By San Peng
Jerng is 29 and possesses a BA in philosophy from Bates College, Maine, the United States. Soon after finishing school and returning home in 2005, he started working in a think-tank as a ‘researcher’ but he described the job as “glorified clerical work”. He lasted five months there. In the past eight years, he has worked at a consultancy firm, bank, public relations firm and did what he termed as “non-EPF” jobs (in other words, freelancing).
Today, the man who calls himself a ‘generalist for hire’ (pic) is busy helping to set up a ‘Third Wave’ coffee shop in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.
He is part of a tiny group of young Malaysians who are eschewing 9-to-5 jobs, taking risks and appear to be in no hurry to get back on a ‘traditional’ career path. What they have in common is a desire to pursue simply the things that they are passionate about. Along the way, they may take some unconventional route to fulfil their dreams.
In Jerng’s case, it was economics that persuaded him to leave the other jobs. “One of the problems in this country is that wages are not competitive enough. And when salaries are too low, there is no satisfaction to stay on in a job,” he says, which explains the gaps and detours in his curriculum vitae.
What drives him is not money. “It doesn’t pay to work for others. I don’t require a lot of money. I can live on RM300 and the motivation to work rests on my decision matrix of relationships, earnings, resources and experience.”
His philosophy is to pursue something he loves to do with the money part almost playing a secondary part, which is how he ended up helping to manage VCR, the coffee shop. “I am neutral towards jobs. My motivation is that quality of life choices and work don’t overlap with my hobby.”
This is part of a youth phenomenon. “Older people have to worry about mortgages and they are stuck in jobs where there is no incentive to move.”
Jerng is also into voluntary work, helping younger people to navigate the path towards a college degree in the US. For him, the decision to opt out of the rat race was easy: “I get bored easily, so I have to avoid boredom (predictable job).”
Working for yourself and being passionate about it
In the case of Ryan Abishek Victor, 26, he started working at 18 in a restaurant but realised quickly that the pay did not tally with the amount of effort he put into work.
“I have always wanted to work for myself,” says Ryan (pic). At 21, he started his first business, selling burgers in a college in Allahabad, India, where he lived a short while. He went from room to room and, at the peak, was selling 80 burgers a day.
He then moved to Delhi, working in a call centre to save some money to start another venture – selling premium cookies. The business ‘failed’ because of marketing problems, a lesson for which Ryan was grateful.
Then Ryan came home and went freelance. Working out of Starbucks, he specialised in websites and IT solutions. He made enough to pay the rent and some treats but not enough. About a year ago, Ryan had an epiphany.
“I liked what I was doing but I was not passionate about it.”
Somewhere along the way, he went through a process of self-discovery and realised that although he enjoyed building websites and helping companies realise their marketing goals online, his real passion lies in tapping the power of social media.
“You have to be really sure about what you’re passionate about and always develop yourself.”
It’s also always good to take stock of what you do, he advises. After a year, go back and check that you’re not off tangent from your goals, he says.
He created a website – www.loudzebra.com – which encapsulates his aim to use social media to help others. “I went on a path where I wanted to help students, stay-at-home mums, single mothers and women to become home entrepreneurs.”
Loudzebra.com’s goal is to empower parents or women to start e-commerce ventures. The company conducts Facebook marketing training and classes.
Clients, who are unable to hold conventional jobs because of various reasons (childcare, health, personal choice), are taught how to tap the power of social media to develop their businesses, which may start out small but have the potential to be life-changing when they take off. For example, he wants to help a self-taught jeweller to bring her products to the market more efficiently and to widen her market base.
Ryan says of his journey of self-discovery: “I came to the realisation it’s not about doing stuff, it’s about personal responsibility and about developing yourself to develop other businesses ideals.”
His passion shines through what he does and although loudzebra does help companies tailor make a brand or marketing message in the digital world, Ryan wants it to be empowering and life-altering.