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With over 160K followers on TikTok, 110K on Instagram, and 50K on LinkedIn, Sim Ling Ku is an influencer that undoubtedly has a fair share of sway with working professionals in Malaysia.

But rather than her name, you might recognise her by either her (somewhat NSFW) username of professionalbimbo or the nickname bestowed upon her—Aunty HR.

With popular taglines like “OK, next!” and “Dilarang Bodoh”, Ling dishes out insights into the HR world with a side of humour. Her social media pages are populated by highlights from livestreams where she answers questions about to do with the workplace, from labour laws to toxic colleagues.

In a world where young professionals are often told not to trust HR personnel, Ling has become an expert Malaysians can trust about the subject.

I recently caught a Q&A session live at Malaysian Pay Gap’s Work Slayer Summit. Sitting in the audience, I found myself laughing hysterically at her quips with other attendees, raving over how witty and smart (and fabulously dressed) Aunty HR is.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Hopping on a video call with Ling, I realised that her online persona (or on-stage presence) is not far off from her real-life demeanour—honest to a tee with a penchant for quick-witted jokes.

But beneath the laughs, here’s the story of Ling’s journey that has made her such a unique and reliable voice in today’s saturated world of content creators.

From engineering to HR

Although Ling graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering, she only lasted about three months in the industry.

“I was just not happy at that job,” she admitted.

Asking around for a new gig, she managed to land one as a front desk assistant at Kelly Services, a HR consulting services company.

She started out with zero knowledge about HR, but had a wealth of transferrable skills from her engineering background, such as how to be process-oriented.  

“Just because you study one thing, doesn’t mean the knowledge you learnt is not applicable [to another field],” she reminded. “I find that a problem with youths nowadays is they don’t know how to apply knowledge they have learnt.”

A driven individual, she climbed her way to eventually become a senior consulting manager at the firm. Ultimately, she ended up spending over two decades in the industry.

A competitive streak led her to content creation

“In your career, there will be ups and downs, just like in life,” she told me. “It will come to a point where you’ll feel like you are plateauing.”

Ling clarified that she didn’t have any problems with her job or her workplace. Everything was good—but sometimes, when everything is good, people get bored.

Not one to stay stagnant in her comfort zone, Ling often takes on new challenges within her career, but even that got boring.

“You know that Barbie song? You just stop and wonder, ‘What Was I Made For?’” she mused. “I think it’s like my mid-life career crisis.”

One day, she saw a friend go live on LinkedIn. A competitive person in nature, she often feels driven to try things that others are pursuing. But finding the process of going live on LinkedIn tedious, she turned to Instagram.

Initially, she streamed to an empty crowd. Yet, she never skipped a day, going live every evening on Instagram. From those sessions, she would select funny snippets to post on TikTok, which began gaining traction.

Interestingly, Ling did not come up with the Aunty HR nickname, but rather, it was given by her audience.

TikTok gamifies its platform for creators through the use of badges and achievements, something that Ling found her competitive self drawn to. Thus, she switched over to it.

One of her first “viral” content was one where she scolded viewers to go study, and not to liken themselves to people like Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of college. Her sassiness, as well as the message, found a receptive audience comprising both kids and parents.

As a temperamental person, Ling enjoyed the catharsis of her livestreams. She could vent her emotions on the platform, and users found it entertaining. But at one point, TikTok suspended her for her use of profanity. She then realised just how young the TikTok userbase was, which pushed her to move back to Instagram.

The suspension was a blessing in disguise, though, as it allowed Ling to take a step back from her daily streams and actually rest. She now paces herself, and no longer streams every day.

Leaving behind the corporate world to be a full-time influencer

Last year, Ling took the plunge to tender her resignation.

“It came to a point where I could not do two jobs anymore,” she explained.  

Being an influencer is not as easy as just turning on the camera. Not only did Ling have to ensure the source material (i.e. her streams) are of good quality, she also had to pick up video editing skills to create her content.

She has since released her own merchandise / Image Credit: Bimbo Society

The decision to pivot was not easy, of course, especially as she had to give up a sizeable salary. She expressed, “I didn’t have plans, I just know I was tired.”

She added that she was empowered by her husband who supported her emotionally and financially.

Becoming a freelance creator had quite a learning curve. She had to figure out what a rate card was and how to set her rates when working with brands.

One notable brand she has worked with is Jobstreet, who has its own content platform called seekMAX, where Aunty HR was featured in videos such as “Contract Red Flags” and “How to Negotiate Your Salary”.

Image Credit: Jobstreet

Serving up HR knowledge in an entertaining way

Setting out, Ling said she never intended to influence people’s mindset about HR. But throughout her journey, she found herself shocked by the lack of awareness and knowledge people had about basic HR issues.  

“I realised how uneducated employees are about their own rights,” she expressed.

With that in mind, Ling’s goal now is to spread awareness on employment matters.

On top of producing her humorous and informative content, Ling has ambitious plans of offering Human Resources Development Corporation (HRDC) claimable courses for businesses.

“Companies have HRDC funds, and they have expiry dates. HRDC funds are 1% of the worker’s wages, and it’s compulsory to contribute this,” she explained.

Through her experience in the industry, she knows that many corporates may not know how to use these funds, which may go up to millions in bigger companies.

Plus, Ling believes many training programmes nowadays are outdated. Understanding that youths today learn from watching online, she thinks there’s a gap in the training industry that can be filled with her edutainment content.

To be able to claim the HRDC funds, Ling is currently working to get HRDC-certified to become a trainer.

“My ultimate goal is to be like a Taylor Swift concert,” she shared. “Not go out sing, but to have large-scale HR conferences like a Taylor Swift concert.”

That means she hopes to create a highly interactive conference, one where people will book seats like they would for a Taylor Swift concert—months in advance and spending hours in virtual waiting rooms.

To achieve her sellout concert fantasies, she’s working on marketing and brand building. She also recently debuted as a comedienne at KL Comedy Club.

“This is my first year coming out from corporate, so I’m doing a lot of experiments,” she mused. “I will try out different things. Let me try them out and fail, that’s how we learn as we go—trial and error.”

  • Learn more about Aunty HR here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)