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Success is going out of your comfort zone, American professor tells Vietnamese students

Alan Kerzner, an American marketing consultant and a professor of marketing, consulting and leadership skills at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, spoke with Vietnamese students at a workshop in Ho Chi Minh City on “How to Succeed in the U.S.” on June 26.

Success is going out of your comfort zone, American professor tells Vietnamese students
Success is going out of your comfort zone, American professor tells Vietnamese students

With 30 years of experience in the business industry, Prof. Kerzner has worked with famous global brands like Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.

He is founder and CEO of the Institute for Global Student Success; founder and president of Business Growth Associates; corporate vice president of marketing at Hartz Mountain Corporation and a marketing consultant at many enterprises.

Prof. Alan Kerzner shared his experiences of working with Vietnamese students in the U.S. in an interview with Tuoitrenews.

How do you define success in the U.S.?

The first thing I would say is every individual defines success differently. What I consider success will be different from what you consider success. From my perspective as a teacher and mentor of a lot of international students, success is going to and really experiencing America, interacting with people from different countries, trying new experiences and going out of one’s comfort zone. What we try to do is give the students knowledge, skills, and experiences, but most importantly the confidence to go out of their comfort zone. That’s the ultimate definition of success.

What is the strength of Vietnamese students in general?

It’s very tough to generalize because I’ve just seen hundreds of Vietnamese students, I haven’t seen the population as a whole. I’ll give you my impression. Vietnamese students are very interested and open to learning. They have a real intellectual curiosity. A lot of students have an entrepreneurial orientation and the Vietnamese students that I come across are very kind and nice.

What are the typical struggles that Vietnamese students often encounter in America?

I think one of the major struggles is overcoming concerns about language. We all have language difficulties, but we can’t be paralyzed by them. So we need to do our best to communicate with whatever language you are speaking, and not worry about how we sound. So that’s the big thing.

The second challenge is really learning about different ways to be in the classroom. As you know, in Vietnam, a traditionally good student is very quiet and doesn’t challenge the professors or other students. They work extremely hard, usually have to do a lot of memorization, do great on tests. In the U.S., the classroom expectation and evaluation are very different. You are expected to participate in class, frequently and in high quality. Voice your opinion, challenge the professor if you don’t agree, and challenge the other students. In a lot of courses in college classes, participation will be 30 percent of your grade. We evaluate learning not only on memorization, but on the ability to apply concepts.

The third challenge is Vietnamese students like to stay and talk and hang out with other Vietnamese students. Also in the professional area, Vietnamese people tend to be very humble. Being humble is great socially, but if you apply for a job against 50 or 100 smart students from Vietnam, India, America, South America, you can’t go in there and be humble. You need to talk about what you can achieve, and that requires you to know how you want to sell yourself, and what’s special about you. That’s something that Vietnamese students are not used to thinking or talking about.

Is it hard to study in the U.S.?

For any international student, it is difficult. In America, getting through a university and getting a job is very tough, but if they work at it, if they’re willing to grow, the Vietnamese students are very successful. What I like is despite the challenges, Vietnamese students who we work with have been dramatically successful.

What should Vietnamese students do to impress American employers, in your opinion?

You have to figure out how you want to talk about yourself. We tell our students that they are brands, and employers are buyers. You have to convince the potential employer why they should buy you over a hundred other students. You have to develop your own positioning, say what makes you special.

Networking is critical: 80 percent of opportunities are not posted in job or career placement offices. We call that the invisible network. So you need to meet people in different businesses. Networking helps to seek out people who can help you.

Another very important thing is to learn to communicate effectively. You need to figure out how to stand out, you need to write effective emails and get a mentor who will help guide you because it’s truly a journey. You start out, you take some wrong turns, and ultimately you reach your destination.

What is one key word for success in the U.S.?

Integration. Integration into society, integration into class, into a community of friends from countries other than Vietnam and integration into a professional community.

At the workshop in Ho Chi Minh City held by the Institute for Global Student Success and the International Education Institute under the Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City, Prof. Alan Kerzner gave the students his advice for success in the U.S., as follows:

– You need to prepare yourself for different experiences.

– Start thinking of yourself in a different way, in a way that makes you unique

– Being humble is great socially, but you have to become comfortable with talking about yourself in a very persuasive manner.