Where are you currently standing on the path towards your career? Could you perhaps be one of the common average university students that stand on the so-called “conveyor belts” which seamlessly manufacture identical job seekers with identical qualifications? If so, you may learn a lesson or two from our guest today, John Chang (JOHN) who has recently written an autobiography, Action Taker of his adventurous life towards success, starting right from the ground floor. With a mere 600 dollars, he started from managing a single laundry business and expanded it to eight large-scale companies. His rough deep voice, gentle eyes, and a very father-like image gave no impression of an average businessman, but of a true mentor here to present to The Sookmyung Times (SMT) his pearls of wisdom.
SMT How did you spend your four years in university? Was this something you have been planning since you were a university student?
JOHN No, this is definitely an unexpected outcome. In my university years, everyone was busy with protests and trying to earn a living for the day, so no one really had the chance to think about the future. I wanted to study and get away from the police who were chasing me, which led to my decision to go into Myojeoksa, a temple in Gyeonggi-do, where I read an infinite number of books. I studied much more at the temple than I have ever studied in university. I believe that all those books have helped me build the basis of my current self. Even today, I read many books and newspapers. Never have I read the sports section or any celebrities’ gossip, but other than that, I pretty much try to read every type of article and book there is out there, something I advise to the readers.
SMT ‘Action Taker,’ was a nickname your fellow colleagues came up with because of your actual field experience that led you to your current status. What is your work ethic that has driven you to endure the hardships of the past?
JOHN My first job was inspecting receipts and trying to find counterfeits. I didn’t have any experience working or studying this type of job, so every night after work, I studied textbooks related to inspection and surveillance. I always tried to do more than what was asked of me, and even made suggestions to the company for improvements. It’s always important to keep in mind what the company needs from you, and not the other way around. This sort of attitude is what got me recognized by the higher positions within the firm. From managing a laundry business to managing several companies, the will to always do more than I’m asked for has helped my businesses thrive.
SMT You’re known as a successful businessman today, but your past consists of an equal portion of slumps and letdowns as well. Have these negative experiences influenced you in any way?
JOHN When you face problems or difficulties in life, by encountering them you grow stronger. It takes three days for a chick to crack its way out of its shell. However, if the owner cracks a hole for them so they can come out easily, they die a lot faster. It’s better to fail. It’s better to have a chance to overcome your obstacles, because by doing so you gain the potential to develop and grow in your weak areas. When a baseball player hits a home run, he or she will gain fame and success. Although the people remember only the single home run, nobody seems to notice the hundreds of misses the player probably hit during practice. The important point is that the hundred errors are what created the possibility of a home run. The failures of my past are what created the foundation of success.
SMT From finance, trade and even clothing, you’ve managed a variety of different companies. What do you consider the most important factor is when hiring employees?
JOHN Honesty is essential. Everyone can clearly see whether the interviewee is exaggerating. I mostly look into their personalities more than any other qualifications. Skills and technology are something that can be taught, but without a reliable personality, the person will surely cause problems after they are hired, even if he or she has great qualifications. People who don’t know what they are good at tend to obtain licenses and qualifications without much thought. It’s important that you find a job you like, and then after perhaps take exams and apply for licenses
related to the job.
SMT As a mentor who has risen to your current status not with ‘*spec,’ but out of pure effort, do you have anything you would like to say to the ‘spec’ hungry young generation of today?
JOHN Like I said before, you need to find a career that you can enjoy. Before that, I said that one should face their problems instead of turning away from them. By not facing your problems, and just beating around the bush, you won’t be able to find a job you love, and may just end up aimlessly collecting license after license. There are no shortcuts in life. One night on a full moon, one mother was out in the yard looking for a missing needle. The son asked her why she was looking for the needle outside, when she lost it inside the house. The mother said that it was too dark inside to look for it. People usually depend on easy answers to their problems, even though it is obvious that it isn’t effective. Make a true genuine effort in whatever you’re doing, and then eventually, people will start to feel a need for you. Many young people these days tend to complain frequently. “Why won’t they appreciate me?” “Why won’t they promote me?” In reality, the world doesn’t have any time to listen to your complaints. Instead, you need to become a person that is needed in the society. You need to be able to be of help towards others. Then the help you’ve become will eventually return back to you with success.
* ‘spec’ is an abbreviation for ‘specification’.
In korea, this word indicates licences or any qualifications that are useful for obtaining a job.