For Jade Leung, the road to a Rhodes Scholarship and PhD study in Global Governance at Oxford started early on, getting involved with Amnesty International while at high school. Jade appreciates how Amnesty made it accessible for youth to meaningfully participate. She was galvanized to become active in the not-for-profit sector by seeing being exposed to the issues, such as female genital mutilation and child soldiers, that Amnesty campaigned around.

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“If something either scares me or pisses me off or frustrates me my gut reaction is to respond by doing something about it.”

Amnesty and the youth organisation P3 Foundation gave Jade, who also was involved in managing Engineers Without Borders NZ at the national level, experience in things like managing large groups of people.

“They give a ton of responsibility and autonomy to the young people who run the organisation. It’s unique and hugely valuable to have that opportunity to get your hands dirty and take ownership of work that you’re passionate about.

“In P3 Foundation, I got involved in a couple of projects in high school and went through a couple of different roles, eventually ending up as the CEO in 2014 and then moving onto their board of trustees.

“Organisations like P3 Foundation and Engineers Without Borders NZ are a really great way to pick up skills and develop networks early on.”

Jade progressively moved into the start-up space, founding two social enterprises which provided “a different challenge and a different opportunity” particularly around developing team culture and agile strategy. In a complementary manner to her earlier work in the not-for-profit sector, these experiences gave her valuable career and business skills.

When deciding on what opportunities to go for Jade says to go for opportunities that might be outside of your comfort zone to get the most out of it that you can.

“There’s only one period in your life where you really have the opportunity to put yourself out there without much risk, and that’s when you’re in high school and/or university with nothing much to lose and a huge amount to gain, learn and grow.

“People should pick opportunities that have at least one component to them that makes them really nervous or makes them double take. Those are the opportunities that are going to teach you the most.”

You have to be able to articulate why this is going to add value to your life and if you can’t, that, more so than anything on your CV is going make you get a no for your application.”

Jade says it is important to strategically choose opportunities that allow you to develop certain skills or meet certain people instead of defaulting to whatever one is closest to your field. These opportunities have many very useful transferable skills that you might be missing out on if you just apply for those closest to your degree.

In terms of applying Jade thinks it is important to discard the idea that there is no point in applying unless you think you have a strong chance of being successful.

“It is really just a case of going for it. People say it all the time but it literally is just putting in your application.

“Another thing that is crucial in applying for any opportunity is to make sure you know why you’re doing it.

“You have to be able to articulate why this is going to add value to your life and if you can’t, that, more so than anything on your CV is going make you get a no for your application.

Even if your application isn’t successful you can still gain something from the process if you ask for feedback about why you were not successful.

"Feedback is one of the most valuable gifts you can receive; make sure you use every ‘no’ as an opportunity to learn something about yourself, the organisation and/or where you’re going next.”

Jade, third from left with fellow entrepreneurs and the Minister for Youth, Nikki Kaye. 

Jade, third from left with fellow entrepreneurs and the Minister for Youth, Nikki Kaye.