship abroad in London a personal expense.
Still, it is definitely not all doom and gloom. The pandemic situation in the UK is improving with the successful launch of the vaccination programme. There are signs of the economy starting to pick up again and hopefully employers will start the hiring spree over the next few months. Finding a company with an existing Sponsorship License will certainly make the hiring process much easier and likelier.
Here at CareerSocius, we hope to empower individuals to find a job they love. We would love to be part of your journey.
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