Saturday 1 May 2021

Does the college you go to determine your future? And is a degree really needed?

Hi guys, welcome back to another article/episode from SingaporeanTalksMoney! I was having a chat with a friend recently. She is a diploma holder and have been working in her company for a substantial amount of years.

Her work environment has changed due to some restructuring and her workload has been increasing due to people leaving however it is really difficult for her to find a new job as it is an administrative position and it is so difficult to find another position where they will pay the same and provide good benefits.

I also watched a Netflix documentary called Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal where it explained how the rich and affluent use the "side door" to buy their children into prestigious school as having that prestige will help them fulfil what they could not do. So some of the parents, even though their child would be able to secure a spot if they were to put in an effort had to still use the "side door" to ensure a spot for their children. This is because being from a prestigious college increases your chance of working at big companies and also the opportunities that will be offered or even just the first impression and bragging rights.

Singapore definitely places a lot of emphasis on education hence having the local university and private university divide. And then even to the course that you study where top students usually go for medical or law degrees. Since it is so important to be studying at a good school, does it mean your future is ruined if you do not get in? Of course not! But let's explore some biases/impressions that have been formed.

Degree = Higher Salary?

Having a degree is really a norm now in Singapore, it seems to be the entry ticket to a job and it really seems so when you go through job postings as most of them would have a requirement "minimum a Bachelor's degree". I went the polytechnic route and to be honest halfway through, I already knew I wasn't going to make it to a local university. I actually thought of not going for a degree since I wasn't very studious and wasn't even sure what I wanted to do. Thats why I took a gap year and worked full-time in a job that was related to the field I studied.

After a year of working, I realised what I didn't want although I still wasn't sure what I wanted hence I went on to study a general degree because during my one year of working, I truly realised that your starting pay is pegged to your education or rather if you have a degree, you will have a "better" starting pay in some cases. And also because I felt that getting a degree was a necessity for my career. I know of many cases where a degree is not needed and with grit and performance, diploma holders can also command a relatively competitive salary.

It was also during this time when I was exposed to knowing that first-class honours could command a higher starting salary of course, depending on the company that you will be joining. It really further cement the thought that a degree was really the entry ticket to getting a higher pay. In my case, as my job was usually research-based or in healthcare mostly in laboratory settings which was not something I wanted hence I went to take a non-related degree to broaden my perspective.

Communicative skills

After obtaining my degree and entering the working world, I have truly realised that a degree might be your entry ticket for certain jobs/industries but there are so many more factors involved in maintaining or advancing your career. One very crucial point that I have learned is communication skills. There are just so many aspects to this and it can really make or break relationships in your workplace. Being able to pitch an idea or provide feedback the right way to your colleagues and boss is so important especially so when we have now moved to virtual meetings. You and your boss are no longer in the same physical space and conveying an idea is much more difficult as physical cues are limited and the tone might also be different on video.

Some examples that I have seen are that if you are able to communicate well, people tend to also help you in tasks that you require assistance. I have had an ex-colleague who would always have catch-up chats with another team and share how her day was to easily reach them even as a friend capacity. This means that when she needs help, she can easily approach them and for them to help her, the other team are faster to respond since they are like "friends".

Similarly, being able to communicate well with your boss means that more opportunities could be given to you as your boss can convey instructions easily and know what you are working on. Unfortunately, for me, I am an introvert and I have to admit that I am too comfortable in my comfort zone of not speaking up. I have seen opportunities being given to others partly because I did not voice out my opinions that I am capable of handling the project.

This has overall made me more of a listener and to be honest, many things appear in my mind but I cannot seem to articulate it out. I am trying to work on being more expressive and to make myself be heard. Whether in terms of the work I do or just an update.

Learning new things

Besides of course improving your communication skills, a lot also depends on your learning. Learning to improve your current workflow or learning a new skill that will earn you extra money or push you ahead in your career is really crucial. The world is really changing in terms of the demand and supply of knowledge and jobs. Technology is now the dominant sector and even primary school children will have to incorporate coding into their curriculum, this just tells us how much the materials that the younger generation needs to be exposed/studied will have a change

Is a degree needed?

I would say yes, in current situations. Of course, this depends a lot on the industry you are going into and what you are studying. Most if not all industries nowadays require constant knowledge update through short courses throughout your career and you can also study part-time although it requires huge perseverance and determination. I think what matters more is your attitude towards learning. Hope you guys enjoy today's video! 

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  1. There are many many different jobs that do not require a degree for a decent pay, I feel that constantly upgrading yourself with professional certs might be a better/ different alternative than having a degree

    1. Hi FinanciallyFree, that's also how I feel in the long run. You have to keep yourself updated and involved in the industry while increasing your knowledge. It is the age of constant upgrading and learning :)