CAM-VAN BUI – “Why do you stay in a prison, when the door is wide open?”

Author: Cam-Van Bui (London School of Economics and Political Science, BSc ’13), former Management Consultant at Deloitte London.

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That was a quote taken from one of Rumi’s poems. I’m not into poetry or anything dreamy and philosophical, and if you know me in person, I’m even very far from that.

Yet, as I once stumbled across this quote in a borrowed book, it made me wonder, it made me question myself, it stuck to my unconscious mind. Choosing this as the title of my story, I hope that my entry along with many others shared on this page, will fuel the flame inside you and bring you closer to seeing clearly what your goal is and taking the first step towards it.

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A bit of background information, I had 2 years working as a Management Consultant at Deloitte London.

Before that, I was pursuing my BSc degree in Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Way before that, I was attending secondary and A Level schools in Singapore.

I was lucky enough to be granted full scholarships during these years, and was appointed to take the leadership positions in several major student communities.

I’ve just recently moved back to Vietnam for good and am now working as a Strategy Consultant in a boutique consulting firm in Saigon.

The others have done an excellent job providing you an informal guide on how to get a job in another part of the world already, so I will just share with you some of my tips, my inspiration and the decision to go home and I hope you can find this entry useful.

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  1. Comparison is the death of joy?

Not true!!! Comparison (with jealousy) is the death of joy.

People might tell you: “Why do you care so much about what the others are doing? Why do you let yourself affected by others’ achievement? You live your own life!”

I often reply: “A turtle will never know it is among the slowest until it starts a race with the rabbit”

Social comparison is an innate human tendency. Even monkeys judge what they’ve got by taking a peek at what the monkey next door is getting. You and your friend come from the same school, yet he is now earning twice your salaries. You can deny as much as you want, but be honest, are you asking yourself why is that so? That right there, is a comparison.

So if comparison is unavoidable, you best learn how to work with it. Transform jealousy into motivation.

Take a look at people around you, people older/younger than you, people of your age, people with the same/different background with you, those who have/have not achieved certain things.

Start with people within your circle. Be proactive. Send them a message, ask for a coffee chat. Reach out to them with a specific topic to ask for their advice.

I often say I got into Deloitte because of luck. At that time, I was lucky enough to have the courage to contact the right person. He joined Deloitte a year before me, I got his business card at one of the career fairs. I emailed him when I received the first notification from Deloitte. He supported me almost throughout the entire application process.

If you email someone, and haven’t got a reply, don’t ever think that they do not want to reply you. They are busy, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, remember?

In short: Seek favorable comparison if you want to feel happier, and seek unfavorable comparison if you want to push yourself harder.  I don’t think you can quit social comparison, so learn how to work with it.

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  1. Don’t take it personally.

Or in other words – be open to criticism, have a sense of humor!!!

I often remember things people say to me that make me wonder what have I done to make them question my capability.

I don’t do that to keep a record of people who I will take revenge on one day (lol). I do that to give myself a mental push.

–The first – back in secondary school years when English was among my worst subjects. During one of the examinations, I asked the girl sitting next to me how to spell “bicycle”, and she replied “A 7th grade student doesn’t even know how to spell “bicycle”?

–The second – a friend from A Level school once said: “I don’t understand why they pay for your tuition fee to study here” upon seeing my first semester results.

–The third – from one of my close friends: “Deloitte Consulting is hard, I tried, probably you should play safe and apply to somewhere with higher chance to get in”

No one likes getting criticism. But it can be a chance to show off a rare skill: taking negative feedback well.

To be honest, I was offended, but I kept myself together. Slowly, I learned to transform my uneasy feeling into motivation. That was what kept me up at night, what gave me energy to stay in the library for days, to practice pages of numerical/verbal online tests, to talk to myself in front of the mirror again and again before any interview. I didn’t do that to prove them wrong, I worked that hard to reassure myself that “I can”.

 Taking criticism personally might lead to hatred, stress, discouragement and many other negative feelings, so don’t do that.

In short: Don’t take what people say personally. Listen to criticisms. Transform them into energy. They are your blessings in disguise.

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  1. North star.

Have a theme for your life story!!!  It can be family, love, money, friend, career, anything, but you have to choose one.

If you don’t know, or can’t decide just yet, keep asking yourself drilling questions. Start with the first simple one:

“Why do you want to get a job in the US/another part of the world?“

 After about 5 “why” questions following the first one, you will know the answer. Some do it for the recognition, for the money, for the opportunities to climb up the corporate ladder later on, for the experiences. Mine was, to make my parents proud.

Once you know the theme of your life story, you will be able to base almost all your life decisions on that.

Around this time last year, fate brought the man I loved the most to another world. It was too sudden, no sign or warning. Boarding the earliest flight that day, I was still late…

That was 2 weeks before Tet. I will never forget the feeling when I sat in the living room, looking at how busy the neighbors were preparing for the reunion dinner and couldn’t recall the last time we had one, or the last time I hold my dad tightly telling him how much I love him like I used to do as a kid.

Life gave me chances to go home for Tet, I just didn’t want to take one. It was either because of the expensive flight ticket, or another plan, or the “I will be home for a few months during summer anyway…”

It was not only Tet that I missed, but also many other important occasions when my family needed me to be there but I was somewhere else. Yet no one complaint about my absence. They were too forgiving and understanding…

Sitting in that room that day with all the reflection, regret didn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling.

So when I decided to go back to Vietnam for good, friends persuaded me to reconsider my decision, going home at that time equaled to leaving behind not only a dream job but also another future, another life.

I didn’t have to reconsider or think twice, because I knew what I was going back for.

In short: Choose a north star to follow and you will not get lost in the ocean.

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How do these 3 unrelated topics aid you in the process of getting a job in the US? You need to unfavorably compare yourself with the others and learn from them, you then need to talk to people, let them criticize you with an open mind to identify your shortcomings, and finally, know what you are doing all these for to keep your feet on the ground.

I haven’t mastered all these skills yet thou, I’m still a learner myself, but again, hopefully, my stories will ignite something inside you and all the best with your journey wherever you are!

By Cam-Van Bui

January 2016

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