Not just about grades: Importance of being well-rounded
Caleb Khoo graduated top of his cohort in 2019. But the time and effort spent growing his network and co-curricular activities ‘outside of his comfort zone’ also reaped rewards.
Caleb is currently thriving in his position as a Finance Analyst for Aveo Group, an established property/retirement company in Australia.
“My daily tasks include developing robust financial models tailored to specific business scenarios and analysing the various financial datasets to aid the achievement of the company’s goals,” he says.
“These responsibilities also allow me to be part of the incredible strategic decision-making process and work closely with senior management for forward-planning and execution in the long run.”
Originally from Singapore, Caleb has always been keen to gain the invaluable experience of studying abroad independently at a globally recognised university.
After reviewing the curriculum and being impressed with Monash Business School’s focus on equipping students with necessary and practical knowledge through conceptual teachings and industrial experiences, Caleb was confident Monash would provide him with skills many employers find desirable.
During his studies, he found many lecturers and tutors placed theoretical knowledge within appropriate contexts. “Since many have also worked previously in professional industries, they frequently bridged conceptual theories through practical utilisation in the real world,” Caleb says.
“Immersing myself in an environment that cultivates excellence and open dialogue, I had the opportunity to continually push the limits of my understanding towards the next level.”
Outside his comfort zone
During his years at Monash, Caleb often pushed beyond his comfort zone by “tasting” as many co-curricular activities as possible, ranging from case competitions to workshops and games. The wide variety of clubs and societies across Melbourne’s campuses made these opportunities possible.
His interest in entrepreneurship eventually led him to join Monash Entrepreneurs Club (MEC) where he took part in events and workshops, met similar like-minded people and learned to think like an entrepreneur.
“My emotional zeal for entrepreneurship subsequently inspired me to join the club’s committee as Treasurer and eventually President, with an ultimate aim to create a community of entrepreneurs at Monash!”
During his time in MEC, he was also involved in an initiative called The Generator, which guided aspiring entrepreneurs into incubator/accelerator programs backed and sponsored by Monash.
“The workshops hosted by The Generator elevated my entrepreneurial mindset and helped me build invaluable networks which would eventually play a pivotal role in my job search upon graduation,” Caleb says.
Professional development resources
Caleb believes students under-utilise the professional development events and programs hosted by Monash Business School, and he highly praised the School’s Industry Alumni Mentoring program.
“I was paired with a mentor who was able to bestow on me untrammelled knowledge and industrial skill sets, enhancing my employability skills, for which I am still grateful to this day.”
Coping with study stress
Undergraduates often face countless times where they are bogged down or inundated with assignments and high workloads.
But maintaining a positive mindset, while reassuring himself that every mistake was not fatal, helped motivate him to persevere and cope well with stress.
“This ‘sleight of hand’ perspective is also very important as you can train yourself to think positively and motivate yourself consistently, even when things are not going your way,” Caleb explains.
Caleb also follows US hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s philosophical concept of ‘radical truth and transparency’ which he believes “profoundly impacted and changed my perspective on self-improvement”.
“By practising radical truth and transparency, one can stay objective and think dialectically. This framework has led me to develop myself continually, reach my goals and expose myself to these unforeseen perspectives which have proved to be incredibly positive,” he says.
“I would strongly recommend others try and practise this framework of radical transparency and truth too.”
Academic results are not enough
While Caleb achieved academic excellence in his business degree, he said the trait “which I felt dramatically improved my employability” was his communication skills.
“This is especially important if you are stepping out into the corporate world as a recent graduate - Employers are more inclined to hire you if you are an open-minded and holistically well-rounded individual,” Caleb said.
Advice to students
Caleb has a number of recommendations for students wanting to get the most out of their Monash years:
- Be open-minded and try different things. This way you’ll make the most of, and even enjoy, your time at university! “Getting involved will definitely enrich your overall experience as a university student and reward you unexpectedly.”
- Keep doors open. Don’t shut doors or close off opportunities without giving these moves considerable thought - venture down as many avenues as you can. “The time you spend dabbling in these different paths should build up your self-awareness and allow you to truly understand what motivates you underneath.” “In turn, you gain a higher chance of being more assertive and assured with your goals and ambitions upon graduation.”
- Get to know people throughout the Monash community. Start a conversation with the person next to you in the same consultation class. Meet and learn genuinely more about people and their unique lives. Everyone is different and interesting in a certain way. By putting yourself out there, you not only gain a whole different set of perspectives but also learn to surround yourself with like-minded individuals you resonate with. These connections will help you develop a network and can continue to reap benefits both professionally and personally for years to come.
How the alumni community helped him
Caleb has found himself fortunate to be a part of a top global university alumni community. “Being part of this vast and extensive alumni community has really empowered me in my personal and professional development journey,” he said.
“There have been many instances where I had the opportunity to connect based on activities held by the Monash alumni community.”
Caleb recently spoke at a panel event alongside other Monash alumni, describing his interactions with that community as empowering and key to broadening his horizons.
“Since we all share a common foothold and felt a sense of belonging to Monash, it was relatively easy to understand and connect with one another as accomplished professionals within the industry,” he says.
“Meeting and connecting with other professionals in the alumni network has really expanded my network and broadened my parochial outlook of other industries.”