News and views from an unique perspective

Polytechnic graduate struggled to find a full-time job in Singapore

Posted by temasektimes on June 8, 2012

I finished my diploma, couldn’t get into local universities, took up a full time job and half a year later went for part time degree (this is the good thing about foreign unis. 3.2 is considered very good to them unlike singapore Unis that prefer to give our deserved spaces to foreigners to study). I had to quit as the job after enduring 6 months as it required me to work even after office hours, answering the company phone that kept on ringing in my night classes.

I looked around for full time jobs but the requests I sent out were mostly unanswered. take note, NONE of the government related places i sent to replied me at all. Most of the government related places I applied for are in relevance to my degree that I am studying now. Only small companies had the time to entertain me. but they all politely refused to accept me even though I only applied for administration positions.

The agencies sent me temporary jobs to offices that are suffering backlogged, but between each one there is a long time frame of being unemployed. I continued to send resumes for full time jobs but still… Up till now, my father had been paying the monthly installment for my study loan. and my father is 63 this year, he is retiring this year too due to the fact that the company announced that they will cut his pay drastically after his birthday this year. Might as well, as my dad’s knee suddenly developed some kind of unknown symptom and doctor advised him to go for operation. So now i have to shoulder the study loan fully. I really had to thank my relatives. if not for their recommendation, I would not even have a chance to be working as a stable full timer now.

The thing about holding temp jobs switching ard different offices is that I get to see the structures. and heed me, they are not all different. the previous one I went to, half of the accounts was filled with malaysians and the sales were all China graduates. And now, in my current company(which is very small), more than half are foreigners. of course, malaysians make up more than 50% of that half. counting the boss, less than a handful are Singaporeans!!! If not for my relatives recommendation, I would bet that the boss would be hiring another foreigner. So now I’m back to working alternate Saturdays, and have to switch Saturdays some times so that I can attend lectures on Saturday. but I can’t choose. no I can’t. Who is going to pay my study loan if I refuse to take up this job?

On the other hand, my friends who are graduating from local Unis this year have been telling me fabulous stories of how their classmates have been getting $4000/month jobs, some even without interviews. and there were companies that required them to work 7 days a week. what the heck is this?! Is it even legal to get your employees to work 7 days a week?! Banks that were hiring shipping logistic degree holders to work in the office for more than $3000 per month. Dont even start counting the bonus that these people will get each year. I, a accountancy diploma holder cant even get a job at a bank!

It is really becoming a big worry to me as to how will I get a job with my Media Degree considering the fact that my Uni is not one that SG GOV really likes. Not to mention that i applied many times before to the relevant places but not even a single pip-squeak reply was given to me. How are we to follow our dreams when the system is closing every single door to our dreams right at our faces?!


*The above was first posted as a comment on The Temasek Times


50 Responses to “Polytechnic graduate struggled to find a full-time job in Singapore”

  1. Jardel said

    If you want to blame, which you should not really, but if you really feel the urge to blame your fate on someone, blame it on your dad who had voted PAP ever since 1959. It does not matter if he had changed his mind in GE 2011. Oh, and btw, you should think otherwise about pro-creation because both you and me fall into the category of “useless” and “daft” singaporeans that the great LKY once mentioned when a reporter asked for his opinion on the mass migrants that Singapore is accepting.

    Another way of reprieve, pray to God and hope for the best, however, I dun think there is any hope for both of us. Except those 60% Singaporeans I guess.

    • mark lim thiam seng said

      working 7 days a week is a heck.??attitude matters,u can have the degree and we will not employ u…even with out pay..

  2. WR said

    Welcome to the real world.

  3. spotlessleopard said

    Who did his Parents vote all along? Which Party will He vote in GE2016?
    We will know how many Whinners have the balls to take action to see to the complete change in the Government’s Polcy on Foreigners Working In singapore.

  4. by-stander said

    as a starter…lowering your degree expectation and prepare to slog if you know your industry is small and competitive else prepare to switch. Don’t whine when you are old and it become hard to switch as a lot of material that you once enjoyed is no longer available.

  5. Elva said

    In such tough times, having a diploma is the greatest asset a Singaporean (excluding local Universities undergrads) could ask for. There is already an influx of degree holders both from Local Uni and from Foreigners, so why are we even bothered to take up a degree in a private uni when we know that any chances are low? Local uni are preferred and rightly so. The local unis are state-funded, so when you fund the cost of setting up a local uni, it is bo pian that you have to support it by taking in local uni graduates (in general). As for Foreigners who possesses degrees from be it their homeland or elsewhere, they are also preferred because as Foreigners, employers can always take them in at reduced costs. So where does that leave middle-class people in Singapore? Just hold on to our diploma and get a job to get through our daily lives. Unless you see the world as a marketplace of jobs. Else, it would be sad but its an unspoken truth.

  6. MrBenCai said

    I was a student from Republic Polytechnic and I got into NTU with a GPA of 3.48. I applied for three years, which really gave me a scare that I might have to go overseas or private University to study and I finally got a place at my third year of application. The point that I am trying to bring across here is that you don’t need to have a sky high GPA to get into a local University but you might have to try harder if you know that your GPA is not that high as compared to other successful applicants.

    To be honest, despite that I know that you might have other reasons for quitting the company, quitting within 6 months of your first job is considered a “bad” record. As such, it might be because of that (as part of the whole reason) that you are unable to find a job afterwards.

    It is also natural for companies and agencies ( Government or not ) to choose the best that they can afford. On one hand, we want the best working for Government agencies, on the other hand, we are saying that the Government agencies are not giving people chances. I do not know how can we resolve this issue gracefully but I am just highlighting that sometimes, we need to look at the whole picture.

    I suggest that you settle for a low paying job, do well there, and make an impression, then using that as a platform to jump to another company. At this moment, you may not be able to do great stuff, but do the small stuff greatly and opportunities will come.

    Competition is everywhere; not only in Singapore.

    But of course, I may become the one complaining when I graduate if I can’t find a job. I guess it is easy for me to say but do think about what I have said.

    Last but not least, you can try to start your own business.
    Thanks and I hope that my comments will spark some new ideas.

    P.S.: I am not pro-government, just sharing my views.

    • bepositive said

      well said

    • Elva said

      Very insightful. But may I also ask for those whom may have taken a diploma at earlier times but during the period where the GPA system were not yet implemented. Thus, no GPA were awarded on their certs. I have many friends who graduated in 1999 and early 2000. How can these people try harded to get into a local University?

      • MrBenCai said

        When you have graduated from the earlier batches, I believe that you can enter University under the “Mature Candidate” group instead of applying under the normal group which takes into account your working performance instead of your academic achievements. Most universities in Singapore has this form of application if I am not mistaken.

    • Here no hope said

      Will this still be a problem if S’pore has min wages for diploma and degree holders?
      Why govt jobs can offer to PRs but not strictly citizens?
      How low is your suggested low paying job?
      High rental is killing local businesses particularly those SMEs.
      If you are in Australia you won’t be facing all these problems because Australian govt take good care of their people.

      • MrBenCai said

        Minimum wages has its pros and cons as well. For example, when you are in a country with minimum wages implemented, companies will choose to retrench than to retain the workers since they cannot afford if it means staying above the minimum wage levels. Personally, I think wage should be tagged to performance to a greater extend. However, this is a problem because there are difficulties in measuring performance. For example, someone may not generate a lot of sales for a company but he/she may be a great team player that empowers others.

        Low paying job, as mentioned above, is a general statement. I cannot determine how low do I mean by low paying job because the person writing the post did not mention what salary amount was drawn. 3-4k (as mentioned in the article) depends on the different “grade” of degree that person belongs to. It might be slightly high for a fresh graduate without any honours, but low for a first class honours graduate, so insufficient information is provided.

        It is also prudent to take into account the lost of income during the years of studies for a degree holder as compared to a diploma holder who have used the time to generate income and invaluable working experience, not to mention the tuition fee that cost about 30k for a local university course. If we take a diploma holder to earn an average of 2k a month, that is a lost of 72k pkus 30k of tuition fee; a total of 100k. Considering that a degree holder earns about one thousand more a month than a diploma graduate, it will take 100 months (8 years) for a degree holder to catch up with a polytechnic graduate should both do not have an increase in salary.

        Of course, it is not fair to compare like this because I have assumed that both does not have an increment over time and it is an oversimplified example. The purpose of this example is that the writer have failed to take into consideration of the mentioned. I also understand that the writer would prefer to get an education at a local university if he/she was given a chance.

        I think the key issue is because when local polytechnics tries to woo students, they were promising good chances of entering universities and this leads to disappointment when some do not get the chance to enter University. Honestly, if I was not offered a chance, I would have felt disappointed as well but I will work even hard to prove that I will succeed even without a chance given by a local university but as much as we complain about our situation, it is good to think about the things that we can do ourselves to better the situation.

        Sorry but I do not have any thoughts on the rental and about Australia as I do not have enough knowledge about these two points.

        Thanks for reading.

    • mark lim thiam seng said

      is attitude that matter.working 7 days a week is a hack?u can have the higher degree and i will not employ u.

  7. asd said

    1st you are not hardworking enough. 2nd you don’t have a good HR. 3rd naive thinking.
    3.2 expect to enter local uni? how many local uni places? not even 100% jc get their places.
    During your years in poly have you bother to build up good relationship with company? socialise with people?
    Then ask yourself this question till the day you enter into society are you thinking everything is going to be spoon feed?

    • Elva said

      You’re tough. But I think he was just highlighting a point. For instance, I do have a friend who scored top Honours and had obtained good testimonials from his past employers and yet was unable to enter Civil Service to get his desired job. Something to tinker about. Opportunities would always be there but let’s be practical as it has been proven that hardwork and good attitude has also proved it tough. Just have to keep staying positive and keep your options open like many others would have suggested.

  8. krueger said

    should have endured the night phone calls from your full-time job…

  9. bkt said

    I am an IT poly grad with a GPA of 2.7. I took a private part time degree in NS with the blessing of my commanders although i was swamped with guard duty. And i found a job in TWO Govt agencies – DSO NL and later on Temasek Labs shortly after NS. In fact, Ministry of Foreign Affairs have also contacted me for an interview. I am now working full time at Temasek Labs. Aside from the fact that we are from different disciplines, i see no issue in your job finding.

    Singaporeans HAVE TO concede that they are competing on a global market now and that Unis are also accepting on a global market. Don’t rely on the government to open the road for us.

    Try harder or try differently. Good luck.

  10. Puzzled said

    Yes, welcome to the real world! You are not the only one to work OT (paid or unpaid). Even senior managers work late after office hours without OT pay. As for your choice of employment, you can always take up a “main-stream” degree instead of a specialised “Media” degree and you will find that more job opportunities will be available. If you want to follow your dream, then you must be prepared for the hardship before the success. Do not always blame the government for the occasional hard-knocks that you may receive in the pursuit of your dream.

  11. DY said

    dude, first job out of school will always be a grinder. don’t expect cushy environment.

    working beyond office hours and on weekends isnt that big a deal. alot of singaporeans do that on a regular basis.

    you’re the sort of singaporean that’s giving companies the excuse to hire foreigners because they are more hardworking.

    disclaimer: i AM singaporean. and i work beyond office hours and on weekends. and i’m not even a fresh graduate.

  12. NL said

    Welcome to Singapore. Endure for another 10+ years and you can have a great full-time job as a taxi driver. Sorry bus drivers job taken up by mainland Chinese already.

  13. denzuko1 said

    My advice for this guy is: It is good to have very rough start, because it is only going to get easier.

    Secondly, stop listening to those rumours about SGD4,000/= starting pay, majority won’t even get close to this number until mid-life.

    Thirdly, you can dream but take steps to make your dream come through.

    I think people nowadays are too lucky until the extend that a little set back is a big issue. I still recall the time I just graduated in 1993, it took me 1/2 year to get my first job, and yes, I worked 7 days a week at the start. What this guy fail to understand is that once you earn more than SGD2K per month, Saturday and Sunday is no pay because you are deemed professional. Only technical and below get OT pay.

    I think the young ones need to wake up and smell the coffee, life is not as rosy as they think.

    • Exploited still dun know said

      Why earn more than 2k, weekend no extra claim? After factor in extra working on weekend, your pay only left 1k. We have all been exploited just because majority say so or it is an industry norm or market practice?

  14. pay said

    I think you are being sold out, the imported office workers- pinoy, china-ese, Indians all have minimum…a university degree.

  15. Ron said

    Hey my fren,
    Firstly do not used the signature “Disturbed Adult”. Hope you are not mentally disturbed. No one will give you a job then.

    I am here in Australia and heard that there are Asians who got work permits to come here and pluck fruits in Australian farms; got work permits okay. Now, look beyond the small red dot call Singapore. Search the Internet.

    You may find jobs in the Middle-East. Millions of Asians are there now. It may not be media jobs but there are jobs. Then work your way to your desired job.

    Do you have a driver’s license? How about driving taxis for a while and use that as your Job Hunting Agency? You can pass out namecards and maybe you land a job? Think, think harder my friend. I too came from humble background and made it good.

    And do not follow those who blame the PAP at every opportunity. PAP is not God. Singapore is not Paradise either. Be positive.

  16. Crime Will Rise . . . . . said

    Not surprised if more join crime syndicates to survive . . . . .

  17. yen said

    just think, government sector has to absorb thousands of ntu nus graduates each year whom the private sector wouldn’t want. why is it so? because there is no such demand in the first place for fanciful courses – history, literature, geography, politcal science, etc. i reckon these courses are set up so as to attain better overal balance and aid in pushing up the ranking of local universities (same reason as having a predetermined % of foreigners in each cohort).

    so if we exclude the foreigners, 1st class and 2nd upper class honours graduates, the rest of left on their own to fight for survival.

    active intervention in labour market by the government totally (I MEAN TOTALLY) distorts the ability for sg job seekers to even bargain that little measly bit. “to increase competition…” is the reason government gave, ya right, strong currency rate compared to india, china, philippines, indonesia, blangadesh exponentially drawing their citizens to inundate our labour market. as an employer, you want to choose masters holder for $2000 wage or a local grad for $2500?

    so all the above are refering more or less to local government universities NUS NTU SMU (coming up some arts and engineering uni), what about private universities? Since our labour market are brimming with all time high supply of job seekers, they will cherry pick. graduates from private universities… good luck (note: im from private uni). government sector will definitely absorb the graduates that come out from their own “factories”.

    for those who are from the 1970s generation and have got a degree, lucky you. 1980s and after, they are ‘unknowningly’ fighting against government policies.

  18. Melvin said

    Dear Fellow Poly graduates.

    I was from a poly in the West and completed my engineering diploma in 2008.
    The poly was good in the sense that they organised career and further studies seminars and lazy as i might have been back then, i attended a couple.

    Throughout the seminar, they present the pay rates and the jobscope.
    All I saw was mediocrity. A pay of <$2,000 and a you're an Assistant Engineer / Associate Engineer / Senior Technician.

    All I saw was shit job, shit pay. We are sitting between NITEC and a Degree and while a diploma is so called better than NITEC, the pay is still measly.

    My grades ain't spectacular and I didn't want to start working straightaway as my life would be MEDIOCRE (Yes, I love to use this word in this reply). I don't want to live a mediocre life working a mediocre job earning a mediocre pay.

    I couldn't get into local unis though so thank God for the fact that my family could afford to send me overseas to study, i seized the opportunity (with hesitation) to move.

    My decision to study overseas have been nothing but positive. Singapore's education system is crap. Emphasis is totally on academic, academic, academic. Co-Curricular Activities (or Extra-Curricular Activities as it was known back then, play on words. Still the same) have become compulsory but no one really cares.

    I see a better balance studying overseas and am now thinking about working overseas.

    Dear Singaporeans,
    Search for greener pastures.
    Uproot your families and move elsewhere.Singapore is no longer what it was 10 years ago. Chinapore, Singappines, Sindia. Whatever you want to call it.

  19. i say what i think only... said

    actually i feel u should not take a part-time degree as it just impoverishes u and your family further without any concrete benefits such as better and higher-paying job. i have a nus business degree and was jobless for 9mths, getting less than 3 interviews in between. similar experience, applied N gov jobs and many requiring diploma only but no response at all. if not for a relative, i would still be jobless now. i got the current job because it belongs to my relative and not due to merit of studies. i guess i am luckier than many others to get a job with connection (rather than own studies merit). of course it is easy to blame foreigners, ownself need to take some responsibility though i am not sure what

  20. analytical said

    don’t give up. life can be positive. focus on getting through this transition. there after focus on opportunities outside singapore. best of luck

  21. bepositive said

    come on folks! Stop blaming everyone and all the issues we faced. Who doesn’t have problem?

    People complained that business in sg only hired foreigners and have you noticed why? If you are a businessmen, you will want to cut costs so its only natural to hire cheaper and hardworking staffs. FT are more hardworking and they dont complain as much as sporean seriously.

    We all want the best but have you wondered are you being the best? Who says sg got no job? property and insurance are always hiring people but its just that no one likes to do sales.

    Fyi: to be rich in sg, you either got a phd or you do business or you do sales job.

    If you are not even thinking of the above to strive hard, please dont complain.

  22. bwaysai said

    Well i was expecting slightly more constructive posting than the cliched ” you are new / i been around and working harder/ ”
    look at ourselves. are u happy that you are working long hours, have no lives, no time for your family?
    5/7 days work week is equivalent to 70% of your time.
    to devote almost 3/4 of your life to work and work alone isn’t enough? Are we all earning enough moolah to justify
    that sacrifice????

    to whoever that said:
    “working beyond office hours and on weekends isnt that big a deal. alot of singaporeans do that on a regular basis.”

    you know why? that’s because your government allows the influx of pmets who significantly lower the average salary for the job you
    are doing, and now, like all other sheep, you are made to work CHEAPER, FASTER, BETTER and LONGER to compete for that
    same dollar you used to earn with less effort. And of course, like every other sheep, you will whine, complain, but at the end of the
    day you do nothing but accept whatever bitter pill life offers to you. What do you think the reason is, when whenever our government
    announces growth, everything around us grows, petrol/food costs/housing costs etc, everything, except your salary. The hire foreigner
    policy has created a situation whereby your wages are suppressed, so that your company profits, your bosses profits, yet you employees will suck thumb
    and still be accused of not having spurs stuck into your hides, True story.

    Working life will never be an easy ride, i admire and respect everyone’s resilience and endurance but in this day
    and age, But accepting over working (consistently) as something normal should never be the case.

  23. RealityCheck said

    I just feel that you are waiting for things to happen the way you want. Don’t expect to be fed, your life is yours to fight for.

    Just to share with you, i was a below average student and ITE bound after secondary school. I didn’t want my life that way and decided to better myself to correct a mistake. I took on a private diploma and then a higher diploma with good enough grades to be offered a university seat in Australia. i was already mid-twenties then. I was fortunate to have relatives whom supported me with loans as they saw a change for the better. I worked hard to make the grade and spend my time working part-time to cover my expenses and airtickets back for each semester.

    Financial crisis came and i was forced to return to work full time to help ease the family burdens, but still i did not give up and opted to have the remaining courses done here through overseas correspondence course affiliated with my university. Imagine working full time, eating the humble pie and still studied to clear my courses into the wee hours of the morning and back to work next day.

    I graduated at the age of 31…..
    Now in my late thirties, i continue to strive to make my life as worthy as possible.

    If i can overcome all these obstacles despite my age, i am sure you are as capable, if not better than me. Go fight for your own life and not expect anyone to give you cushy positions, i’ve worked ground up to have control of my own life (i’ve started with a 1.5k base pay). And for your information, my profession has nothing to do with my degree…..Good luck!


    • Good luck too said

      Make sure your profession won’t fail you, if not your Australian degree will be worthless without relevant work exp.

    • John said


      I agree with you. I myself have a similar experience. When I was 15, I had to work 3 jobs at a time just because I could feed myself. I work 18hours daily 7 days a week, slept less than 3-4 a day. I pulled through. Now at 31, I am not earning a lot but I am happy that I have a stable job with average pay and enough time to spend on my family over the weekends. If you want to make a difference as a fresh grad. Tell your interviewer that you are willing to work 18hrs a day 7 days a week, it will set you apart. Work hard for 2 years and get enough experience and jump ship. Starting is never easy. If it is, than everyone would have been at the top by now..

    • Char_Azn said

      I can totally understand where U are coming from. I was a poly dropout and when I started work at 21, my first job barely paid for my monthly expenses and I had to work OT every day, no CPF, not OT pay and occasionally work Sats. I continue on that job coz I know what kind of qualifications I had. I studied part time to get my diploma and at every opportunity took professional certification. Every time I got a new cert I hop to a next better paying job. I got my degree at 28. Fast forward 10 years after I started work, I am now working for an MNC, I get to travel around the world and although I am still underpaid compared to some of my peers, I am earning more then 5 times what I started off with. Whining doesn’t solve any problems. Blaming the government isn’t going to help U get a better life. It’s your own life, U choose how U want to live it. It doesn’t matter if it’s PAP or WP or whatever P running the country, if your attitude is to blame others instead of looking at yourself and see what is wrong, U will never progress in life

  24. Jackal said

    Who asked you not to study harderi? Seriously, if you’re stupid and not good enough don’t blame others for your fate.

    If you didn’t study hard to get into NUS, NTU or SMU, blame yourself for having to take a degree in the loser school SIM, where all the rejects go.

    For those guys, if they can get a job sweeping road, good enough liao!

    • Big F said

      NUS, NTU or SMU, big F is it?
      My foreign uni ranking is better than these 3 local uni, so they are also loser uni is it? Their graduates can get a road sweeping job, good enough is it?

      • Jackal said

        LOL. I graduated with a degree from Stanford 5 years ago and am now working at a top investment bank. I really don’t know what you want to compare about. Maybe you are also sweeping roads.

      • krueger said

        I don’t a have a freaking degree and I’m earning much more than graduates do. So..up yours!

    • MrBenCai said

      Not being able to get into a public funded universities does not mean that someone is stupid. There are many kinds of intelligence, which consist of emotional and social intelligence, which I think you are obviously lacking in, considering that you have failed to taken into consideration the negative impact of your words on society and the writer.


  25. KP said

    Dude, you are certainly not alone. Just have to charged forward and move on.
    No point sulking. There are bigger challenges ahead. All the best. Be positive.

  26. KP said

    Trust me. When you looked back later on in life, this is nothing. You will be stronger after all this. Be good and right.

  27. Donathon said

    Stop whining Singapore. Buck up and work hard.

  28. ellery chua said

    You are a classic singaporean… expect the govt to solve all your problems, if not them then your parents. Always thinking within a box and when you did not you went and signed up for a kooky degree that what you expected to join an ad agency, a film production house ? Yeah media studies is not some thing the govt companies need a lot of plus I doubt it’s a high demand discipline. It sounds a lot like those photography, photojournalistic course many of the private Uni’s in the US are milking for suckers. Potential suckers are told our placement department will be able to get you a job as a fashion photographer, photojournalist, commercial photographer on graduation. Did your uni tell you something similar ?

    When you were jobless did you consider giving tuition , working at Mac’s ? Only send out letters like the mirror of the MP I write letter for you. If this is the face of the next generation the PAP has succeeded in breeding the ideal cattle for their version of singapore. Time to migrate, it is all screwed up here.

  29. Char_Azn said

    The bugger is just a loser whining about having to work weekends/after office hours. Instead of being thankful for having a job and seeing it as an opportunity to gain real working experience, he just whine about how the government does not have any openings, whine about FTs, whine about everything other then his own fucking attitude. It’s becoming quite obvious why he have issues getting a decent job. It doesn’t matter who is ruling the country, PAP, WP, SDP, etc. With that kind of loser mentality he will always have issues with getting a decent job

  30. yj said

    I feel you, but 1 thing about foreigners is that they can work better, longer, at a lower pay than us hence we definitely lose out. Having a diploma in today’s society is also not enough since there are so many degree holders out there. Next, during this period of economic downturn, no one is safe, people are lucky enough not to get axed much less talk about getting a full time position. I am not in support of foreigners or whatsoever but I just want to justify a few points you might have missed out when highlighting your depressing situation. Next best move is to move on and move on to other industries such as manufacturing or freight transport. These areas typically having many job vacancies. All the best.

  31. ano said

    I doubt the Jackal is from Stanford? His comments make him like a jerk.

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