Charting your own path
Children are frequently asked what they want to be when they grow up. Many have grand answers, such as planning to be president or becoming a doctor or teacher. Those are their role models. But when they grow older, say about 20, their answers become more realistic. At that stage of life, they are most interested in making a living. Employment stability is sought after and civil servant jobs or positions with big corporations are coveted.
The problem is the world is changing too rapidly, and job stability is no longer guaranteed. Employees at major companies stay for 10 years on average. We constantly have to think about what to do with our lives.
There are three ways to answer to this fundamental question. The most basic is finding a job. The more advanced way is choosing a career. The most difficult yet profound choice is setting up a framework for life.
Finding a job is like setting a goal to join a big corporation, such as Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor or Naver. Then you can begin a relatively stable life. But as Nokia and Motorola showed, even multinational corporations are exposed to risk, and job security cannot be guaranteed. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to pursue your dream or vision in the workplace. A popular drama series, “Misaeng,” showed how each member of the company plays a significant role in the larger system.
Finding a career is the level up from choosing a job. You may get a license and become a professional, such as a lawyer, doctor or accountant. Or you may pursue a career as a marketer, producer or financial adviser. Having a special set of skills in an unstable modern corporate society provides an initiative in your life. But given the time and effort needed to get a licence or acquire professional expertise, the benefit is steadily diminishing in Korean society. Graduating from the Judicial Research and Training Institute is hard; only 43 percent of its graduates find employment in the legal field.
The most advanced and profound way is to build a life framework. The modern world is complicated and ever-changing, and no one can predict the future. Even the most glamorous profession and workplace someday may not exist. In order to survive in such a volatile environment, you need to be flexible within the parameters of a clear direction.
SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son is an architect of his life. When he started working, he designed a 50-year plan. According to his plan, he would be acknowledged in his 20s, build up a war chest in his 30s, take on a major challenge in his 40s, complete his business in his 50s and hand over the business to the next generation in his 60s. Since he resolved to follow the grand plan in his mid-20s, he has fulfilled his goals each step of the way.
The world is constantly changing, and we don’t know what new things will change our lives. So the framework of a life plan should be both flexible and specific. When Son was in his 20s, he wouldn’t have been able to predict the dominance of wired and wireless communication and mobile businesses, which are the core businesses of SoftBank. But if he hadn’t had a framework, he would still be working at a magazine company in Japan. While he might have been writing about the global market or the future of the Internet, he would not have been a protagonist who creates the flow himself.
February is the month of graduation in Korea. At commencement ceremonies, each graduate should have a badge of his or her own. It may be the badge of the company one would join upon graduation, or the badge of one’s plan for the future. But going into society without contemplating the course of life or career is indicative of a lack of self respect. Hopefully, young Koreans will design a framework for their lives and put a badge of their own on their chests.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 27, Page B8
*The author is the CEO of SoftBank Ventures Korea.
by Greg Moon