Expectation management 101


There are 3 life lessons in my life which thought me about expectation management.

True, it is important to have great expectations and vision but we must also manage expectations. It is an art of dying to self or to fleshy ambition.

Expectation management #1: “You just got to die to people’s expectations and start living your own. What belongs to you will rightfully be yours.”

When I first got into University 3 years ago, I was filled with expectations thinking I could do well academically. To my horror, it was difficult. I realized I am not that bright after all.

My scholarship was suspended twice. I realized I must manage my expectations. “Heck with the scholarship, let me have fun learning” I like what my World History lecturer/tutor said to us, “Do not worry about your assignment grades and critique, you are here to learn, not to succeed.” That sentence lived with me and I began seeing the greater mission of education, it is NOT just an academic exercise or a chance to show how good you are with getting good grades. It’s about preparing you in the society and work force. Please, FAIL big time or at least try to learn valuable lessons in school. If you were to fail in your workplace, it could cost you MORE than grades alone.

Alright, I got my scholarship back when I threw the weight of my scholarship hopes. Sound contradicting but when I lose it, I gained it back.

Expectation management #2: “You will never be 100% ready anyways, so just go for it. Do not expect much on your current abilities or situation but expect much from trying and not wavering.”

In the beginning of 2012, I was concerned about my career in future. I will graduate in 2013 and I have all these pressure and expectations to get a good job. One of the first step towards my target is to get an internship opportunity with a reputable company and see what employment chances would I be offered.

I must be grateful to my University’s career centre for presenting its students with great opportunities to work in reputable companies. In the beginning of January 2012, banks were looking for interns. The usual me would say, “Ah, I am not good enough, I am not good at this, I am not too good at that.” After realizing that I will NEVER be 100% ready, let’s try it. No harm to try right?

I applied for Credit Suisse (CS) and Deutsche Bank’s IT internship programme. First round of elimination: Online assessment test. Heck with it, just go for it first. And guess what? I think I did okay for Linguistic test but I think I randomly picked answers for the Numerical test. I really suck at calculating numbers. Why lie to myself or to any potential employer?

I received an email few days later telling me that Credit Suisse will not process my application further. Okay, I knew it. I am not bright enough.

But, 10 minutes later I received a call and an email at 9pm! Wow, these good people work till wee hours huh?

I was told I was selected to have a phone interview with one of the CS IT managers. Alright, was happy but I didn’t expect much nor did I prepare much because I think I am going to fail the interview.

After the weekend, I received an expected call on a Monday night. I excused myself from my night class and begun talking to the interviewer. Everything was fine until the Interviewer asked me a question which I knew it will be asked BUT I did not bother about preparing for it. “Why would you want to join Credit Suisse?” I know, you can smack me for not preparing for such a common question. My answer seem impossibly perfect: “I want to be honest, Credit Suisse is a reputable and prestigious company. I want to feel proud and knowing when I speak to my clients, I can be sure I speak of credibility. Knowing I belong to Credit Suisse gives me the confidence to perform and delight my clients.”

I once read that we shouldn’t say we want to join the company because of its prestige. I guess I went to contrarian route. But I speak the truth! If I am proud of my company, wouldn’t I be motivated and feel the sense of belonging to perform better?

Okay, I thought I screwed up my phone interview. Never expected that I would get through to the group interview.

Yes, I still think I was lucky. I didn’t expect much from the group interview. I told myself, “These people are brighter than me, but I will still be myself and not try too hard to impress.” Goodness, I think I performed well in the group interview. I saved the presentation last minutely because someone else took more points than previously agreed upon (Which I think was quite irresponsible!) In order not to make things difficult for the rest of the presenters in my group, I reiterated some previous  points but “value-add” into it. I was impressed myself. And I guess I impressed the group interviewers as one of them just gave an impossible gesture of saying, “I can’t imagine someone could come up with these perspectives!”

Now now, I begin to expect I will have greater probability of getting the internship. Yes, I got through to the last round and I am well prepared. I looked through my past lecture notes and asked myself what motivates me to pursue IT as a passion.

The day came and I spoke like a river but I am STILL myself. Not trying too hard to impress. I even told my interviewer that I admit I am a little dated with my software development skills.

Just last week, I signed the contract and I am all excited. I hope I can perform well but most importantly, be true to myself, never make yourself miserable trying too hard to impress. It’s good to be driven, but don’t be a slave to overly idealistic fantasies.

Expectation management #3: Do not despise the small, remember the chilli padi.  (A random quote but I can’t think of any better)

On 17th Feb 2012, it was our University’s Student Achievements Award night at the University of Cultural Centre. My one year old project of helping the special needs in school was graciously nominated under the Community Projects category. Seriously, I don’t think my group will win anything. Of course, it was already a win when we were nominated.

I did not dressed up in formal but wore a smart casual good enough in my opinion to attend the ceremony. (Well, I never expect I would go up on stage anyways!)

My group were delighted to win a merit award with a trophy and a certificate for our efforts in helping the special needs students in school. Seriously, our name was the first to be called out in the category and all of us were shocked. The award inspired me to do greater things with our initiative and I had been thinking our next move.

What I realized was, all group nominees were large and reputable student bodies and clubs. Our group? 4 person team. The smallest group among all group nominees. I am so proud of my group because an idea to help the physically challenged became an official project adopted by the Office of Student Affairs. With official support, we can do more for the special needs and my motivation is to help NUS be a more inclusive and conducive environment for students with special needs.

Remember the chilli padi, it may be as small as my group relative to all big community service groups in school, but we still can make an impact!

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