Prof Chan Heng Chee shares three pointers with graduates that’s “outside the class”

31 Oct 2021

Lianhe Zaobao, 31 Oct 2021, 向毕业生讲授“课外事” 陈庆珠分享三建议 (translation)
What does the US-China dispute have to do with fresh graduates in society? Why is luck important? How can building a genuine relationship help you? In a speech entitled "What they did not tell you in class”, Professor Chan Heng Chee, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large, shared three pieces of advice with SUTD graduates.
Prof Chan, who has been in the international diplomatic circle for decades, told about 220 graduates in the class of 2020 who attended the graduation ceremony yesterday, that theUS-China rivalry is the most closely watched development of this century, and is important for those who are striving to find opportunities in the workplace.
She recommends that young people read widely, read diverse sources to understand the situation in the region and the world. “Information is advantage. Knowing what is happening places you in the forefront of those who can take up the opportunities.”
Reading widely is crucial to understanding the US, China and ASEAN
Prof Chan Heng Chee, former Singapore ambassador to the United States and representative to the United Nations, analysed that in the past 10 years, when the United States was distracted by the financial crisis, the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, China had amassed critical military, economic, diplomatic and technology power to be a peer competitor of the United States. The rising power had become the risen power.
With the intensification of the US-China trade war and the impact of the pandemic, many international companies seeking to diversify their supply chains have withdrawn from China, and some have moved to Southeast Asia. Singapore, which has a good rule of law and a pro-business environment, has also gained favour.
She believes that it is important to read widely about the situation in China, the United States and ASEAN. “Many Singaporeans think they know the US. Actually they don’t really. It is not the US on Netflix or the big screen.”
Prof Chan, who is also a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at SUTD, shared her second point, which is to work hard to create your own luck. “I often think ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ That is because you are laying the ground work in your project, preparing yourself for every contingency and when the opportunity comes, you feel you are prepared for it. And you take the opportunity.”
Develop genuine interpersonal relationships; Don’t focus on “transactions” for returns
In addition, developing genuine and quality friendships and interpersonal relationships can greatly help career progression.
Prof Chan shared that she often heard that Singaporeans, when they go overseas to do business or as a professional, are rather transactional in their relationships, “You do this for me and I’ll do that for you”. “That is short- sighted and not the way of successful men and women.”
Prof Chan said that her successful career was based on good interpersonal relationships and gave simple examples to illustrate what a non-transactional sincere relationship is.
“I help A but A may not help me. It is ok. But C might do so because A told C that she is good, she is very helpful.  Nice person. So that has already paved the way for me and C then treats me well on A’s recommendation.”
Prof Chan concluded the nearly 19-minute speech with a paragraph. “So develop your relationships, and in that way, you grow your network of meaningful and deep relationships. You'd be surprised how lucky you get. You can apply this hard work and relationship building wherever you go, in a Chinese firm or an American firm or a Singapore firm.”