ON THE FAST TRACK
ADB External Relations Coordinator Kim Chantha advises students to start looking for a job while still at university.
Kim Chantha is the external relations coordinator for the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Cambodia Resident Mission. He has held the position since graduating with a BA in economics from the University of Cambodia in October last year.
While he was studying, he was also working at the British embassy as its press and public affairs officer.
As external relations coordinator, Kim Chantha is charged with raising awareness of ADB activities in Cambodia. He talked to Education & Careers about his university education and how well it has prepared him for the practical realities of work.
Has your education proved useful in your working life?
For me, what we learn at university or in school is simply to provide us with the background knowledge we need to find a job. My job is as an external relations coordinator, and I have found that most of what I learned at university does not relate at all to my work.
But although only 20 to 30 percent of my education at university directly relates to what I do in my job, it does not mean the rest of my education was wasted. Everything else is secondary knowledge and it is all useful.
When you were growing up, what career were you eyeing?
I wanted to do many jobs when I was younger. For instance I wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut, but what I want I cannot always get. I changed my goal when I grew up because I began to understand the real employment situation in Cambodia, and I needed to focus on a career I could actually have.
Many graduates end up working in areas that require a different skill set to what they learned at university. Is that a failure of the system?
We should not blame schools for that, nor complain that they did not teach us the skills needed in the workforce in Cambodia. Instead, we need to look hard at ourselves.
If people try hard enough I am sure they can find a job that matches their skills, even though the job market in Cambodia is narrow today.
And some students who have graduated but find themselves working in different careers may need to go back and get higher qualifications so they can find the job they really want.
Were you ever worried about whether you would be able to find a job after graduation?
I didn't have to worry because I already had a job while I was studying, but I know many other students worry about this.
Based on my experience, I recommend to other students that they try their best to look for a job while they are studying even though it is difficult. They should not stand still and wait for a job to come to them; they have to run to get a job.
How do you cope with new workplace challenges?
All work is difficult for us when we do it for the first time without someone introducing the issue to us or helping us with it. That is why sometimes we can fail or walk away from problems.
When I face problems in my job, my director, colleagues and friends all help and encourage me. But now I feel I can work independently because I have planned thoroughly for what I have to do so I can manage my work with no problems.
Do you have plans for career advancement?
Everybody has to plan their career, otherwise they will stay still in one place. But I have to be clear and confident in my plans before I try and put them into practice or take on additional work.
In order to be successful with what we plan to do, the first thing we have to know is that we are interested in that work, have enough knowledge and ability to succeed, and that we have support from the people around us.
Interview by MOM KUNTHEAR