Developing a career; What to do when you don’t know what to do

Eliena Gaman

It is common to read articles written on job searching which are paired with an assumption that you have already decided a career path. But what if you are yet to reach that stage? What if you are still contemplating an occupational direction? Bill Watterson, creator of the comic characters, Calvin and Hobbes, once said “The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few”.


So..surprise! Not everyone has it figured out! Regardless, what is true is that opportunities lie everywhere in various forms. Success is greatly determined by knowing your strengths, how you can build on these strengths, making the best out of a given situation, and most importantly, being committed. These are the fundamental principles that brought Eliena Gaman, former Senior Vice President at Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Founder of Lunchbox Hero, to where she is today.

Here’s what she advises in the pursuit of developing your career:

1. Learn your strengths: Straight out of university, we are bombarded with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty as we struggle through the transition into the working world. Eliena shared that embracing uncertainty as a process of self-discovery is essential and “not knowing” should not be a concern. She explained that the notion of not knowing is not only a part of the journey, but an integral one. In addition, she believes that learning to know who you are and what you thrive on is an essential element of growth. Thus, she advocates allowing yourself to have the space and time to explore yourself, take up as many opportunities as you can, and always remember to work really hard at them.

2. Be committed: In this day and age with so many potential choices available, traditional jobs seem to be less appealing. Many individuals now want to harness their creativity, are comfortable taking more risks, and are becoming more entrepreneurial; more so that the opportunities to practice these traits surround us. Eliena elaborated that jobs which were once highly valued, such as lawyers, property and insurance agents seem to be moving towards redundancy and today, a person can be successful in any chosen field. It all boils down to the depth of your skills, having a continuous learning attitude, staying committed and working hard. Our tangents have shifted to a world where work is not merely a means to an end.

3. Take ownership of your development: Eliena suggests that factors such as one’s family, school and society all provide contributions to developing a learning and thriving culture. According to her philosophy, it is important to train our intellect to think well, question continuously and understand deeply. For her, both formal and informal education have important and unique parts to play in this training. For example, formal education has its role in developing thought processes but may not sufficiently prepare you for other important areas of life. In Malaysia in particular, the education system does not encourage thinking strategically, questioning issues and exploring alternatives which are important aspects of growth. Hence, she believes that education should nurture students to think for themselves, problem-solve effectively, and be able to apply concepts in a variety of situations. This is where parents play a role by encouraging children to try and allowing them to fail. Finally, she believes that for every one of us, our growth is also our own personal responsibility and we should strive for continuous learning, unwavering commitment, and passionate, hard work.


To speak to Eliena Gaman:

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