Clarice Song, 34, is the co-founder of Bold At Work, a start-up that equips young people and organisations with the tools and mindsets needed to define what good work means to them and create their own definitions of success.

They offer coaching and consultancy services such as Design Your Life – a career discovery process that supports youth in designing better work for their personal lives. Here, she shares some personal lessons uncovered through her journey of transitioning from her stable, “iron-rice bowl” job into a start-up environment. Today, she shares some lessons she has learnt!

“Wayfind”, not “GPS” during career transitions

Unlike a Global Positioning System (GPS), where you key in your destination and the system would calculate the exact turns you need to make, career transitions are not quite the same. I grew up wanting to be a social worker, but I dropped out of my course just one year into university, only to switch to a totally different domain of communications and new media. I did not join any marketing or advertising agency after and instead joined the civil service after graduation. Not long after, I became part of a start-up in organisational development.

If I had followed the “GPS algorithm”, I would probably not be as engaged as where I am today. Instead, I had to find my own way by paying attention to the signs around me – my personal thoughts and aspirations, coupled with the context of what’s happening around the world, and making my decisions with each new piece of “data” gained.

Debunk dysfunctional beliefs

When I was younger, I was brought up to believe that my worth was valued based on the quality of my grades, the speed of educational attainment and the prestige of my job title. So when I did not perform as well for my GCE O-Level examinations, I took a detour to a polytechnic and did not become a “teacher” or a “doctor”, which are conventional jobs widely accepted by society. I thought I was a disappointment to my family.

One of the biggest dysfunctional beliefs I managed to reframe was that my worth is much more than these external validations. Everytime I get stuck in a situation, I ask myself, “What belief do I hold (of this situation) that does not serve me today?”

Design your own “career compass”

Breaking free from dysfunctional beliefs, I soon had to learn to design my own “career compass”. “Career compass” is a term used at my start-up, Bold At Work, where we get young people to start formulating what matters to them based on their values, strengths and interests, along with an awareness of their personal contexts.

For example, I soon discovered that I value connection and have a keen sense of appreciation for beauty. I am also driven by my ability to create and innovate. This “career compass” of mine has facilitated my transition to leave the civil service and hop into the unknown of entrepreneurship, where I had greater autonomy to create and yet, still impact the people around me.

Figure out what your “good work” mix is

Among recognition, impact and expression, figure out what matters to you and how you would like to be rewarded for the work that you do! This is a framework I have adopted from the authors of Designing your Work Life – an important and pragmatic framework I would implore everyone who is or would soon be transitioning to think about.

Ask yourself: How important is being recognised through rewards like your salary, compensation and benefits to you? Does the reach of your work matter? Do you crave for a space for your voice and inputs to be heard?

For example, at the point of my career transition, I was clear that I needed a baseline salary to sustain and support my family – that was non-negotiable. I was also clear that with my ambition to create, my next platform had to be able to support such experimentation. With such clarity, I was able to transit, pivot and search purposefully.

Keep the faith, radical collaboration is possible!

I never put myself “out there” on the job market until I was hoping to transition to another industry because there really wasn’t a need to when you were working for a huge organisation that has things planned out for you.

During moments when the transition proved to be quite hard and it felt like I had a lot to give up, I repeatedly reminded myself to keep showing up and meet different people with the hope of opening diverse doors. That did not fail me! In the most unexpected places, I met my co-founders Yoek Ling and Ruoyi, which has given birth to today’s team at Bold At Work!

This article was published on Mar 4, 2022

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