Feature Stories

18.03.2021

Journey of Futurepreneur: Where to Go After University? Part 1: The Graduate School

As graduation creeps closer with each semester, many of us contemplate what we want to do after university – where do we go from here? Further studies? A corporate job? To go back to our home countries, stay in Hong Kong, or to go to another foreign land?  

Colleen Chan of the class of 2020, graduated with a BBA in Marketing and a minor in Entrepreneurship after three years at HKUST Business School. The University's generous credit transfer system allowed Colleen to complete her study a year earlier than her counterparts. With the timely advice of our career advisors and building upon the fundamentals and principles from her years at HKUST Business School, Colleen is now doing well in her double Master's degree in Marketing Analytics and International Management. 

Away yet Connected with Home

Colleen recalled that when choosing between studying business in the UK and in Hong Kong, she found the reputable HKUST Business School's extensive network in Asia fits her career plan and the desire to study in a new environment while reconnecting with her birthplace - Singapore, where she had studied in since she was seven.

In her years with us, she was impressed by the wide variety of courses from multiple disciplines and the professors, whom she found caring on a personal level, and easy to find outside of class. "All the professors in marketing are caring and helpful, and they will take as many questions as you have.", Colleen said.  “I’ve grown attached,” she laughs, “I didn’t realize until I’d graduated, and now I can’t go back to visit. People say HKUST is very stressful, and I agree, but with that stress comes a lot of affection.” 

A Futureprenuer in the Making

One of her best memories of her undergraduate studies was of a marketing course. “The professor is from Barcelona and she’s just so passionate about marketing that when you went into her class, you couldn’t help but learn a lot from her. This was one of the classes that fueled my interest in marketing.” "Business classes, especially marketing courses, are always engaging as we are studying up-to-date cases and everyday examples." (Photo on the right: Colleen was doing her first presentation in a marketing course.)

The case-based teaching in addition to the School's emphasis on experiential learning, have helped Colleen a lot in terms of quickening how fast she thinks. “They are not teaching you what to think, but shaping the way you think. This helps things click a lot faster, so you can see a real-world problem and visualize the solution.” 

Colleen was keen on practicing what she learns in real life. She completed several corporate projects and internships in diverse fields, including a personal branding firm, a hedge fund in Singapore, and at ChargeSpot in Hong Kong – co-founded by a Business School’s alumnus, Jess Cheng. She particularly enjoyed discussing with clients how they wished to craft their LinkedIn page and brand themselves, getting a feel of the finance and trading industry, researching the current market landscape, and pitching ideas to the CEOs. The hands-on experiences are fun and relevant to her interests. "Something I regretted was not joining case competitions, so these are things that people should consider.” She gained valuable lessons from each of these opportunities, but the biggest takeaway is figuring out what she wants to do in the future. 

Another perk of HKUST Business School is that “Professors' background is very diverse and each has his/her own networks. If they see potential in you, they may match you with others they know.” she noted. Recognizing the importance of network in business, Colleen signed up for the Career Mentorship Program hosted by the Business School in her final year for further career development and networking.

Map Out Your Future and Start Early 

Though with lots of help from faculty, completing her bachelor’s degree early was no small feat. (Photo below: Colleen and her classmate with Prof. Coral Puig, Adjunct Assistant Professor from Marketing.)

“I was a little lost as to what to do when I started my final year, while my peers still have a year to go. I am lucky to have the strong support from the Business School and Career Office along the way. The Business School’s academic advisors would check in on your course plans regularly to ensure that you satisfy your program's requirements.” Experienced advisors at the Career Office were keen to help me find my strengths, career goal, and how to balance making money and being happy,” she laughed. “

Colleen strongly encourages other business students to utilize the career guidance resources sooner than later. “The career advisors were very supportive. I asked for help a little too late, so I advise getting help and input as soon as possible to be in the best mindset and to know why you’re studying right now, as decisions have to be made for your career.” 

2020 is unusually challenging to fresh graduates. Between pursuing further studies or going straight into the job market, Colleen was open to both. “I applied for both, and graduate school got back to me first!”

She further comments that the decision also depends on your interests – what you want to do in your career – and whether you have the resources to fulfill them, she says. “You need to make a decision between getting a job now, which may not be as good as the one you can get in normal times, versus just waiting it out. I know people who have taken the first jobs available to them because they know their potential will get them to better places when things normalize. But for others, they want to put an extra investment down because they have the resources to learn more and get a ‘higher’ return later. (‘Higher return’ because we don’t know the future for sure).” 

“If you want to work, but the current opportunities available may not be the best, it’s not the end of the world to take that job,” she says. “I think that in any job you can still learn a lot, and then move on from there afterward.”

UG Studies Laid a Solid Foundation for Progress: Graduate School Life

Right now, Colleen is enjoying her double Master’s degree in Marketing Analytics and International Management at NUS Business School. “Postgraduate studies are more specialized than undergraduate studies, so there are many niche courses that will push you to think differently and pick up new skills. The undergraduate studies at HKUST equipped me with fundamental knowledge of marketing and marketing strategy, and now the postgraduate courses build upon this solid foundation and deepen my understanding of the entire business’s strategy at a macro level.” 

What’s the next step for Colleen? After finishing her Master’s degree, she plans to go into creative marketing consulting or start her own enterprise. For now, she hopes to gain a wider perspective and experiences beyond Asia. She is going to do her exchange study in Europe, gaining new insights to be future-ready.

 

Photo on the left: Colleen and her group after the final presentation on organizational behavior in a management class with Prof. Lucia Yeung, former Adjunct Assistant Professor from Management.

 

 

Photo on the right: Colleen at Karen Lee Mentoring Center. Dressed up and for the Career Mentorship Program Ceremony, felt excited to meet her group and mentor.