THIS June, after we returned to Singapore from a week-long vacation, I did something that would sound crazy to many people: I read the newspapers from the last seven days that had been piling up at the front door of our house.
For most people, reading newspaper is a trivial chore. Many of my acquaintances don’t even subscribe to a newspaper. For them, it is either a waste of time or money or both.
But those who don’t read a newspaper daily, are missing out on so much, especially if they are looking for a new job. Here are four stories that prove how newspapers can be a source of lucky career breaks.
New job in a new country
March 9, 1994 was yet another day when I returned home after staying awake the whole night in hospital. My first daughter had just been born with some complications, and we were all having sleepless nights.
As I settled wearily with a cup of tea, I spotted The Times of India (TOI), India’s leading English newspaper, on the table in front of me. Even though my eyes were closing, I picked up the newspaper and started turning the pages.
On this particular day, TOI published a dedicated section for overseas appointments, in which I spotted a small advertisement in the last column of the last page. It was a nondescript ad for air-conditioning engineers for a Singapore-based company.
I cut out the ad and sent in my application, and for a person who didn’t even have a passport at the time, it seems amazing to me that I was working in Singapore within six months.
One may think, “What’s great about that?” Such a thing happens every day with someone, somewhere. I also didn’t think much of it, but continued reading the newspaper every day. And then came another break.
Winning a worldwide competition
After moving to Singapore, I started subscribing to The Straits Times, Singapore’s English daily. In 1995, I saw an ad that captured my attention. It was by the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and Borneo Motors, Toyota’s dealership in Singapore. That year, to celebrate a milestone, they were organising a worldwide business case writing competition.
I mailed the ad to my elder brother in India, who wrote a business case that won the third prize. He flew down to Singapore and attended a gala prize distribution ceremony here.
And that achievement — winning the worldwide business case writing competition — became a proud and permanent feature in his CV.
Again, it all began with my morning encounter with the newspaper.
Breakthrough in writing
In 1999, I was wondering if I could do something different than engineering, my core competence. I was attracted to writing, but didn’t know how to set the ball rolling in the new direction.
One fine Saturday morning in 1999, I spotted a tiny ad titled “Freelance Writer” in The Straits Times. I applied for the position even though I had no credentials as a writer. A year later, I received a call from a person who asked, “Are you still interested in writing?” This gentleman gave me my first paid writing assignment and a new journey — of professional writing — began.
Finally, let me share one last story from the annals of business history.
Sony and newspapers
Sony Corporation was founded in 1946 by two friends, Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka. But in 1945 both of them were in different places following different career paths. Ibuka was in Tokyo, running his company, Tokyo Telecommunications Research Institute. And Morita was at his home in Kosugaya, slated to become a teacher.
Ibuka’s company was manufacturing shortwave adaptors, a product that was featured in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Morita, who read this newspaper, immediately contacted Ibuka who invited him to visit Tokyo and they ended up founding Sony in 1946.
What if Morita had not read Asahi Shimbun on that historic day in 1945?
Each of these stories in itself may not appear significant, but if you connect the dots, you will see that all four have one common factor: reading the newspaper.
Considering the information overload in today’s world, reading a newspaper daily is a chore that many people would prefer to avoid. But once in a while, something so career-defining may emerge out of that activity that you will be grateful to those who started you on the habit — in my case, my parents. It is no exaggeration to say that my life took a very different path because I was — and still am — a faithful reader.