No Qualifications, But So What?
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Tuesday, 15th September 2009
Steven Gong did not let the lack of qualifications stop him from going for a job at Wego, in fact it all worked out for the best.

Getting your foot in the door is one thing, nailing the job is another, especially when it's a job you haven't got the right qualifications for.

Take Steven Gong who saw a job at Wego, the travel search company, he had no qualifications for. It was for an online marketing manager position posted on Monster.com.

Steven, who was part of the "Young WIT" panel at WIT*e – Inspiration & Mentoring,  sent an email to Wego, explaining that he wasn't applying for that position but was interested in joining the company for any role that suited his skills and experience from management consulting.

"Before the interview, I did a lot of research to understand the industry, the company, their business model and opportunities so that I could talk confidently and intelligently during the interviews with the Wego management team.

"I think that demonstrating that you have a solid understanding of the potential employer's business is critical in aceing the interview, as well as showing strong analytical, communication and presentation skills. Another critical element is a display of genuine eagerness to join the company and passion for the role."

Conversely, for Steven, it was the interview with Wego CEO Martin Symes that convinced him it was the right thing to join the company. "It was the best interview I ever had. He asked questions that were not what I expected at all but challenged me in a way that inspired me."

For Wego management, they also felt that Steven was worth looking at "because who in his sane mind would apply for a job they had no qualifications for?" said Craig Hewitt, CEO. "We thought this would be an unusual, interesting person."

That was two years ago. Steven, who is now business development director, says his goal is now to obtain as much experience and knowledge as possible to become a successful entrepreneur.

"I believe that a long term view of your career is needed to stay on course to get to where you really want to be in the future."

Asked why he chose to join a start-up versus joining a big company, he said, "At the very start of my career my perspective was to work for a big brand name with high pay – but now that has changed completely to wanting to work for start-up companies where I can develop experience in driving fast company growth. My desire to be an entrepreneur is the key driver for this change in thinking."

As for what motivates him in his job, he said, "Working for a start-up is the most exciting role that you can get. I love working for a rapidly growing business, enjoy the challenges of developing and implementing new strategies, identifying new opportunities and business models, and having multiple roles and responsibilities.

"The rewards include a greater sense of ownership, responsibility and satisfaction from your work, and can also lead to good financial rewards as well depending on the success of the company. There are obviously much higher risks involved when working for a start-up company so you need to understand that very carefully and be prepared to take that step before switching career paths."

Steven feels the travel industry could communicate more effectively to young talent about the huge opportunities that exist in the industry.

"There is so much opportunity across the entire value chain in travel – from travel planning and booking, to the travel experience, to post-experience interaction with consumers and companies.

"There are many companies in the industry who are delivering very exciting new ideas and business models and so hopefully there will be a shift in interest from young talent to the travel sector.

"VCs investing in start-up companies in the travel industry is a very positive sign: www.fis.dowjones.com/article.aspx?aid=DJFVW00020090727e57r00002&r=wsjblog&s=djfvw&ProductIDFromApplication=32 ."

upgrading of skills and acquiring new ones is also critical to staying relevant and competitive in the job marketplace, Steven said, especially in a start-up environment where a lot of people in the business must take on several roles at the same time.

"While working in a corporate environment can give you much easier access to training, a start-up can give you more opportunities to develop skills with more responsibilities, enabling you to grow your skills more quickly."

Steven also believes that employers need to look more closely at using social media to engage not only with staff but also customers.

"I think that social media is having a big impact on how people interact (not just young people) and how they view companies and their goods and services. With social media comes full transparency, and with full transparency comes the need to more carefully and effectively interact with your customers. I think that companies who use social media to engage and interact with consumers will have a significant advantage over those that don't."

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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