Club and Societies Forum: Extracurricular to Employability

From the 10th to the 11th of February, Sunway University’s Student Council (SUSC) organised a forum in which students who joined had the opportunity to discover how to craft a bright future with their extracurricular involvements. The speakers on the 10th of February were Elaine Quek, a Year 3 Semester 1 Accounting and Finance student as well as Ko Jia Xin, a Year 2 Semester 3 Computer Science Student.  The speaker on the second day was Ms Sook Mun from Shopee’s People Team (Branding). 

Day 1:  To kick off the first day of the forum, the hosts, Natania and Jayson introduced the two speakers for the day, Elaine Quek, the winner of the Outstanding Leadership Award and Ko Jia Xin, winner of Ultimate Team Player, both awards being from Clubs & Societies (C&S) Outstanding Individual Award 2021. The introduction was followed by forum prompts, a Q&A session and was wrapped up with a mini photo session. 

For those who struggle making decisions related to C&S, the questions asked may help you out. The first question asked was why they decided to join C&S. To this, Elaine said that due to the pandemic that was announced in 2020, she couldn’t attend classes physically, thus she decided to expose herself to more of the clubs & societies offered in the university. Elaine, in the past two years has held nearly 13 committee positions in 7 clubs & societies. For Jia Xin on the other hand, she expressed the fact that she wasn’t confident with her English when she first started college. Hence, to overcome this obstacle, Jia Xin pushed herself to build more confidence by participating in more C&S and improving her proficiency in English at the same time.

As per the topic of the forum, “Extracurricular to Employability” during the Q&A session and earlier in the forum prompts, the question of the benefit of C&S in boosting a person’s employability or scholarship/internship was raised a few times. Elaine, who now is an intern at Ernst & Young (a.k.a one of the Big Four accounting firms), said that active involvement in C&S will definitely give a competitive advantage compared to those who participated less in C&S. It isn’t only about scoring an internship or a scholarship, rather how to deal with your colleagues when working too. Jia Xin explains this by saying, having dealt with multiple personalities and characters while in a club or society, this gives an upper hand in working  around an office while using the extra skills gained in C&S.

When asked how they balanced their time with extracurricular activities, studies and their social life, they emphasised a crucial point, prioritisation. Recognising which is more urgent, then, communicating and arranging time with the people related was how they both managed to balance their time skillfully. Of course, there were instances where they had to sacrifice time spent with their family and friends, but, being with understanding people helped solve this problem.

For those who are grappling with  the numerous choices of C&S to join and which position to take up once having joined, Jia Xin advises to choose which C&S you are more inclined to. Rather than piling up with multiple C&S immediately, start small and pay attention to quality over quantity. Elaine added on to choose a C&S that aligns with one’s academic timeline. This is so that the time of graduation and recruitment does not clash. To help you out, here is the list of C&S offered at Sunway. Choose wisely!

When asked what was the biggest motivation to still carry on in a C&S despite going through a tough time, Jia Xin replied that her club members proved to be a solid support system in working together. Elaine, mentioned a quote, “Never forget why you started in the first place, only then you can accomplish your goals”. Elaine explains that it is easy to begin something but difficult to persevere till the end. Hence, perseverance and determination, come hand in hand in motivating oneself.

They also offered advice to introverts who have doubts about taking up huge positions in a C&S. Elaine encouraged that being an introvert does not mean they can’t take on bigger positions. Being an introvert herself, she says to ‘shoot for the moon, even if you miss it, you will reach the stars’, explaining that all one needs is passion and confidence to accomplish it. Jia Xin however, says the opposite; for those who are timid, she suggests starting small and slowly warming up to their club members. 

There are a few points that should be taken into account from their advice about C&S. Mainly, to join clubs you’re more passionate about. Jia Xin also says to volunteer oneself to carry out tasks instead of waiting for instructions. To put it in a nutshell, one’s attitude in joining a club gives a lot of importance as to obtain more benefits from the club itself.

Day 2: 

The 2nd part of the two-day forum started at 8 pm sharp with the MC of the night, Philix and Shay going through the agenda which included an intro to the speaker, forum prompts, a Question & Answers session as well as a quick photo session. 

The speaker, Ms Sook Mun who graduated from the University of Malaya with First Class Honours of Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, currently spearheads various Employer Branding Initiatives including university relations and campus recruitment at Shopee, Malaysia. 

Through the first question prompt of, “How is joining C&S beneficial in terms of gaining employment?”, participants were able to gain a bit more knowledge about Ms Sook Mun. Having been abused by her primary school teacher, Ms Sook Mun decided to choose a secondary school in which nobody knew her. Throughout the first few years, she raised her hands for C&S activities. Participating in such activities not only helped her boost up her confidence but also afforded her the chance to gain more exposure. With such an amount of valuable exposure, she was then offered to take the lead at the school in which she was studying for her Form 6. Ms Sook Mun also emphasises the importance of C&S in helping to build one’s soft skills both professionally and personally. For her, time in university should be used wisely in order to gain as much experience as possible. Joining a C&S doesn’t just help in gaining exposure but it also helps in building a network. 

When asked about employing others as an HR manager, Ms Sook Mun brought up the 3Es- Education, Experience and Exposure. Professional certifications and micro-credentials are among the few things that can be classified under the category of education. Experience on the other hand covers one’s internship and professional work experience. Case competitions and events are then categorised under exposure. Such things are essential in building up one’s portfolio. 

When asked about the importance of specific extracurricular roles, Ms Sook Mun simply replied that it depends on the impact and the role the individual has played. Joining a variety of clubs is able to provide employers with a varying perspective of the individual. For example, joining a sports club for team games such as futsal is able to show that one is a team player, outgoing, disciplined and healthy. 

While it is crucial for one to take part in various clubs and activities, it is important to acknowledge that not everybody will have the means to do that be it because of financial reasons or even time constraints. In such cases, Ms Sook Mun would advise those students to highlight the activity that they did instead. For example, if an individual is unable to take part in C&S activities because they are operating a small business they should instead justify it in their resume. The key point that employers would like to know is how an individual spent their time and how passionate a person is. 

As an HR Manager, Ms Sook Mun shared her two perspectives in which a student can decide on what role they would like to take up. The two things to consider when making a decision is whether it adds value to your resume and whether you will be able to experience it when you join the workforce. 

For the next question, she was then prompted to talk about the importance of extracurricular activities when compared to a stellar academic history. A profile/resume should be able to tell the employers how good you are instead of just who you are. When talking about the importance of certificates, while an employer does not really go through each and every single one of them they are still able to serve as proof that one has participated in such an event. 

As for the last question of the night, Ms Sook Mun advises one to think about why they want to do that job and if they can only do it through that position. One should keep in mind to always stay humble and be open-minded to learn new things. The night ended with the Q&A session to answer questions from the audience as well as a short photo session. 

Being a student and balancing club activities with social life is difficult, but not impossible. These wonderfully inspiring people are solid proof of that! Echo hopes that this article proves to be helpful to all of its readers. Let’s do our best in achieving greater heights!

Written By: Sumitra Cheong and Poorani 

Edited By: Jamie

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