Jack of all trades

From hos­pi­tal­ity to pearls, Joseph Lim demon­strates there is no end to learn­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PEOPLE - By MA­JORIE CHIEW

HE STARTED out as a waiter, then be­came a but­ler and pro­gressed to guest re­la­tions of­fi­cer. One thing led to an­other and to­day, Joseph Lim Yew Meng has a ca­reer many would envy. He han­dles pearl jew­ellery for Ger­man com­pany Schoef­fel Pearls. As Schoef­fel’s Asia Pa­cific man­ager, he is based in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia.

In the course of his work, he counts him­self lucky to have met di­plo­mats and celebri­ties.

Since Lim had lived with his par­ents all his life, the thought of work­ing to sup­port him­self never oc­curred to him. It was only when he ar­rived in Aus­tralia in 2001 that he felt he didn’t want to bur­den his par­ents with his liv­ing ex­penses as the uni­ver­sity tu­ition fees were al­ready so high.

“I was a waiter in a Cam­bo­dian res­tau­rant in the trendy city sub­urb of Dar­linghurst in Syd­ney. I was lucky to land the job, de­spite hav­ing no ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Lim in an email in­ter­view.

“Apart from bal­anc­ing trays, open­ing wine bot­tles and pol­ish­ing wine glasses, I also de­vel­oped peo­ple skills and in­ter­acted with strangers freely. The abil­ity to en­gage in con­ver­sa­tion proved to be a use­ful skill even to­day.”

In mid-2003, Lim moved to Can­berra to fur­ther his ed­u­ca­tion.

He found work there as a tea

Joseph Lim on his first visit to Paris in 2006. His work re­quires him to travel around Asia. lounge at­ten­dant in the five-star Hy­att Ho­tel Can­berra that houses vis­it­ing in­ter­na­tional di­plo­mats.

“I worked my way up to be­come a waiter in the ho­tel’s fine din­ing res­tau­rant, su­per­vis­ing the VIP lounge and later, was pro­moted to but­ler.

“I had the op­por­tu­nity to look af­ter many world lead­ers,” he re­veals, adding that his “most re­mark­able ex­pe­ri­ence” was talk­ing with then prime min­is­ter Datuk Seri (Tun) Ab­dul­lah Ah­mad Badawi. “The first time he saw me, he asked, ‘You are Malaysian, aren’t you?’ One morn­ing, I served him a glass of cold fruit juice and he coughed through­out the day. I felt so guilty!” Lim says.

“On his last day, he showed me a golf bag made out of kan­ga­roo skin that was a gift from then Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter, John Howard. That evening, I had to ex­cuse my­self early to make it for my class. He asked me to wait while he went up to his room. When he re­turned, he gave me two colour­ful notes. That was my tip and I kept it for three years be­fore us­ing them in London,” he says.

Af­ter com­plet­ing his Masters de­gree in Can­berra, he moved back to Syd­ney in 2005. He took up a job as guest re­la­tions of­fi­cer at the Club Lounge of In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel there.

“The lounge lo­cated at Cir­cu­lar Quay of­fers a view of the en­tire Syd­ney har­bour and the in­ner east sub­urbs. It is the most spec­tac­u­lar view in Syd­ney.”

The ho­tel also hosted in­ter­na­tional celebri­ties the likes of Jen­nifer Anis­ton, Michael Bu­ble, Joan Rivers, Pink, Pussy­cat Dolls and Scis­sor Sis­ters. Part of his job was to look af­ter them.

“I was there when Ni­cole Kid­man cel­e­brated her hen’s night with Naomi Watts and I told her how priv­i­leged I felt to have her there.

“David Has­sel­holf, a truly funny guy, asked me where I was from. I told him Malaysia, but I think he had no idea where the coun­try is. Nev­er­the­less, I told him we were all big fans of Bay­watch and Knight Rider. He said he would visit Malaysia one day. I pointed out to him where Malaysia is on the world map!” says Lim.

In 2006, his aunt rec­om­mended a job in a pearl jew­ellery com­pany based in Ger­many.

“It came at the right time be­cause my per­ma­nent res­i­dency (for Aus­tralia) was granted then. I was hav­ing a great time work­ing in the hos­pi­tal­ity trade but felt I needed a se­ri­ous ca­reer,” he says. He flew from Syd­ney to Hong Kong for the in­ter­view and was hired three days later.

He ar­rived in Stuttgart in Oc­to­ber that year; it was his first trip to Europe.

“Stuttgart is a small city. At the air­port, there was only one lug­gage belt! I told my­self, this is not good,” rem­i­nisces Lim. “Whilst driv­ing back to the of­fice, I no­ticed that ev­ery­thing was grey and misty. There were no high­rise build­ings and or big bill­boards. As a city boy, I pan­icked!”

They put him up in a small city ho­tel for a week. It was a com­plete cul­ture shock for him.

As he didn’t know the Ger­man lan­guage when he first ar­rived, he ate Turk­ish pizza and McDon­ald’s for din­ner ev­ery day for the en­tire week. His first task at work had noth­ing to do with pearls. He was put in the lo­gis­tics depart­ment to learn about the courier ser­vice.

“This job can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated. There is a struc­tured sys­tem and brand stan­dard to ad­here to. Even the way we pack­age the pearls, the place­ment of cards and ad­dresses are of im­por­tance. I did this for two months,” he adds.

Af­ter some Ger­man lessons, com­mu­ni­ca­tion was eas­ier and Lim man­aged to find his way around.

“I got to know the city and un­der­stand the peo­ple bet­ter. The Ger­mans are fan­tas­tic. They are very hon­est and sin­cere.”

Af­ter a month in the com­pany, he was asked to han­dle a pearl show with a jew­eller in In­done­sia. With the lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence that he had with pearls, he man­aged to pull off the show which was held at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in Jakarta.

“Just be­fore Christ­mas, Lim re­turned to Kuala Lumpur to visit his fam­ily. Dur­ing this time, he met up with Poh Kong’s mer­chan­dis­ing di­rec­tor Alice Choon.

“We struck up a very good busi­ness re­la­tion­ship and over the years, a close friend­ship. We were both very en­thu­si­as­tic and com­mit­ted to bring­ing Schoef­fel to Malaysia. Our first show in May 2007 was a suc­cess. By Septem­ber 2007, we opened the first Schoef­fel pearl bou­tique at the Pavil­ion Kuala Lumpur,” he says.

To­day, Lim lives in Dar­linghurst. When he’s not busy at work, he in­dulges in kite fly­ing, body surf­ing, fashion, gar­den­ing and home decor.

“I live about 15 min­utes’ bus ride away from Bondi beach. As much as my fam­ily hates my skin be­ing overly tan, I love it,” says Lim, who learnt to surf re­cently.

His job takes him back to KL ev­ery so of­ten. “From there, it’s eas­ier to travel around Asia,” he says, adding that two of the most mem­o­rable cities that he vis­ited re­cently are Paris and London.

Jet-set­ting life:

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