2018 09 February 2018

Leadership Dialogue Series with Elaine Yew of Egon Zehnder

At the latest Leadership Dialogue Series (LDS), Ms Elaine Yew, Senior Partner and Global Executive Committee Member at Egon Zehnder talked about the five things that really matter in managing a career.

Ms Elaine Yew with Provost’s Chair, Professor Michael Frese moderating the Q&A session of the talk

As an executive search specialist, Ms Yew told the audience that she meets hundreds of executive and c-suite level candidates over the course of a year. However, rather than evaluating their ability and fit for a role solely on their CV – she takes the time to find out more about their life stories. These ‘curiosity’ conversations often reveal the candidate’s motivations and the reasons why they have come to be – helping her properly assess the candidate and place them in suitable roles.

NUS BBA students asking Ms Elaine Yew questions about what they should look out for when mapping out their career

BBA Year 3 Ben Wee, who is a Finance major had two key takeaways after the talk – (1) to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and (2) to cultivate human relationships.

On being comfortable with being uncomfortable mindset, Ms Yew shared about the need to continuous evolve ourselves to match the requirements of the changing business environment. Rather than staying still, she urged everyone to change with the times – and develop marketable skills to allow us to adapt and set ourselves up for bigger career opportunities.

Another point that I thought was particularly salient was to go beyond that of what you are instructed to do at work and to be more proactive; to demonstrate your ability to solve organisational problems. It is only in doing so that one can be identified to take on a larger portfolio, and in essence “setting ourselves up for bigger career opportunities”.

On cultivating human relationships, Ms Yew shared the need to cultivate human relationships. She shares that whilst one may get away with focusing on the technical aspects of a job for the first five years, it is the years after that will require one to have strong human relationships with others – to convince subordinates to work, and to build trust with superiors. She also encourages building “communities”, where relationships with others may yield potential career or business opportunities.

From left to right: Assoc Prof Chng Chee Kiong, Vice Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Ms Elaine Yew with Prof Michael Frese and Ms Joan Tay, Executive Director of NUS Business School’s External Relations

Ben said the talk made him consider how he needs to build ‘marketable skills’ to leapfrog into future roles. “Going into tougher roles in the first few years of one’s career could give me an edge when applying for future jobs or even positions within the same organisation, as many transferable and technical skills would have been learnt.

He adds that Ms Yew reinforced his personal views about the importance of networking and building relationships – which is a source of industry information, as well as being able to better lead teams. Also, as a Finance major, he said that this also preempts his first few years in the banking industry after graduation to remain resilient as it would ultimately be beneficial in the later years.