One of the three majors offered by the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) is Business and Economics, and this was the focus of the second in a series of Career Hours held on the AUPP campus on Friday July 18, 2014. At the event, students heard three professionals reflect on their university education and careers, and offer advice to students on how best to prepare themselves for successful careers in their chosen fields.
Ms. Polyne Hean holds two Master’s degrees; one in International Development from the University of East Anglia and the second in Political Economy from Georgetown University, and has worked in the ASEAN Department of the Office of the Council of Ministers for the past three years. Her academic career began in Cambodia, where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Royal University of Law and Economics and and another in Education from the Institute of Foreign Languages.
Ms. Polyne shared with the audience some considerable challenges she faced and lessons she learned as a student, particularly in foreign graduate schools. “Life as a graduate was tough. I had to handle challenges such as those of extensive schools’ curricula and fierce competition among other international students – for which I initially was not well-prepared, either academically or socially,” she said. She summarized the keys to her success: “be committed, persevere and set attainable goals”. Her advice to AUPP students was that quality formal education is of paramount importance in sowing seeds for a successful career; at the same time, it is also necessary to have a desire to continually learn and to grow.
The second Career Hour speaker was Ms. Sokha Suy, Manager of Recruitment Services for HRINC (Cambodia,) a leading human resources and business solutions company. Ms. Suy currently leads a team of twenty-two people working in Cambodia and Myanmar, and is therefore in a good position to understand both the needs of potential employers and the strengths and shortcomings of recent graduates entering the job market. She told AUPP students that acquiring the skills they will need on the job is not enough; they also need to explain to potential employers what skills they have. Critical thinking as well as presentation and communications skills are therefore vitally important. “Know yourself, what you are good at, what you want to do most.” she said.
As a high school student, Ms. Suy had no idea that she would end up as a human resources manager. She began her university studies as a business and economics at the National University of Management (NUM) in Phnom Penh. During her second year at NUM, she was offered a scholarship to study in Japan. There she spent a year studying Japanese, and two years in a hotel and hospitality management program. It was only after obtaining her qualification and starting a job in the hospitality industry that Ms. Suy came to realize that this was not the career she wanted after all. And so when the opportunity arose to join the recruiting firm HRINC (Cambodia,) she took it, even though she had no background in the human resources field. When she joined the company it had only four employees; today it has grown to more than fifteen times this number.
As an undergraduate Government and Politics major at the University of Texas at Dallas, the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico shaped the ambitions and career of Mr. Jeffrey Lamb, the third Career Hour speaker. Studying in a foreign country “really sparked something in me,” he said, “I decided that I wanted an international career.” His career so far has included roles in international sales and marketing in business, serving as an advisor to the mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, on international business, and managing the New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Program from New York. Since 2012, Mr. Lamb has headed the United Kingdom’s Trade and Investment Office in Cambodia (where he also serves as a member of the AUPP Advisory Board.)
After completing his Bachelor’s degree he went straight into a Master’s program in International Management (“A mistake,” he said, “I should have got some work experience first, then gone to graduate school.”) He did well in his studies, he told AUPP students, but he learned that “academic education is only part of the equation.” Reading is critically important, he said, noting that many successful people are avid readers. It is also important, Mr. Lamb said, to “be involved in things, do internships, get some real skills. Build your network of friends and professional relationships.”