Alan Chan receives his Nottingham Advantage Award prize

November 8, 2016, by Joe Ward

How I Maximised My Experiences at Nottingham To Accelerate My Career

By Alan Chan, BSc Economics (2013) and MSc Entrepreneurship (2014)

When I look over my university experience and career development to date, I always find it interesting how one thing led to another. As I connected the dots, I began to recognize patterns that reveals my entrepreneurial traits that were shaped during my time at The University of Nottingham.

Here are four top tips that I used to accelerate my career development.

  1. Engage with new things and people

The people that you spend the most time with shape who you are and who you become. Nottingham has created an ideal environment for students to make new connections and learn new things; be it in classes, student halls or clubs and societies. I felt that the University is like an incubator that not only cultivates your academic knowledge but also trains your communication skills, teamwork, emotional intelligence and other soft skills. It is where you could gain different sets of capabilities in order to thrive in your next stage of life.

When I was in the UK, I actively participated in many student activities. I was the student ambassador for British Council in which I was responsible for promoting British education on social media to in-coming students from Asia. I was a member of AIESEC, a global youth-led organisation, where I helped on member recruitment, training and event organisation.

Later I also became the president of China China Society (now renamed as Contemporary China Society) – a cultural exchange community with over 200 members – where I organised weekly social events and language exchange activities to promote cultural integration between western and Chinese students. In my last summer in Nottingham, I worked as a Business Analyst Intern at Clements Marketing, a Nottingham-based digital marketing and trading agency based in the University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP), where I worked on a British Craft Beers China Export project.

At the end of my fruitful three-year undergraduate journey, I was awarded the Nottingham Advantage Award, General Electric Imagination Prize, Outstanding Individual Contribution Award for Student Society, and the Gold Award Accreditation for Course Representative for my significant effort in multiple student activities. More importantly, I learnt a lot of transferable skills and met inspiring people who made me who I am today.

  1. Utilise Nottingham’s international connections to establish yourself as a global talent

Today’s world is increasingly connected. Business issues are getting more complex, dynamic and inter-linked across different industries and geographies, and companies now have easy access to a global talent pool. The next generation of young talents will be equipped with global perspectives and exceptional creativity to make a real impact to the world.

When I was graduating from the UK, I recognised the growing power of China’s economy, and China’s leapfrogging business development especially in the consumer goods and internet industry. I was extremely curious about the uniqueness of China’s potential to be the next global engine of innovation and entrepreneurship. I wondered if I could leverage the global network of campuses in the UK, Malaysia and China to establish my “third home” after Hong Kong and the UK.

Continuing my effort in bridging the cultural difference and business opportunities between the west and China, I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and took a road less travelled – to the Ningbo China campus for a hands-on “China experience”.

  1. Identify a unique position that demonstrates your unique skills

In retrospect, my decision to pursue a master’s degree in entrepreneurship in China turns out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I interned in China’s largest frisbee manufacturer and worked on consulting projects for technology companies around trending topics like big data and smart logistics. I worked as a graduate research assistant at Nottingham Business School China, and as a teaching assistant for China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) Executive Education Program. I also participated in various business plan competitions and experimented with start-up projects along the way. My experience in the UK and China allowed me to develop an agile mindset that incorporates both eastern and western thinking and business acumen, which later became my competitive edge at work.

As a student, you may want to reflect on the following questions:

  • What do you want to accomplish in five, 10, or 20 years?
  • What are your interests and what are your strengths?
  • Is there a way to bring your basket of interests together into a career that allows you to pursue your aspirations?
  • How can you differentiate yourself from others?
  • How could Nottingham help you achieve your aspirations?

At the end of my postgraduate studies, with some preliminary answers to the above questions, I was clear enough that I wanted to become a top management strategy consultant focusing on China.

  1. Keep on improving and developing yourself

Graduation is not the end of learning. At Nottingham I developed the continuous desire to learn and improve myself.

“If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough”

In an era of constant change, maybe playing it safe isn’t the best thing to do. Given my interests in world-changing technology such as artificial intelligence, I have recently finished an online course on machine learning provided by Stanford University.

With three international campuses and millions of outstanding alumni across the world, engaging with Nottingham alumni networks can really boost your career development. I recently began to connect with the local alumni group and Global Employment Office in Shanghai which has given me lots of useful insights.

All in all, there is no single success formula and we should run our own race. We ought to be entrepreneurial, as if we treat our career like our own “start-up” venture – always moving forward, taking intelligent risks, learning from failure, agile experimentation and keep seeking for the next exponential growth.

Along the way, Nottingham can be a great investor, mentor and accelerator for our “start-up”.

Alan Chan is an alumni of The University of Nottingham, and graduated with a BSc Economics (2013) from the UK campus and MSc Entrepreneurship (2014) from the Ningbo campus. He is originally from Hong Kong and is currently based in Shanghai working as a Senior Consultant at Gao Feng Advisory Company, a preeminent global strategy management firm.

If you are interested in pursuing a career abroad and would like advice on how you can get involved with activities and groups at Nottingham to gain experience, book an appointment with one of our careers advisers. You may also find it useful to use Passport Career, our free online resource which provides advice and guidance on global careers; including visa requirements, local employment customs, and building networks to connect with local employers.

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