28 February 12 The Business Times by Sheere Ng
MAY Lee had a good feeling about Select Group the moment she found out that the man conducting the job interview was the company's managing director himself. At the other companies where she had applied for a job, their managers conducted the recruiting meeting.
'It gave me the impression that this company isn't too hierarchical. There's a chance that I would get to learn a lot, and even from the boss himself,' said the communication studies and new media graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
As it turned out, she was spot on about the company's culture. Three months into her management trainee position, Ms Lee is overseeing the marketing of Texas Chicken, an American fast-food joint that her company brought in to Singapore less than two years ago. She works directly with the managing director, Vincent Tan, and liaises with Texas Chicken's regional marketing manager.
At first, she was surprised that a fresh graduate like her was given such an important role. But even then, she emphasised, she was undaunted. 'I like taking on challenges, and since my boss believes that I can do it, there's no reason why I can't,' she said.
Mr Tan said that the company tries to provide a good learning ground to stay attractive to the young hires. 'We give them space to make mistakes, and learn from these mistakes,' he said.
Most fresh graduates prefer to join multinational corporations or government agencies, mainly because these organisations offer higher pay, better benefits and prospects. Hence, SMEs often have to go to some length to woo these people. Select Group, for example, works with Spring to offer scholarships to undergraduates.
But Ms Lee did not need any dangling carrot to see the benefits of working at an SME. 'The bigger organisations have more red tape and the job scope is often fixed in a mould,' she said. 'I prefer flexibility in my job and I like to work independently because that's how I can learn more.'
It did not matter if this entails carrying out duties that were not exactly what she signed up for. Twice, Ms Lee had to design posters for the fast-food joint because the company's in-house designer was too busy. She not only did not mind the extra work but actually thought that it helped her become versatile.
Despite her adaptability and resourcefulness, the external working partners have expressed their concern about her youth and lack of experience. She is, after all, only 22 and has zero knowledge of marketing as well as the food & beverage industry.
To make up for that, Ms Lee said that she carried herself with confidence, bolstered by a wardrobe of 'mature-looking' clothing. Wearing a salmon-pink ruffle top, black high-waisted skirt and a pair of sky-high heels during the interview, she could almost pass off as two or three years older.
When faced with something unfamiliar, she asked questions, even if the other party was her client. Most people might have feigned knowledge to win a vote of confidence. 'Now is the time to ask questions because people tend to be more tolerant with a fresh graduate,' she explained. 'I'm seizing this opportunity to learn as much as I can.'
Ms Lee does not have a 10-year career plan, but she is happy to continue with what she has been doing for at least the next few years.
'To be in charge of Texas Chicken's marketing is a very exciting experience. I'm given the opportunity to deal with all aspects - the ground work, the execution and the post-evaluation,' she said. 'Because the brand is relatively new in the market, our focus in the next few years will be growth and development. I'm very excited to be involved in all these.'
And it would seem that Ms Lee has become fairly adept as a marketing person. During the interview, she explained to this reporter how the fast-food chain's biscuit is better than its more well-known competitor's. She also asked to include her company's fried chicken in her profile picture.
So how often does she eat the food that she has been promoting so much?
'Once or twice a week,' she said, looking a little embarrassed. 'Mostly because I was at outlets for meetings.'
Not that she minds. A week before the job interview, Ms Lee ate at the fast-food chain without knowing that it had anything to do with Select Group. 'I loved it,' she recalled.
Now, she has only more reasons to feel this way.
This story first appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of The SME Magazine. It is being reproduced in collaboration with Spring Singapore
The Management Associate Partnership from Spring Singapore helps high growth local enterprise to attract and develop fresh talent. It co-funds the training and development of local graduates with less than three years of working experience. For more information, please visit www.spring.gov.sg/map.