career advice from a total stranger

It was a hot day of last May, when I was still living in Saigon. While I was waiting for the bus, a middle-aged woman came to sit next to me. We started talking. She was on a short visit to Vietnam, her home-country, after moving to Australia with her kids years ago. As I was curious, she gave me a few sneak peeks of how a daily life abroad of a Vietnamese looked like. She also offered free career advice though I didn’t ask. When I told her I was pursuing human resources and wondering if I should continue, she urged me to switch to medicine/healthcare. I didn’t took the advice; however, it inspired me to have new ideas, which later prospered into action. Here is the best part of her advice. Some points are fair enough.

“25 years old? You’re not too old to start again. Years ago this age would be the end but now no, as long as your mind is still sharp, which means from now to 45 years old, you still have time to do tons of things. You may start studying a new field, for example medicine. Something which may be very difficult but certainly would make you someone people need very much no matter what. Unlike bank cashier jobs which are now easily replaced by machines (note: that’s what happened to her son in Australia). So learn something that people will desperately/absolutely need you for. In the end, the purpose of learning is to give help, what else could it be? Learn and be the best in your field.”

First, if you are still twenty-something, you are capable of starting again. Make a switch, learn something new, whatever. When I first heard the idea, it sounded crazy to me. Starting again? Like telling me to trash all of my previous efforts to a (non-recycle) bin. Didn’t she know I got introduced to HR since I was in the 2nd year of university? When I first joined the HR team of AIESEC, I found HR interesting and nurturing (quite aligned with my value of people development) so I studied HR by myself and got some related work experience after graduate too. Most friends now still know me as an HR person; they talk to me about HR, ask me for advice regarding HR issues like recruitment/training etc. I couldn’t imagine myself doing something else. But we as human being so many times can surprise ourselves. So can I. Here I am: I’ve switched back to my major recently. I started learning economics and finance again. I beated myself so hard to come up with this decision. Been climbing on a ladder for a few years and now starting from square one again, isn’t that scary? Yes, it is. Why making that choice? For many reasons. I’d share about this someday. For now my choice has rewarded me with a pleasantly surprising present: I’ve come to realize the true, complex beauty of economics and finance, which the university couldn’t help me notice before. So this is my choice. Once-in-all-in. I’m not looking back. Keep on moving, that’s my motto.

Second, be on guard as technology advancements may get you and kick you out of the job market. It’s called the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). You couldn’t really observe this movement in Vietnam right now, but soon it will take place massively as a wave, probably in 10-20 years. Big cities like Hanoi and HCMC will experience it first. You better be prepared.
P/S: I’m following the topic of AI so if you’d like to talk about it, let’s grab some coffee.

Finally, one should strive to be the best in his field. Seth Godin has a very good quote as below. Well this is food for thought. I leave it to you. 🙂

Be exceptional

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