With determination and perseverance, Hong Kong's 2002 Asian Games rowing bronze medallist, Yung Ka-yan, has built a career on her passion for pets. After retiring from full-time rowing in 2007, Yung joined a media company as a business executive. Realising the job did not suit her, she sought advice from the Hong Kong Athletes Career and Education Programme (HKACEP), and has since pursued a career in pet grooming.
Why did you quit rowing?
Over the years, I sustained a lot of injuries that affected my training, so I decided to switch to a different career. It was a difficult decision because rowing had become a part of my life.
I have learned from being a competitive athlete that we should not be too proud when we win, nor discouraged by defeats. This mindset helped me build self-confidence and motivated me to set goals and persevere to do my best.
How did you change career paths?
Because I had never worked in a commercial organisation before, I faced some challenges the first year after I made the transition from an athlete to a business executive. With the help of [human resources firm] Adecco, I learned how I should build my career, what communication and interpersonal skills are needed in a business setting, and received training on writing application letters and interview techniques.
I [then] joined HKACEP [initiated by the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China and Adecco]. In the past retired athletes received limited support in career transition and some had to take up jobs which did not match their interests. I knew former athletes who managed the programme, such as [former windsurfer] Sam Wong Tak-sum, so I could open up more easily. They knew what my needs were, helped me identify my career goals and gave me confidence.
Why does a job in pet grooming interest you?
During the year when I was at my first job, I tried to identify my genuine interests. I have a passion for pets and enjoy their company because my family have kept pets since my childhood. I love spending time with dogs and sharing tips about how to look after them. I am immensely satisfied when dogs look better as a result of my grooming and when customers appreciate my efforts.
What is the tough part of your job and how do you overcome it?
Some dogs are scared of the groomers on their first visits. They might behave in the company of their owners but as soon as the owners leave, they become aggressive. I will take the time to approach the dogs and communicate with the owners to understand individual dogs’ temperament and if the dogs have any allergic reaction to certain chemicals. It is inevitable to make mistakes and come across harsh words. I believe that success is achieved through trials and errors. From my years as athlete, I have learnt to confront the challenges head on. When my coach scolded me, I reflected on my mistakes and set the goals again.
What are your aspirations and how will you go about achieving them?
My long-term goal is to set up a salon where customers can socialise and share their experience looking after their pets, while the dogs enjoy being groomed and I pursue my aspirations. I have been studying for a professional pet groomer's licence. Professional qualifications not only provide me a sense of security in my long-term career development, they also inspire confidence of my customers.
What career advice do you have for young people?
Regardless of their past experience, young people should be willing to explore new things and start at the junior level. Taking the first step is crucial in building a career. Humility is also important.
- Bronze medal, women's lightweight single sculls, 2002 Asian Games
- Bronze medal, women's coxless pair, 2005 East Asian Games
- Successfully made a transition to work in a commercial organisation under HKACEP