25 Apr 2013

Taking a Selective Career Path

Article on - Taking a Selective Career Path

Three months into her job as a management trainee, recent graduate May Lee Pei Jin was driving the marketing efforts for a renowned international food brand, and mentored personally by the managing director of the company.

“It's a dream for someone like me who's just starting out,” beamed May, who recounted an inspiring first meeting with Select Group's managing director Vincent Tan. “He strikes me as someone truly humble and focused on building new ideas and ways to improve the experience of customers. And it's clear he's not afraid to take a chance on someone new.”

Once she got over the surprise at being interviewed by the top man of the company and had a good look around, May built her confidence, rolled up her sleeves and started on the job with gusto.

Pondering Her Options

Such confidence in her role took time to build for May. Soon after graduating from the National University of Singapore with a degree in communication studies and new media, May had begun looking for a job in the creative industry. “It was something I had trained for, but somehow, the fit wasn't there, especially the culture.”

When she chanced upon the advertisement for the position of management trainee at Select Group's Texas Chicken franchise, she decided to give it a try.

The job role was offered under the Management Associate Partnership (MAP) programme, led by SPRING Singapore, with the objective of attracting, training and growing new graduates as management trainees for future leadership roles. Local companies which participate in this programme would offer on-the-job training, professional training courses and specific assignments, while the criteria for suitable management associates would include graduates with no more than three years of work experience.

“I told myself 'why not and be open-minded',” May recalled. “Working in a local company was never an issue for me, as long as it is a good fit, with a nurturing culture and great colleagues. That's what a lot of us (young job seekers) are looking for.”

She shared that after joining the team at Texas Chicken Singapore, her parents saw a positive change in her. “I was growing confident, because I'm getting opportunities to be heard and the space to try my ideas and to use the skills I've learnt, especially in the field of new media. Not only that, when I need guidance, the management team is always there to lend a listening ear or to guide where possible. I'm never left to fend for myself.”

Her New Media Skills Were Sought After

She was especially proud of a social media campaign which went "viral" and brought a significant increase in customer traffic to the Texas Chicken stores during periods which the food industry marked as "low-sales" periods.

“Most F&B businesses would face periods within a week when sales are lowest and traffic is at a minimal. Texas Chicken had faced a similar situation, so the challenge was to bring in more people during these periods,” said May. After a brainstorm session with the team, May drove a "Monday-focused" campaign with price promotions and special meal sets. Under the guidance of the management team, she worked on the direction of the marketing collaterals, went to the stores to “observe the market” and ensured that the promotion was well-communicated.

“We exploited the use of social media channels such as Facebook for such promotions,” said May. “It was not a tool which was used extensively before at Texas Chicken; but as part of the younger generation, this is an effective outreach channel so it was time to expand our use of such tools.

“It was easy convincing my boss to let me drive this as he wanted me to bring new ideas and test them. And I'm happy to say that the campaign went very well, with his support. We nearly doubled the number of 'Likes' and fans of Texas Chicken in Singapore within weeks!”

Managing New Blood Well

The management team was clearly pleased with the results of the campaign.

“The management team, especially the managing director, acknowledge that 'new blood' needs space and time to find their footing,” observed Lai Chin Kwang, director of institutional catering and special projects at Select Group. “Since we constantly seek fresh perspectives and new ideas, we have to challenge the younger generation to give it all they've got, and to support them where we can. Only with such attitude can the company thrive in a competitive environment.”

Lai acknowledged that such a programme is especially helpful to Singapore SMEs which are facing difficulty in attracting the right talent. It is the hope of the team that such programmes will continue to open more opportunities to match businesses with the right candidates so that the industry will be well supported in the coming years.

Agreed May, “It is important for such 'matching' to be done, or I wouldn't have known about this good learning environment which I'm enjoying now.”

“It wasn't just the great colleagues that I'm working with that contributed to a supportive environment, but equally important was the willingness by the team to try new ideas and to seek new possibilities, without being conscious about each others' ranks. I've heard of less than pleasant experience of some friends in their new jobs, including those in blue-chip MNCs. So it's clear to me that a big 'brand' company may not always be a good place to build a career. I'm happy here.”

Contributed by JobsCentral Pte Ltd