Opinion: University Graduates Have Unrealistic Expectations About First Job, Must Be Open To All Offers

University Graduates Shouldn’t Be Too Picky About First Job, Better Opportunities Will Come

Making it to university is a huge milestone for anyone, especially Asian and Singaporean families who covet education qualifications. The common expectation for graduates after that is to land a high-paying job, often in established companies or the government.

With such a heavy mark hanging over their heads, many university graduates enter the working world with lofty ambitions of a starting pay in the upper thousands.

Source: National University of Singapore on Facebook

When they struggle to attain such an opportunity, they may start stressing out and feeling like their job search is futile.

But what of the job offers with lower starting salaries?  Are those not good enough?

First job a valuable experience regardless of pay

Recent news of a university graduate in China breaking down over her seemingly pointless job search sparked much debate online about the realities of job hunting.

Graduate In China Cries After Failing 30 Job Interviews, Questions Point Of Going To University

Besides her sheer number of applications and relatively fewer interviews, the young woman complained that some companies were offering internships without pay or the guarantee of a subsequent full-time role.

While the former certainly isn’t ideal, a non-binding internship isn’t necessarily a bad choice.

For graduates without work experience, especially, an internship could prove valuable for multiple reasons:

  • gives an intimate glimpse of the industry
  • boosts one’s CV, especially if the internship is at a reputable company
  • imparts useful skills for the job and even beyond

To think that an internship doesn’t count as work experience is a flawed judgement, as you’d still get to do some actual work (if you end up in a decent company).

Sticking it out for a few months on an intern’s pay shouldn’t be a huge problem if the stint can possibly help you land a related full-time job later.

Not to mention that, as an intern, you have room to make mistakes. Of course, you’d have to learn from them and try to do better. But at the end of the day, you get precious time to learn and hopefully emerge more ready for full-time responsibilities.

No shame in finding the right job late

Some may argue that paving your own path is one thing, but peer and societal pressure is another.

University graduates in Singapore often compare themselves to their successful peers with scholarships and express tickets to occupations in fields like medicine, law and politics.

But they often fail to stop and realise that those are only the cream of the crop.

These individuals usually plan their entire educational journey to reach that goal and that goal only. The rest of us who are merely trying our best to get by, either don’t want to or just can’t.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. If only we knew how common such a predicament is.

The Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Graduate Employment Survey 2022 actually shines some light on this.

Though roughly 90% of graduates across most courses find employment, not all of them secure permanent full-time positions.

The percentage of such cases may seem low, but calculate it against the student population across six universities in Singapore, and it’d still be a notable amount.

Mind you, these statistics are taken six months after the last exam, so it’s fair to say that struggling with the job hunt isn’t something to be ashamed of.

Besides, who’s to say that those graduates won’t end up finding the perfect job somewhere down the road?

University graduates should set realistic job expectations

At the end of the day, it’s about managing our own expectations and that of the people around us.

Graduates should be able to discern what opportunities will serve them well in the long run, even if they may seem less than satisfactory in the beginning.

Sure, the money matters, but that’s something you can build up towards. As many people with experience note, rejection is part of the process. Keep trying and you’ll find something eventually.

Source: Facebook

Treat every opportunity as a stepping stone and you might even surprise yourself with the realisation that your dream job is something different than what you initially imagined.

Life is a marathon after all, not a race. So take it one leg at a time to get to where you want to be.

Note: The views expressed within this article are the author’s own.

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Featured image adapted from National University of Singapore on Facebook, for illustration purposes only.

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