Let’s chat with Cheryl Tan: an introverted graduate who enjoys cheerleading and orientation camps.

Yes, you read that right

No, we have definitely proofread the title too.

As confused as you are, so were we when we talked to Cheryl Tan, who identified herself as an introvert. What was more surprising was that she admitted she was not good at public speaking and dreaded talking to strangers. Yet, she was part of the NBS orientation committee and was actively involved in hall cheerleading during her studies. (This definitely does not sound like an introvert!)

Cheryl also managed to secure her 1st ever internship at a career networking session. Unlike her, most of us will submit our resumes on various portals, attach a cover letter and wait for a phone call or email. Yet, it happened in one networking space for her.

How did she do it as an introvert? Well, we spoke to Cheryl, a Brand Executive at Suntory, to get some interview, internship, resume tips and how she did not let her introversion stop her from moving forward.

It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, your desire and commitment is often what brings you where you want

Be thick-skinned and go beyond your comfort zones.

Coming from someone who identified as an introvert and struggled to talk to strangers, the first thing Cheryl said to overcome such fears “is to be thick-skinned”. And we were, of course, confused!

She then explains to us that being thick-skinned means not allowing yourself to be affected by others’ perceptions or opinions of you and instead, you should do what you want to do. For her, she actively places herself out there in university to experience new things. In a way, Cheryl identifies university as a safe space for herself, where she manages to learn and grow in various aspects.

Talking to strangers is not her cup of tea, but she overcomes that fear by going out of her comfort zones. Cheryl says, “I was surrounded by people who are motivated and clear of what they want to do.” and points out that her friends’ positive energy inspired her to try new things out, as she takes the first step forward. Adopting a growth mindset, she pushed herself constantly such as taking on leadership positions which she has never done before and being brave to strike conversations with strangers, which allowed her to develop herself in various aspects.

Her efforts definitely paid off as she looks back now, and recalls how she secured her first internship at a career networking session.

So who says introverts are unable to be fun and sociable? Cheryl is one individual right here who has proved that assumption wrong. (If you think she is the only exception then here is another introvert who won best speaker in a competition!)

Express your interest and desire to learn.

Unlike most undergraduates who will be searching for internships on INTERNSG, LinkedIn, or through their school portals, Cheryl actively placed herself out there in person at a career fair in school and was able to speak to an employer of L’Oréal there.

Cheryl recalls that the interaction with the L’Oréal staff allowed her to learn and understand more about their internship program, and their positivity also impacted her to apply for the role. She felt that why she was able to secure her internship was also because she expressed her interest and desire to learn more about the industry & company. 

Of course, she shares that she did prepare herself before the career fair by learning and reading up about the companies that were present. Cheryl was initially a bystander at the booth, listening to the conversation of another student with the staff, yet she was lucky to be roped in. This little action was also the confidence booster for Cheryl to speak up more during the interaction. She then posed unique questions which caught the employer’s attention such as “What kind of challenges can L’Oréal post to their interns?”

To her, Cheryl feels that asking such questions portrays one with a strong positive attitude and desire to learn which definitely puts you in a good light in the employer’s eye.

Prioritise what is important and what activities you should commit to.

Cheryl shares with us that her initial mindset when she first began university was to make the fullest out of her last 4 years of education before she entered the working world. As such, she spiced up her student life by joining various clubs and committees in her first 2 years (which we believe that most freshmen will do so to enjoy university life).

When we first heard about Cheryl’s active student life, the first thing that came to our mind was how was she able to balance between her studies and her school life? Turns out, she admits that it was a little hard to achieve a balance between the both.

“I realize that maybe it is time for me to think about what I want to do with my life after I graduate in year 2. So I started to look into potential industries that I may be interested in and search for internships.”

By learning about the various industries and seeking out where her passion lies, she decides to settle down by building on her internship portfolio and thinking about her career in year 3 onwards. And to be able to do this, Cheryl had to decide which clubs she will choose to stay and which to leave.

With her mind focused on building on her career path, she explains her decisions was made based on one criterion: which activity can value-add to her portfolio? Indeed, it is a very career-driven mentality however, it did allow her to narrow down her commitments and eventually achieve a balance between her studies and her student life.

Curious to find out which student committees she chose to stay at the end? Go and listen to it for yourself, as she also explains which 2 clubs she narrowed down, and how she managed to benefit from it in the end.

Ultimately, Cheryl confesses that to have a balance between both studies and student life is not an easy feat. If you find yourself being overwhelmed like her, or unable to cope with both, it is time for you to take a step back and consider what is important to you and focus on them instead.

Reflect on your interviews and learn from there.

Of course, not every internship application was that smooth-sailing for Cheryl. She had applied to numerous companies and was called for interviews.  However, she was rejected by most of them.

But instead of feeling dejected, Cheryl took these rejections as a learning opportunity for herself to reflect and learn from her mistakes. She shares with us her 2nd internship process where she was on a search for another marketing position but leaning more towards the E-commerce industry.

One common mistake she points out is that most of us tend to mass apply to various companies without having a proper understanding of what the companies do, or the types of brands that they have. And that was one mistake she made as well. Another mistake of hers was being unable to express herself properly to the hiring managers of what she wanted to learn and achieve at the end of the internship.

Cheryl explains by thinking back to her prior interviews and learning where she might have gone wrong allowed her to better prepare herself for the next interview and learn from them. She agrees that being rejected does leave a bitter taste on your tongue and you may feel dejected. However, instead of staying upset and disheartened, Cheryl encourages you to see it as a learning opportunity instead and move forward. Multiple rejections will eventually lead you to success!

Testimonials from your past internships may help.

For every sharing we have with our guests, we will always ask this question: What is the special feature on your resume that you think may have caught the interviewer’s eye?

In our previous episodes, our guests pointed out their GPAs, active student life or a varied portfolio were the striking features on their resumes that could have caught the eye of the hiring manager. But Cheryl provides us with a different answer which has never crossed our minds before.

“I think testimonials from your ex-bosses are something useful and relevant.”

Although Cheryl emphasises that this is not 100% accurate and is based on what she thinks, she feels that testimonials from people who you have worked with allow hiring managers to better understand you as a person, your work ethics, and whether your prior experience is relevant to the position.

For her, getting multiple recommendations on her LinkedIn profile did manage to secure her the next internship where a hiring manager offered her an opportunity, which she grabbed it instantly.

So if you are thinking that a good GPA or a varied internship portfolio is what can catch a hiring manager’s eye, you may want to rethink as it appears that there is another feature you can add to your resume now!

“Be open-minded when you go into the first role.”

Cheryl closes off the chat with this line, as she encourages us to have these 3 following traits: the desire to learn, being adaptable & having the grit. Keep moving forward, and you will eventually land 1 foot into your dream company too.

You can follow us for upcoming episodes on our podcast which will be featuring fresh graduates who have made it to Amazon, FMCGs, etc. 

Exclusively written for INTERNSG by: Guang Jin (Grehg) YEO, the creator of the podcast 1 Foot In. The podcast introduces the listeners to someone who has made it into the top/fastest growing companies in the world. From what they did in university, tips & tricks during the resume & interviews and things they wished they could have done if they were to do it all over again.