Congratulations on not graduating, Nguyễn Võ Trọng Trí

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My Little Un-Graduation Speech, by Nguyễn Võ Trọng Trí

One of the things that I treasure most of my five years at RMIT Vietnam is how I was able to follow my students through their university journeys. I taught hundreds first as an English teacher and then again years later as their career educator in RMIT’s Career Passport programs. Later still, I met them again when they joined career centre events as alumni guests.

Each year, my Facebook feed is filled with graduation photos. My former students are often kind enough to tag me or thank me in the captions. In 2014, I was honoured to be thanked by Nguyen Thao Vy, the RMIT President’s Award winner, in her acceptance speech. I’m always proud to have played a part, however small, in these students’ academic and career development.

This year, one Facebook graduation post, in particular, stood out from the rest.

I first met Nguyễn Võ Trọng Trí as one of 16  students in an English class that I taught in 2011. Over the years, I would often see him volunteering with the Student Ambassador Team during university open days, orientations, and other events, leading a group of high school students, parents, or RMIT first-years around on their campus tours.

Trí’s post on Facebook was titled “My Little Un-Graduation Speech”. Trí wasn’t graduating with his cohort, for various reasons, but he clearly had something he needed to say, and he said it remarkably well.

Today, some of my friends
who entered this university at the same time
as I did are going to attend their graduation
ceremony.

Trí wasn’t to be there with them. He is frank and honest about why. Poor decisions he made, family issues, new starts. But Trí learned a lesson that many of his graduating classmates did not. He learned that university is about the experiences you have as much as the degree that you earn. For Trí, the Student Ambassadors Team taught him as much as or more than his classes did.

Who am I today? At this very moment,
while many of my fellows become
university graduates, I am no one with no
college degree, no work, no nothing.

I was moved by Trí’s post. I identified with Trí, as his words describe the way I felt in 2000 when I dropped out of university with a couple of semesters worth of lacklustre grades. I was proud that one of my students would have the courage and honesty to make such a post public, especially in the strongly collectivist culture of Vietnam.

But Trí’s post was not about self-pity. He showed great maturity, a level of optimism, and most importantly, pride in what he had done and learned during his time at RMIT.

It shall be a very tough career path for me
since most of this society does not always
appreciate one’s ability yet his or her
degree. However, I know that as an RMIT
student and a Student Ambassador, I can
prove them wrong looking down on
neglected people who are disoriented or
lack of luck at some points of life.

“Calculated luck” and Chaos Theory

My favourite part of Trí’s post is his conclusion, where he unwittingly references two important career development theories: Krumboltz’s planned happenstance and Pryor and Bright’s Chaos Theory of Careers. Trí has never studied career development theory, but he clearly has the wisdom and reflective maturity to articulate the key points based on his experience.

And finally, to my fellow graduates, good
luck on your career path. When I say luck, I
mean a calculated luck. Be passionate
about what you do, have good
experiences and knowledge. Magnificent
ideas will surprise you and when they do,
experiment or take action immediately
then shall come the luck.

My Little Un-Graduation Speech, by Nguyễn Võ Trọng Trí

Trí’s calling is to be a designer, so it’s fitting that he put together a visual document to present his speech. With his permission, I can share it here for you to read in full.

Download (PDF, 6.28MB)

from “My Little Un-Graduation Speech” by Nguyễn Võ Trọng Trí

 

“50 Ways to Get a Job”: The best career advice website on the internet

Capture 50 Ways to Get a Job has been my favourite career advice website on the internet since I first stumbled across it a year or two ago. The website is managed by DreamNow, a Canadian “charitable organization that produces ideas that do good for the world.”

Here are 6 things I love most about it:

  1. It’s beautifully designed. The tiles are vibrant and clear and there’s no ambiguity about it. It’s a responsive design, so it looks just as good on a phone, tablet or laptop.
  2. It is immensely practical. Each task has easy to follow instructions and clear outcomes. There’s even a check-list function so you can tick off the tasks as you go. Many career resources describe useful tasks, but lack concrete and detailed instructions.
  3. The categories or stages are familiar and immediately understandable. Self reflection comes first, then the practical job search and application tasks. Career educators will see a resemblance to the DOTS model,  ABCD blueprint, or similar career education framework.
  4. However, the categories and the tasks within each are a lot more creative than is often seen in career education materials. There is a clear focus on creativity and innovation, balanced with practicality.
  5. The individual pages are very concise. I’m often dismayed at the wordiness in career resources, so to see pages of just 150 to 300 words is extremely refreshing.
  6. It’s not a sales pitch. It is based on a book and managed by a charitable organisation, but it doesn’t push either hard, if at all. There are outgoing links to several organisations or book recommendations, but they are sincerely curated and not pushy.

I would love to one day be able to have a product of this quality of content and design in my portfolio.

Three bad decisions that gave me happiness

Blitz

 

One of the first things I ever published as a career consultant was this article for the RMIT Vietnam student magazine, Blitz Magazine. The editors had approached the Career Centre asking us to provide an article, and I volunteered.

Around that time I had been sharing a lot of my own experiences with my classes, particularly the times when I have made decisions that seemed a little risky at the time, but which worked out amazingly well:

  • Dropping out of uni when I realised that I lacked ambition and motivation
  • Giving up the chance of an important scholarship to go chase a girl in a foreign country
  • Leaving a job that I enjoyed and was good at to go into an area I didn’t know much about

I had been reading about John Krumboltz’s theory of Planned Happenstance at the time and wanted to share the idea that career planning involves a lot of uncertainty, luck, and randomness, but also that there were several things you could do to orient yourself and make sound decisions.

I decided to write the following article, framing three major turning points in my life as “mistakes” where I made the decision that, on the face of it, was the riskiest. Some of my colleagues were worried that our students wouldn’t get the joke, but I was confident that I could get my point across without too much confusion.

I had a good response from my students, with a few emailing me to make a comment or ask a question. I also got quite a few concerned questions asking me how my wife felt about being labelled a “mistake”. Luckily, in this case, I was wise enough to run it past her first.

Unfortunately I no longer have the text of the article and you can’t copy and paste from the online magazine, so here some screen captures of the article as it appeared in the magazine.

Download (PDF, 700KB)

Making an impact

I really enjoyed this video that wandered across my social media vision the other day.

It captures the precise moment that the singer, Patrick Bruel, realises how much he has made an impact on people.

He’s clearly had plenty of success in his career by this point, to be playing on such a stage. But even so, he’s surprised and overwhelmed to see thousands of people singing his song. It’s an experience that I would imagine few people get to experience. So much of people’s work these days in anonymous and transactional, which is a shame.

Making a impact as teachers

Educators are fortunate in that they get to see the true impact of their work, something that Taylor Mali powerfully captured in his poem “What Teachers Make”. One of the greatest rewards in a teacher’s career comes when they see a student achieve something and know that they played a part – sometimes incidental, sometimes instrumental – in that person’s success. Often, teachers never actually see the results of their influence, as their contribution is realised many years later or in totally different contexts and environments. As an English teacher, for example, my help in learning to write clearly could one day contribute to a student’s workplace promotion, a publication, or a viral blog post. The link may not be immediate or explicit, but there is one.

Making an impact as a career development educator

For me, one of the great things about being a careers educator is the immediacy of this feedback on my work. I may help a student revise a terrible resume into a good one, and later hear from them that they had been invited to a job interview. Or I may help a student articulate their career goals, and later get a Linkedin invitation from them in the role they dreamed of. I’m proud to know that I made a positive difference in their lives and motivated to keep doing what I can to educate and empower my students.