I’m Spiffy, an Interplanetary Journalist here on Planet Earth, bringing you the scoop on social entrepreneurship. Today I’m in Singapore, talking to Mock Yi Jun, president and co-founder of Advisory Singapore, a nonprofit helping students find their calling in the workforce. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Hi Yi Jun! Thank you for meeting with me, what challenges are you addressing with Advisory Singapore?
Yi Jun: Hi Spiffy, thanks for having me! A group of friends and I started Advisory Singapore in 2016, to help young people from all walks of life navigate the transition from school to work. It's not an easy transition, but something that everyone has to go through in life. Through our work, we want to make sure that no matter the family you're from, whether you're rich or poor, whatever school you've gone to - that everyone has the support they need to pursue their aspirations and find meaningful work.
Spiffy: It’s definitely a hard transition, I remember when I first left to become a journalist. What motivated you to do this work?
Yi Jun: Going through high school, I saw how many of my friends struggled to decide what to do after graduation. As students, we don't often get to interact with people in the working world we want to be like, or the companies we one day hope to join. For those from less fortunate backgrounds, the idea of aspiring—to be an aerospace engineer or a museum curator, for example—can feel impossible. This has made me believe strongly in creating opportunities to bridge students and the working world.
Spiffy: How is Advisory working toward a more equitable world?
Yi Jun: At Advisory, we do various things to level the playing field for students—whether it's our online repository of interviews with working professionals (a bit like what you do Spiffy, talking to people working in a range of jobs!), our industry panels and learning journeys with companies, our career guidance programs in schools, and our mentorship efforts. All of our programs are free, and we're blessed to have been able to engage with over 139,000 students and youth over the last five years!
Students attend a learning journey to Facebook's offices in Singapore, co-organized by Advisory Singapore and Facebook in 2019. (Image courtesy of Mock Yi Jun)
Spiffy: That’s a lot of people! What’s another recent milestone you’ve reached?
Yi Jun: We believe that a mentor can transform a young person's life—and could even become a lifelong friend and guide! When COVID-19 hit and schools closed for a time in Singapore, we launched a nationwide virtual mentorship program that matched nearly 700 students with mentors in 2020. This year, we're back with over 900 mentors, as well as the support of 16 mentorship partners like Deloitte, SAP, Citi, Kaspersky, and KPMG. Building a coalition of mentors to support students has been fulfilling!
Spiffy: Congratulations! What’s a time you’ve faced failure, and how did you bounce back?
Yi Jun: This is a great question Spiffy—failure is part of life, and learning to bounce back is so important! When we started Advisory, it was a challenge to have companies take us seriously. We were rejected many times, and I can't blame them! We were untested and had no results to show for our good intentions. It was discouraging at times. But we kept on trying and kept our focus on supporting students. As long as you focus on adding value and solving problems, you'll get to where you need to be!
Spiffy: What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Yi Jun: I'm glad you asked Spiffy! I read recently about Kintsugi, a traditional Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer. The idea is that breakage and scars are part of an object's story, and don't need to be disguised. The repaired pottery is beautiful, especially because of the visible gold streaks. Many people see it as a metaphor for life—we are who we are not in spite of, but because of, our flaws. I think it's a great reminder in life to embrace failure and our scars!
Spiffy: What a beautiful art form—I totally agree. Do you have any parting wisdom for our readers?
Yi Jun: It might feel daunting, as a young person, to think about all the problems in the world. And that's okay! The world can be a scary place, and no one person can solve every problem. But you can start by making a difference on a single issue, in the lives of the people in your community. When you focus on understanding the root problem, adding value and not noise, and coming up with a tangible solution—you'll be surprised what you can achieve, and how many people will be willing to support you!
Spiffy: Wow! I wish I had mentors like you and Advisory Singapore when I was first setting out. Thanks for telling us about your exciting work, it’s been an honor!
Mock Yi Jun is co-founder and president of Advisory Singapore, a fully youth-led nonprofit empowering young people from all walks of life to make informed career choices. A graduate of Tsinghua University and the London School of Economics, he is passionate about bridging the gap between students and the working world. (Nominated by One Young World. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 8, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Elias Ross Trupin. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.