Philip Chan is an exceptional individual. When I first met him, I was new to Hong Kong and looking for someone to translate our website into Cantonese. His daughter, who then worked at the same co-working space as I did, introduced us and I was instantly inspired by his zest for life, desire to learn new things and constant focus to upgrading his version.
He is the closest thing to a millenial I have seen - driven by a sense of purpose, always learning and pivoting to stay relevant. Here we jump into a conversation with him to learn about his life and what inspires him to keep it fresh.
Q.1 Briefly share with us with your background. Where you grew up and what your childhood was like
I was born and grew up in Hong Kong. I fantasied a lot as a teenager and dreamt about travelling to different countries to experience foreign cultures.
Q2. How old are you now and what are you currently doing?
I just celebrated my 68th birthday this month. After I retired from my own business 2 years ago, I have been keeping myself busy with several short contract jobs. I joined an international bank one month ago working in their customer care department which requires me to learn totally new skills. I wanted the challenge outside my comfort zone.
Q2. For the majority of your career, what would you say you have been doing?
At the age of 21, I left for Canada to fulfill my dream, picked up 2 new foreign languages, and began a globe-trotting career after returning to Hong Kong 10 years later. I have worked in several posts - from Sales Manager in a MNC to entrepreneurship running my own company in product sales, but always involving marketing and constant travelling. This global exposure has impacted my view on the world and life, and sometimes I have difficulties in reconciling my own cultural identities.
Q3. What would you describe as the proudest moment of your career?
I was at the peak of my career towards the end of the last century, when my own- designed products was gaining recognition in 20+ countries worldwide, and I could afford to purchase my own office premises and a Mercedes as company car.
Q4. What has been the turning point in your career that led you to explore other avenues
With the return of Hong Kong to motherland in 1997, China’s rapid modernisation and subsequent ascension to the WTO, Hong Kong lost its distinctive advantage as an “intermediary” in the China trade.
Q5. When not at work, what brings you joy? Could be hobbies or passions in life? What do you most enjoy about them?
I enjoy trying out new recipes in my kitchen at home, accompanied by a bottle of good wine. My other passion is body-building in the gym which helps me to feel energized and keeps the doctor away for decades.
Q6. Does it bother you that you are now older? When does it bother you the most?
I am still active and engage in activities that I used to in younger days. The only thing that bothers me is when people try to stereotype me on the sole information of my age and make a lot of assumptions.
Q7. Tell me a time in your life when you looked for a job after you turned 60. What was that experience like?
Not pleasant. People were thinking that I wanted the job just to kill time and my eagerness to contribute significantly to the company was construed as fear of losing the source of income.
Q8. What advice would you give to those who are older and exploring second careers?
Make sure that the employer has an inclusive culture and values the experience you are bringing to the company. Stay relevant and be prepared to work collaboratively with colleagues from another generation.
Q9. What keeps you motivated to stay productive?
My motivation comes from other’s recognition of the value of my experience in minimising mistakes without compromising the overall progress and performance of the company. Equally important is the feeling of a purpose in life to wake up to every morning.
Q10. Which aspect of work gives you the most joy? (Salary, designation, team, purpose etc) and why?
It is the opportunity to share my experience with co-workers and be able to assist them to become equally if not more successful than I am. This satisfaction comes from the realisation that there were mistakes which could have been avoided in my own career development if only I had a mentor to coach me at the time.
Q11. How would you say your approach to work has changed since you first landed a job?
I have become more appreciative of the strength in each individual co-worker, and humbled by the realisation that there are new things to learn every day because the world is evolving so much faster nowadays. A harmonious relationship in the work place is beneficial to all parties concerned.
Q12. What advice would you give to your 30 year old self to prepare for a 100 year life?
Remain passionate at whatever you are doing. Become mellow and not stale with the advancing age. Stay healthy so you are able to remain productive for much longer time.
Q13. What advice would you give to companies who are not sure if they should hire older talent?
Explain the company culture clearly and understand the relevance of the incoming older talent to ensure there is some sort of alignment between the two. Believe that relevant experience cannot be measured by the additional expenses and will benefit the company in the long run.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewees and do not reflect the official policy or position of Retired Not Out Limited.