Imagine this: you’ve graduated from a top tier university. You work in a senior management role for a large, multi-national corporation. You boast a six-figure salary, a company car and a two-storey, five-bedroom home. A BMW 5 Series sits parked in your driveway, visible only through the peeks of the white picket fence that surrounds your lush, green lawn. And inside you settle in with your wife or husband, family dog and two-and-a-half of the most genetically perfect children you could’ve created, chatting happily across the dinner table to each other with your perfectly prepared meal. You’ve look around and you know you’ve made it. You, are a success story.
Or so we used to think. Enter the revolution of modern millennials who are not just shaking up the roles of traditional gender norms, work stereotypes and equalizing the job marketplace, but they’re doing so at a rapidly pacing rate. Accompanying this new world order, is a whole new definition of the word ‘success’. Asia, be it from China to Singapore to India, long has a history of marking one’s achievements by the tier of their schooling, the caliber of their tertiary education, the brand and title against their name and of course, the salary and marital status of a person. Without the above, it felt like once upon a time, there was no such thing as having ‘made it’ unless you made it ‘our way’. But as a wave of new voices enter the workforce and climb to the ranks of leadership and influence, the reverberations of this change far extend beyond the entrepreneurial nature of today’s generation. In fact, it’s more widely and fundamentally reshaping the way in which existing large-scale organizations are operating, hiring and growing their agendas in global markets.
Where are one time, complying by the hierarchical rules of the company policy was enough to measure success and the next promotion was the mark of a job well done, are they enough today? From an increased focus on aspects such as diversity and inclusion, to better work-life balance, an impetus on mental health and allowing time for personal growth in the office, powerhouse industries such as consulting, law, accounting, finance, marketing and more. They have to evolve themselves to stay relevant to the modern agenda or risk being devalued by a generation of potential employees.
So how and what does the modern millennial define as success, especially when they come from a ‘conventionally successful’ career path? To celebrate the launch of our brand-new section on the very same topic at hand, we partnered with Nespresso Singapore at Riviera – The Restaurant to speak to 5 twenty-to-thirty-something year olds about what it’s like to be on a ‘traditional’ career pathway; how they measure their own achievements, what happiness really looks like both outside and inside the workplace and why success, has very little to do only your title and mostly to do with your mind.
Part 1: Aanchal Sethi, Advertising
1. Can you please briefly describe what your role is / what you do for a living?
I work in advertising helping brands grow and challenge the status quo in their industries.
2. What led you to choose your current career path?
As a kid, I loved watching television commercials and listening to the radio jingles. I was extremely curious about how these commercials were made. After I graduated, I got an opportunity to work as an intern in the production department of an advertising agency and that’s how I entered the world of advertising.
3. How do you feel about being in a career pathway that others / society deems to be ‘conventionally successful’?
Success is a relative term and each society has a different spin on it. I come from a small town in India where advertising was not considered a top career choice in the early 2000’s. I broke a few conventions and ceilings to be where I am today and I feel quite grateful for the opportunities that were presented to me and proud of myself to have had the courage to make them a success.
4. Do you think your life has been easier or harder based on the type of career you’ve chosen or caliber of organisation you work for? Any myths you can dispel about your career choice?
I think any career path has its highs and lows – how else will you learn and grow? I have been fortunate enough to work in some of the best advertising agencies across India, UAE and Singapore and have met some brilliant people along the way who have contributed to my development. In that sense, life has been very kind to me. Tough days exist, tough situations exist but you just have to tread on and take the learnings along with you.
5. How has your chosen industry changed / evolved over the years? Have the benchmarks of ‘success’ in your industry also changed in your opinion?
When I started my career in 2003 in India, the industry was male dominant. There were hardly any women creative or leaders. In the past few years there has been a strong push of DE&I and we are finally catching up to have stronger representation of female leadership across the industry. This is also reflecting in the work that is coming out now which is in sync with how the world is changing and waking up to equal representation.
The benchmarks of success for an advertising agency have evolved to being employee-focused. The “hustle” culture has been a cornerstone of the advertising world.
The truth is, if everyone is hustling 24/7, there is burn-out, loss of good talent and an impact on the bottom line.
I believe the agencies who are focusing on employee wellbeing, mental health and on building diverse and inclusive teams are the ones who are successful in the long term.
6. How do you define success for yourself both within and outside of your career?
Success for me has changed over the years and evolved as I have grown older. I used to benchmark success in various forms – money, title, travel, the number of times I got a seat at the table!
I have come to realise that I cannot demarcate success within and outside of my career. You could be a CEO earning a million dollars yet if outside of your career you have bad health and suffer from constant stress – I think you are failing more than succeeding.
For me success is “balance” and the opportunity to be my most “authentic self” each day so that I bring a 100% to whatever I am doing.
7. What are the three skills you think millennials require today to truly be successful?
1. Be curious to the world around you – there is so much to learn everyday.
2. Stay empathetic to the people around you. Empathy and a keen listening ear go a long way.
3. Play more – experiment, innovate and discover. True success comes from the feeling of doing what brings you joy.
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