My Not So Brilliant Past

I’m inspired to write this piece after reading through someone else’s blog for a bit. I don’t know how to comment on his blog to motivate him, so I guess maybe I should write my story instead. I just type without proofread, so forgive the occasional grammar incoherence.


It’s not in the blog after I migrated to WordPress, but I used to have some very depressing posts that remains safely tucked in Blogspot’s archives. It’s just that when I did the migration, I figured better not transfer the sad past into what is supposed to be a brand new beginning. If you have been reading my blog on my blogspot days, you might have come across with these:

Capture2 Capture

I graduated from Liverpool John Moores University via the TAR College route on September 2007. I came back to Malaysia after a 2 weeks Europe Tour end of September. I spent 2.5 months job hunting before landing my first job. I worked in Shah Alam for 4 months. Then I decided that I wanted to work with an American MNC (multi-national company) instead of a local Chinaman company. So I resigned and began my job hunt in Penang / Singapore.

I spent 4 months attending more than 15 interviews with various companies in Penang, then took on a job that I did not really like, stayed there for 2 months before finally landing my first proper job, which I have stayed on until now. A little side story on my current job: according to the manager that hired me, I was not his first choice. He called me for interview after countless disappointing interviews with first class degree holders. And then I was not the first shortlisted candidate for hire. I was 4th choice, he only hired me because his first 3 choices accepted bigger offers elsewhere.

That 4 months in the wilderness taught me the brutal fact that a non-first class degree is next to useless if you aspire to join an MNC. It was not a pleasant 4 months. In fact, if you can interpret my mood from above snippet, you’ll find it was brutally rough for me mentally. That’s just 2 examples, I have more than 10 such posts scattered over the 4 months period. But in hindsight, that 4 months was probably the best months that has ever happened to me in my life. It shaped my approach to tackling my job.

Now you might think, YAY! I’ve landed myself in an MNC as an engineer, staring pay RM 2800 for a fresh grad level, working hours 9 AM – 5 AM, and relaxing at work, playing ping pong when I feel like it. If you browse through my blog, you will find that I have had 4 trips to Colorado, a few trips to Singapore and JB, and more recently a trip to Japan, all for work. That’s such a dream job, isn’t it?!

What you did not see in my blog is, for the first 3 years of my working life, I spent most of my weekdays in the office until 10pm, and I go back to office on weekends to continue working. I was new, and there was practically no mentor guiding me. Sometimes I would squat in front of my broken test systems for half a day, staring at them, wondering what went wrong, trying this and that, and sometimes resort to praying for my fixes to work.

While you see me enjoying steaks in Colorado and sushi in Tokyo, you did not see me in full panic mode trying to complete my tasks on time in the office in Loveland, trying to uphold Penang site’s reputation, Malaysians’ reputation in front of the Americans. You did not see me sitting in the car, suffocating for 5 or 10 minutes as the stress took its toll on my body. The steaks are just meager compensation to the burden that you have to carry when representing your home country’s site.

I guess what I am trying to say is, everyone thinks that their life is terrible, that they have the worst of luck, that other people has always have it better than them. The truth is, everyone has got their own shit to shovel. The truth is, there is always other people out there that is more unfortunate than you.

While you might be worrying about not getting a girlfriend or not getting your dream job, there are people out there who are worrying about when their next meal will be. When you think this way, then you will feel better for yourself and not resort to unnecessary depression. Depression and stress increase risks of disastrous situations. I’ve seen depression caused co-workers to faint or worse, 发阳吊 fat yong diu (how to say it in English?). And have you read the news of an engineer jump down from a building in Penang a couple of years back? Yup, he works in an MNC. I told you it is not all rosy.


Nowadays, I spend more time on the other side of the interview table instead, helping my manager do the first interviews. By more time, I mean all the time. I have yet to attend another interview to change job so far. I’m an engineer, so my experience is restricted to engineering firms, but I think what I say should generally be applicable to MNCs in most other fields in Malaysia. I will try to describe what happens when we want to get a freshie new hire. I hope you did not / will not make the mistakes that I will highlight below.  Freshie as in fresh graduate, don’t be offended, it’s just easier to type for lazy man.

When we want to hire a freshie, the first thing that we do is ask for recommendation from existing employees. If no (and usually it is no), then we will get the resumes from HR. These resumes would usually come from various universities’ deposits. We would only resort to things like Jobstreet when the first 2 options have been exhausted or are not viable.

When the resumes come in, they usually come by the hundreds if not thousands. Our first task will be to select 10 prospective candidates for interviews. If these 10 fail, then we would come back and select another 10, and so on. If you think we will interview all hundreds or thousands, then you need to realize that we do have real work and issues waiting for us.

So how to we determine which 10 to choose? Of course the first thing is to filter out the resumes into first classes and non-first classes. In my experience, 80% of the resumes (of those hundreds) we receive are those with first class honours degree. What do you think will happen to that 20%? The polite way to say would be to KIV them. Keep In View. (Of course sometimes there are exceptions, like my case, when my resume just somehow slipped through this usually watertight process. Yes, I am just a second class upper, did I mention that earlier?)

Then comes the interview process. If your interviewer is me, I tend to be more forgiving. Sadly, most of the interviewers are not. The problem is, you need their job, so even if they are wrong, they are right. They are your customers (buying your time and labor), and the customer is always right, right?

A few things that do tick me off though (I am lenient, so if it ticks me off, it for sure will tick other interviewers off):

  1. Candidates come unprepared – I don’t care if you were caught by surprise when I called you. The moment you applied for a job with me, you should already have gone through my website and have a basic understanding on what my company is about. You might not be prepared to answer technical questions, but if you can’t even tell me what my company produces / sells, it means you don’t really care about this job. Yes you have applied 100 other jobs, that is your problem. Go memorize all those 100 company profiles. And do carry printed copies of your updated resume and documents and whatnot AT ALL TIMES, you might not always be able to find a photocopy shop quickly enough.
  2. Liars – You can’t really lie about your degree and CGPA, it’s in your certificate and transcript. But when I review 100 USM resumes (or UTM, or UM, or TARC for that matter), all 100 are president of certain extra co-curricular clubs. Really? There are so many clubs in the varsities? And the final year project / thesis / whatever it is you have. I will definitely drill into these 2 topics. If you exaggerate your capabilities in the resume, (example you copied bulat-bulat the thesis from your senior, but you claim you did it yourself single-handedly, and then not understand what you copied well enough), I will definitely strip you down and hang you out to dry. I can tolerate freshies who can’t answer technical questions well, because I know what college life is. I cannot tolerate liars.
  3. Latecomers – You need the job, I don’t need to hire you. So you have no rights to make me wait. And, people who arrives late for interview or for anything else really, sends a signal to others that he / she thinks his / her time is more important than others’. I don’t care what is the reason excuse, traffic jam or your girlfriend’s hamster died, you need to plan your time. If you are in another job, I would recommend you to take half day leave to attend this interview and file it as “personal reasons”. It is much better than lying to your current boss that your car break down and have to come back late to office or something like that. Refer point 2. And with the extra time, you can be better prepared. Refer point 1.
  4. Panic God – I understand freshies are a panic lot. After all you are anxious to get your first job, so to speak. I’m not going to eat you. I will try my best to calm you down. But if your hand is shaking throughout the entire interview (I’ve seen A LOT of these), how do you think I can consider you? You can’t even handle a f**king job interview! What happens when you can’t handle the stress of a business trip? Will you break down in the airport crying, or worse, faint? Those are valid concerns.
  5. ARROGANT PRICK – This is the worst. And I realize this is a more and more common trait among younger generations (younger than me). Kids these days have a sense of entitlement. They think they are entitled to 100% ideal work conditions, they decline job offers because: I don’t want to work long hours. I don’t want to work irregular hours. I don’t want low pay. I cannot tolerate if you are going to scold me at all. Whenever I discover such traits in a candidate, I will end the interview immediately and tell him that I will not consider him at all. That’s just me, usually interviewers will do the polite thing and tell you to wait for 2 weeks though, so that you heart can break slowly instead of be shattered to pieces immediately. People forget that the MNCs come to Malaysia because we are cheap and we are workaholic. They did not come here because they want to provide us with luxurious working conditions.

So, yeah, these 5 points are sort of my general guideline for freshies aspiring to enter MNC. With some luck and preparation, it might increase your chances. May the odds be with you.

 

14 Comments

  1. well, everyone has their own fair share of ‘not-so-brilliant’ past. Strong and successful people are those who failed many times…they failed, then deal with it, got improved…and after some time got thru it. Imagine Thomas Alva Edison attempts in creating light bulbs?? he failed over thousands times, but he gained knowledge from there…He’s my inspiration.

  2. “…a non-first class degree is next to useless…” Sad that this is more often than not the measure of a man – all based on a piece of paper. It only shows that the individual is academically inclined, good at studying and passing exams with flying colours. It MAY not be the same once he goes into the real world.

    Yes, I am amazed at how young graduates show up for their new jobs saying I do not do this, I do not do that…I do not want this, I do not want that. My time, when we started, we just accepted whatever shit they threw at us – it only served to make us stronger and a lot better!

    • Another thing about young graduates these days – they seem quite…brainless. No general knowledge, no knowledge of things going on in the world, and their answers reflect their pea-sized brain and their limited exposure to anything and their protected secluded lives PLUS many these days are not even decently proficient in the English language or over here, at least…dunno there.

      • Of course, there are the eloquent ones – very impressive but at times, empty vessels make the most sound. The quiet ones may do a lot better at their jobs once they get down to it. I guess that is why these days, e.g. to apply for scholarships, they would get everybody together for a course/workshop…and they will select from there instead of a face-to-face interview which actually does not say very much of a person.

        • You highlighted the concerns pretty accurately. As a freshie, you have no rights to make demands, you need to prove yourself first. Unfortunately in the real world, there are more fresh graduates than there are fresh jobs, so why should I not give the job to someone who will just STFU and get down to work? Again like I mentioned in the post, MNC or no MNC, people set up shop in SEA because we are cheap and workaholic. If you want to forsake that trait, then the investors and jobs will just move on. Getting your degree is not the end of hard work, it is just the beginning. You might be daunted at the prospect of working and wants to create a business, but to run a business, it involves hard work and dedication too, usually 10x or 100x that of working. There is no such thing as easy job and getting rich quickly, even Mark Zuckerberg invested most of his time writing codes and programs in his childhood and teens before he invented Facebook, it is not just with a snap on his fingers.
          I don’t think kids nowadays have pea-sized brain (the milk they drink is supposed to make their brain more enhanced than older generation people), it is more their attitude. I blame part of it to the current crop of cotton wool parents. “I’ve got to give the best of everything to my kids. I’ve got to protect them from this, I’ve got to protect them from that” etc. In the end, when they come out to face the cruel world, they have that mindset “Even my mom doesn’t scold me, how dare you insult me like that? I cannot work for you”, or “Quit, quit lah, just go home and find another job, daddy will feed me in the mean time”.
          The angmohs said, Malaysians are very talented in language, we are proficient in so many languages. From what I’m seeing, that advantage is going down the drain soon too. Kids nowadays are generally not that good in spoken and written English, or BM, or Chinese, anymore. They can speak, yes, but it is not at a level that gives them an advantage over their foreign peers.
          The saddest part is, nobody seems to think there is any problem…

    • Very true about the parents – little do they realise that they are doing more harm than good. The worst would be the ones pushing their kids to attain straight A’s, regardless of the fact that they are turning them into zombies.

      Here, in my town, there is a trend towards speaking Mandarin – all the dialects, Foochow, Hokkien have died. The younger generation can only speak Mandarin and I have been forced to learn the language myself so as to be able to communicate with those in the shops, restaurants and so on…and I speak it all the time as well now especially when English, Malay or Hokkien fails me. They can’t speak a word of English and either they can’t speak BM or they just refuse to speak it (after so many years of the language in school) and yes,as you said, “The saddest part is, nobody seems to think there is any problem…”

  3. Wow such a long and detailed post.. But I like.. I actually read twice.. Well grass is always greener on the other side, huh.. And ‘yan pei yan pei sei yan’.. Can die if always compare.. Every person has his/her own problems.. People just dont reveal too much or tell it to the whole world like report duty, today do what+eat what+encountered what problems, yes? I was from a German mnc too before I landed into this current company.. I was sent to China twice a year and we went to Japan/Taiwan/Shanghai for our annual trips.. Over here, not even a trip, old system and old-fashioned minded ppl but I’m not complaining.. Things seems to be easier for me and its like receiving gaji buta here, teehee.. Relax a bit babe, life is short, YOLO- you only live once.. Stop complaining and just do it, yes?

    • Exactly. Complaining is the most unproductive reaction to a problem, because it does nothing to solve the problem at all.

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