For most of us, delaying our graduation by taking a year off from our studies has never crossed our minds. It has also been stemmed deeply into society that taking a gap year is something uncommon.
“Why will someone take a gap year and not just finish their studies?” is a possible question that one may ask. Here is Juden who walked down this route. However, he chose to take a gap year not because he did not want to complete his studies but it was because he felt inadequate compared to his friends, and wanted to work on himself.
Juden started his career journey slightly later than his peers. He spent his first year playing and wanting to have fun without giving many thoughts to his future. It was only at the beginning of year 2 when he realized that most of his friends were embarking on their second internship in the upcoming break. Whereas, he barely had one on his resume.
After securing his first internship, Juden went on to his penultimate year and that’s when he felt that he was not ready to get a job. As such, he took a gap year to build upon his portfolio.
What exactly did he do? And how did he build his portfolio?
To answer these questions, we spoke to Juden, a Business Development Assistant Manager at Unilever, who talked about his decision and provided some life and interview tips!
Play to your strengths.
After his first year, Juden received his grades and was greeted with a rude shock to see how badly he has done. After pulling a GPA that neared the borders of a 2nd Lowers, he secured an internship as a Research Analyst intern at a Japanese firm.
At that point, he identified that his academics were his down factor compared to his peers. Knowing this, Juden did not want to continue fighting a losing battle where he knew he would have a slim chance of excelling at it. What did he do then?
Instead of being disheartened, Juden decided to play to his strengths which he has identified. He focused on other areas such as leadership, internship experience, and case competitions. One of his strengths is his strong leadership where he helmed the role of President in the Accountancy & Business Club (ABC) during his studies. Tapping on that to fulfil the leadership aspect, Juden left a good impression that secured his first internship and subsequent ones despite his average grades.
Focus on what matters to you.
For some of us, GPA is very important and it is also our goal to achieve a First Class Honours upon graduation. Whereas to some of us, our GPA is important but we do not constantly strive for the highest class.
To Juden, he felt that grades only matter to a certain extent. They matter only if one wishes to enter specific industries where GPA is one of the main criteria. But for him, he was satisfied with his 2nd Upper grade. (Yes, he did manage to pull it up after the wake-up call in Year 1).
When we asked him why not strive for a class higher, he claimed it was not worth his time to push for a First Class (and also because it was impossible for him 😂).Additionally, he was not interested in government jobs that usually focus on good grades. With his priorities straightened, he shifted his focus to gather more work experience through internships. Ever since his first internship, Juden has been constantly working and doing something that would benefit him in the long run. Perhaps, we should start asking ourselves what is important to us and start focusing on working on them before it’s too late! We also have a graduate here who focused on building up his internship experience which opened up doors for him and allowed him to learn a lot more from it.
Treat interviews as a practice and relax.
A statement that contradicts what most people will advise, here is Juden’s tip – treat interviews as a practice and try not to care too much. Right… we were confused with the latter part of his statement. But, he did clarify that preparing for the interview is still essential.
So, what does it mean to ‘try not to care too much’ then? According to Juden, he meant to enter the room with a relaxed and calm mind. He dived in to explain how a calm mind can help one perform better as the pressure is not present.
Juden had his fair share of fumbles during interviews. He recounted the time he had an interview with Grab, and his nerves got to him midway, resulting in him making a mistake. He then compared it to another interview setting where he was more chill and relaxed, which allowed him to perform way better than he expected. As such, he encouraged us to calm ourselves down before the interview and treat it as a practice to reduce the pressure that we are placing on ourselves. Another graduate shared with us earlier her ‘3 Be’ which was her ritual to calm herself down before the interview. You can check it out, and pick one or two tips from her to help yourself in the future!
Know yourself well during the interview preparation.
Here’s another preparation tip from Juden – know yourself well as you prepare for the interview. One interesting thing he had pointed out was that there was mental & emotional preparation to focus on apart from the technical aspect.
As an emotional person, Juden was aware that he needed to reel back his emotions such as the nerves or stress that can get to him. Hence, apart from focusing on the technical aspect, he also focused on the mental/emotional area where he attempted to prevent his nerves/stress to get to him.
Juden shared a few tips on how he simulated the interview atmosphere, and what he did to prepare himself better. From there, he was able to gather his emotions well before entering the room.
Now that we have learnt about this tip, do you think you know yourself well? Or are you still trying to figure out yourself?
Have the discipline.
You will be surprised to know that freshman Juden was a happy-go-lucky guy who did not focus much on career progression. To him then, his focus was to have fun and socialise. But as Juden looked back at his memories, he said he would have done one thing differently and that was to have the discipline.
Not that he lacked the discipline. Rather, Juden felt he could have struck a proper balance during his first year instead of playing the entire year. He could have started thinking about his future such as his career prospects or how to prepare for internships. Additionally, Juden felt that he could have also focused on his studies while having fun in university.
Despite the regrets, Juden expressed his gratitude to experience the feeling of failure as that was what woke him up and set things straight. If he did not have that wake-up call, he believed that things would be extremely different for him now.
In the end, Juden advised us to have the discipline to understand that university is not all about playing, but also, to be serious and focus on our studies & future.
“It really doesn’t matter. Whatever you want to do, just do it. Act fast, pivot quickly.”
Juden closed off the interview with this line where he reassured us that it was alright to enter university not knowing what we want to do. Use this opportunity to figure out what you like and go with it. But you have to bear in mind that you have to act quickly so that you discover your interest earlier instead of realising it at a later part of your studies. Just keep trying, and you will find your place eventually.
You can follow us for upcoming episodes on our podcast which will be featuring fresh graduates who have made it to top and fastest-growing companies!
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.