Becoming Career Ready

2020-02-27

Dennis CHOW, a graduate of Mathematics in 2018, is a firm believer in learning by doing. And thanks to his outgoing personality and an insatiable appetite for new challenges, throughout his four years at HKUST, the young man made the most of every opportunity provided by the University to build his experiences and skills that set himself apart from his peers, and even outperformed them when they graduated.

In his first two years, Dennis initiated a volunteer tutor program to teach the underprivileged students, and partnered with two of his hall mates to join a competition to pitch an energy drink to strangers that earned the group a 30-day trip to Europe. He also fulfilled his dream to cycle around Taiwan and finished an internship at a social enterprise to learn how to solve problems without resources. Then, with the help of the University’s Career Center, Dennis landed another internship in Chengdu where he helped set up a platform to consolidate the data of available resources for start-ups. 

In year 3, Dennis also applied for an exchange program at the University of Oxford. Although he did not have a satisfactory GPA, the interviewer, who processed his application for the exchange program, was impressed by his colorful and extraordinary experiences, and granted him a two-week study at this top-notched institution that eventually expanded to two months. He later joined another exchange to the Silicon Valley and the Asia Youth Entrepreneurship Program 2017 through the Entrepreneurship Center.

In stark contrast to Dennis, David OR, a 2019 graduate of Computer Engineering, was shy talking to strangers, especially foreigners. To overcome his fear of speaking in English, David proactively took part in the production of a mini-movie with some non-local students. “I came to understand their daily conversations and commonly-used idioms through frequent contacts with them,” he proudly says. Step by step, David’s vocabularies and confidence grew, so did their friendship. But he still felt more comfortable in the local and familiar environment.

The turning point came when David decided to jump out of his comfort zone and became an exchange student at the National University of Singapore for one semester in year 3. The sparks and fresh insights generated between local and non-local students there blew him away.

That’s why he chose to be an Engineering Student Ambassador after coming back to Hong Kong, to promote the School with non-local students in different events. “All we need is to make our first move. Despite the language barrier, we always need to be open-minded and bold,” David says. Because of the change, David learned to see things from other people’s perspectives and cultures that are vital to his effective communication in his workplace comprising different nationalities today.

The University has equipped the students with the skills and mindset required in the 21st-century, nurturing them to become preferred employees in the global job market. HKUST was ranked No.10 in the Emerging/Trendence Global University Employability Ranking 2019 (No.1 in Greater China, seven years in a row). 

The job market appears to be gloomy this year due to the months-long societal events followed by the COVID-19 outbreak, but David, now a technical analyst at a European investment bank, says in whatever environment, it’s always the best to prepare yourself well. A sound foundation and a worldwide vision is a prerequisite to the success in job hunting.

“I have found that HR people are more interested in people who have stories. Make your resume shine, the things you learned and experiences accumulated at university do make a difference,” David suggests.

“A tough local job market can be a two-edged sword. Failing to find a suitable job will trigger you to jump out of your comfort zone and take on a new challenge elsewhere,” he adds.

Concurring with David, Dennis, who received nine job offers upon graduation and now a key account manager at an international corporation, suggests that offering the interviewers new ideas to solve their existing problems or expand their development areas usually will leave them a good impression on you.

“In your final year, it is vital to start your application process earlier and maintain good time management. Try to engage in different activities to broaden your horizons at the beginning of your university life. You will never know how these activities can help build your future career,” says Dennis.

Dennis Chow (left) partnered with two of his hall mates to join a competition to pitch an energy drink to strangers that earned the group a 30-day trip to Europe.
Dennis Chow (left) partnered with two of his hall mates to join a competition to pitch an energy drink to strangers that earned the group a 30-day trip to Europe.
The colorful and extraordinary experiences of Dennis Chow (right) impressed the interviewer who processed his application for the exchange program at the University of Oxford.
The colorful and extraordinary experiences of Dennis Chow (right) impressed the interviewer who processed his application for the exchange program at the University of Oxford.
To overcome his fear of speaking in English, David Or (second left) proactively took part in the production of a mini-movie with some non-local students.
To overcome his fear of speaking in English, David Or (second left) proactively took part in the production of a mini-movie with some non-local students.
David Or (first left) decided to jump out of his comfort zone and became an exchange student at the National University of Singapore for one semester in year 3.
David Or (first left) decided to jump out of his comfort zone and became an exchange student at the National University of Singapore for one semester in year 3.