Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What’s your plan after graduation ?

It’s May now. It’s this time of the year when local universities students are finishing their exams, and some of them are running their last laps. Many of them would be entering the workforce soon, just like what I did seven years ago.

Seven years ago shortly after I graduated, I had an ex-colleague HK who had lived in quite a few countries. He had spent a couple of years in China and Taiwan. Thus, sometimes he would like to compare the people from these countries with Singaporean. I remembered he used to say something like this: “In China, when you ask a student his plans upon graduation, he would probably says he plans to do postgraduate studies like Masters or Phd. In Taiwan, the student would probably wants to start-up a company. Whereas in Singapore, a typical student would probably says he wanna join an MNC upon graduation.”

I understand there is a bit of generalization here. What H was trying to highlight was the difference in mentality of typical students in these countries. In general, China students are hungrier for knowledge and don’t usually stop at undergraduate level, while Taiwan students have more entrepreneurial spirits. In contrast, a typical Singaporean student seemed to be perfectly contented with a bachelor degree and a stable job in an MNC.

While there is nothing wrong in wanting to work in an MNC, somehow HK felt that something is seriously lacking in our students compared to their overseas counterparts.

“What is that thing which our students lacked?” I asked.

“Directions.” HK replied.

Yes, directions. HK felt that in general, our students didn’t have a clear direction of what they truly want in life, even after they graduated from university. When a Singaporean student replied that he wanted to join an MNC upon graduation, the thing in his mind was probably a decent and stable paycheck and a comfortable lifestyle, rather than ambitions, passions or dreams.

Although I do not want to agree with HK, my encounters with quite a number of fresh graduates had more or less affirmed his observations. Many of these local fresh graduates that I encountered do not really know what they want in their lifes, and the thing I am worried about is that they never seemed to have given a serious thought about it. And as a result, many people make career switches because eventually they found themselves doing something that they do not like.

I do not know how close to reality HK’s observation is, and whether things have changed ever since. If you have just graduated or had been working for a couple of years, have you ever spend some time thinking about what you really want to achieve between now and your retirement? If your answer is no, maybe it’s about time to start thinking. Start thinking, before you turned yourself into a worker ant.

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