Friday, August 21, 2020

It's Okay Not To Get Your Top Choice In School, Work And Life

For thousands of hopeful Malaysian youths, 18 August 2020 must have been a truly heart-breaking day. The moment of truth had finally arrived - whether they would be offered a spot at a public university to pursue their undergraduate degree.

Unsurprisingly, the release of the UPU results would have left many students in shock, and breaking down into tears. Places at the top universities for the top degrees are limited. So far, I've already heard a few sad stories from relatives and friends. Some got their last choice, some got a choice that they didn't even picked, some missed out completely.

Privately, I'm trying my level best to advise certain people on their options, including their avenues of appeal. I'm not an expert on such matters. Suffice to say, from the basics I know, it's an uphill struggle to secure their top choices.

Perhaps the best I can offer is to share my own experience with failure.

Only in my dreams...

* * *

From childhood to adulthood, I never ever got my first choice of anything. In high school, I didn't excel in PMR (now defunct) - so I couldn't get into the top two 'special' classes for SPM. Then, after SPM (O Level), I applied for ASEAN scholarship - total rejection. After scoring straight As for STPM (A Level), I applied for law at a prestigious university - but got offered Social Sciences instead.

At university, my record wasn't great either. I struggled to get into the top mooting and debate teams. I missed out on First Class - not even close. And after graduation, I applied for pupilage - and got rejected by my first choice of law firm initially (it's a loooong story which I wrote about way back in 2014: How To Deal With Rejection).

1. It's okay to not be okay - Let the news sink in. Lock yourself in the room. Scream at the top of your voice. Don't bottle it in. Don't hold back. Let it go... sadness, anger... LET IT ALL GO! The first step towards acceptance is being honest with your full range of feelings. Next, embrace your weaknesses. Sure, there's always some luck and unfairness in the system. Still, we must be critical on where we fall short, and what we could've done better.

2. Life will find a way - By my rough count, I've failed more interviews than I've passed them. For instance, I failed to impress a senior partner of a law firm during an interview. No worries, my networking activities impressed another partner enough to give me a second lifeline. Point is, there are many pathways to your dream destination. If hit a dead end, just track back and find another way.

3. When a door closes, another opens - Of course, sometimes a pathway really stays barred permanently. For instance, I failed an admission interview at world-renowned university. No wories, University of Malaya gave mea wealth of opportunities to spread my international horizons. Each time I fell, I would get back on my feet to land on something just as good, if not even better.

4. Focus on the future - So you failed really badly. And your alternatives aren't ideal substitutes. So what? Move on. Learn from your mistakes. Doesn't matter how deep of a hole you drop into. Climb back up as quick as you can. Start back at square one. Reflect, but don't regret. It's okay to feel bad about yourself, so long as it drives you to be better in future.

5. It's who you are, not where you're from - The harsh reality is that association matters. An employer's eye will sparkle more browsing a resume from 'Oxford' rather than, say, 'University of Malaya'. Getting into the right university sets people off to a head start. Still, for those stuck with a not-so-sparkly university or degree, all is not lost. Let your individuality to shine through. Internship. Networking. Work hard enough, and your performance will prevail over the privileges of others.

* * *

Look, failure is part of life. No one is perfect. Even the best of us mess up at the worst of times. Shit happens.

Didn't enter your dream university? Didn't land your dream job? It's not the end of the world.

Sure, a nice resume opens up many doors. But the real challenge is walking through the pathway that lays beyond. Sure, there are some snobbish elites who won't give you a second glance if you ain't from Ivy League. Well, screw them. You don't want to work for these type of people, anyway.

I won't lie to you. I take failure just as hard as anyone. I get mad everytime I don't get my top choice in life. It can take days for me to smile again.

But come what may, I never let success or failure get into my head. Win or lose, my reaction is always the same - perform even better next time. After all, life is not a sprint, but a marathon. And no matter whether you're fresh out of high school or years into work, there's so much more in life worth running for.

So for the thousands of Malaysian youths who didn't get the degree and university that they wanted on 18 August 2020, it's okay to be sad and feel that you deserved better. So get back quickly to your feet, and prove it.

1 comment :

  1. Thank you. It's heartwarming ❣️.I didn't get the offer for my first
    choice.I am disappointed on myself.I failed to prepare myself and felt like wasting my 7 years in secondary school and pre u.
    I was advised to be grateful as I still get an offer.Yes ,I knew it.But ,I just wish someone who can really put them in my shoes and feel what I felt.The sadness is not all about fail to get first choice,got rejected ,but also disappointment on myself.I am losing my way .My confidence towards myself getting lower.
    People around me only keep asking to stop crying from the beginning.It somehow hurt me deeper.

    Thank you from writing this post.It makes me felt a bit relieved and know where to stand up.

    Again ,thank you.