I don’t particularly like strawberries, but my wife absolutely loves them. It was for her sake that I agreed to go on a strawberry-picking expedition during our holiday in Korea. And so we headed to a quaint village in the outskirts of Seoul. Each of us had a little punnet to keep our pickings, and we were also given free rein to taste the strawberries as we picked them. That day, I believe I enjoyed the best strawberries in my life – soft and delicate to the palette, and yet bursting with juicy sweetness. It was a delightful experience!
Strawberries are often used as a metaphor for youth. There have been criticisms about the current generation of young people, that they’ve been brought up under comfortable conditions, and are ill-equipped to deal with crises such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But does this statement hold water, or is it merely a generalisation?
Just a few weeks ago, TODAY ran a story on 26-year-old Andy Wong. Andy graduated from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom with an honours degree in politics and history. He however could not find a government job when he returned to Singapore, and he subsequently managed to land a couple of short-term administrative jobs. In November 2019, Andy quit his job, hoping to start afresh in a new industry. He applied for 60 jobs over the span of 4 months to no result. In view of the ongoing pandemic, he reasoned that it would be difficult to find a white-collar job, so he got a job as a truck driver, and now works 12-hour shifts for 22 days in a month.
Describing his career choice, Andy noted, “All work has value, all work takes skill, and just because society is behind the curve in recognising this does not mean we should let that weigh down on us.”
Like Andy, 25-year-old Uzen Tan believes in the value of skilled hard work. He and his partner, Julian Lim, birthed the idea of setting up a coffee company during their National Service days. In an interview with Focus on the Family Singapore, Uzen shared that his company, Nineteen95 The Expresso Bar, was shaped by a “passion for coffee and the drive to start a business”. Uzen and Julian had worked part-time in several cafes before deciding to “bring their interest back home”.
Although the both of them had little experience in F&B, they leveraged opportunities and innovation to grow Nineteen95. They branched into bubble tea after seeing that no one in Singapore was doing bubble tea live stations. Amidst the recent Circuit Breaker restrictions on beverage stalls, the company came up with bottled bubble tea and worked with Takagi Ramen to sell bubble tea alongside the ramen. To keep manpower lean, Uzen clocked more than 50 days of non-stop action, on top of attending online lessons at the Singapore Institute of Technology and working on his assignments.
Still, Nineteen95 managed to embark on a Give.Asia project to provide free coffee to frontline healthcare workers at Changi General Hospital. To date, they have contributed more than $6,000 worth of coffee to the beneficiaries.
So, is it true that the youth of today are like strawberries – soft and mushy, and who crumble under harsh conditions?
According to Uzen, there is a group of people who are resistant to change and they cling to a steadfast belief that whatever they are doing will provide them with a stable career and livelihood.
However, there are many others who adapt to change. Uzen himself is leveraging what he is learning in his current hospitality course to understand the industry on a macro level and to further grow his business.
When faced with challenges, such attitudes of grit, openness to change, and making the best out of what you have may stand some of our youths in good stead.
Andy noted that as the realities of an economic recession continue to bear down on us, we may realise that academic qualifications are increasingly irrelevant.
In agreement, Uzen advises future or current job seekers to be open-minded and to take any job opportunity that comes along. “You can always develop your knowledge, skills, and abilities along the way, and find your niche,” he said.
“Be willing to take risks now while you can. And above all else, keep a positive mind. Think good and do good.”
? 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Mark Lim is Consultant & Counsellor at The Social Factor, a consultancy and counselling agency which conducts training on life skills such as parenting, mentoring and special needs. He and his wife Sue co-write a parenting blog Parenting on Purpose, where they chronicle the life lessons from parenting two young boys aged 9 and 7.
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