If you had 15 minutes with a CEO, what questions would you ask?
A few months ago, I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Alex Malley. He is the CEO of the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Australia and the author of The Naked CEO— pretty cool guy in his fifties, sipping coffee in a hotel lobby at downtown KL.
I said Hi. We skimmed through some niceties and went straight to the question I’ve been meaning to find some answers to. I’m 24 years old, at my second job as a journalist and still, questions about entering the workforce plagues my mind like a highly annoying child wanting answers about everything.
So I asked him: What do you do when you have absolutely no idea what to do?
Alex was nice. He didn’t make it seem like I’ve asked a stupid question, so that’s good. “You ask questions and strike conversations with people” he said.
More precisely, he said that as fresh graduates or those looking for a new job in unchartered forays, we should speak to older people like him about their experiences and the challenges that have stumbled them or made them better as employees.
To him, the answers that breed from such questions were priceless and more often than not, valuable life-long lessons.
That wasn’t too daunting, I thought. Which led me to re-call this conversation with an ex-boss of mine. I did what Alex preached: try and have a conversation and see what I can learn from it.
It was in July 2013. I was having a smoke break with my ex-boss whom due to privacy issues, we shall give a pseudonym. Jed is currently the Head of Digital and Social Media at an advertising agency, but the sagely advice that he shared with me was about his experience when he applied for a job at AirAsia.
Back then, Jed was nothing like he is now—confident, smooth as caramel public speaker, a playhouse of ideas where everything is possible. Timid and uncertain, he applied as a content writer for AirAsia and waited for a response, to which after a month there was none from the HR department. When he called up, they’d asked him to hold. He called again, and was told to wait a little longer until they write him back with an email of response.
He started to get very impatient, and he really wanted the job with the hopes of working alongside who he thought was one of the best entrepreneurs in Malaysia—Mr. Tony Fernandez. Instead of waiting—which most people would do—Jed took it on himself to get hold of Mr. Fernandez’s mobile number and by some miracle, he did (actually, he’s just good at snooping around). So, he gave Mr. Fernandez a call.
They spoke briefly as Jed reminded Mr. Fernandez of his job application sitting amid the pile of administrative papers, lost and lonely. Funny enough, they spoke a little longer, threw some questions from one end to the other and before Jed hung up, Mr. Fernandez asked him in for an interview.
I thought to myself: that was ballsy. But if it wasn’t for that phone call, he wouldn’t be in the same room as Mr. Fernandez calling him boss.
Up to today, that is one hell of a sagely story I keep to myself. In fact, when I got my current job, it was because I called my editor twice, asking her about the job. I’m not sure if it’s the best move, but I guess somehow, it made me a journalist.