How to differentiate foreign from local graduates in the workforce
Posted by temasektimes on September 4, 2012
As a graduate from an overseas university within a similar multicultural city where foreign talents are abundant, I can safely attest that the gripes that Singaporeans are voicing are not limited to our island. With my current position here overseas, I’m probably one adding to that statistic within this country, but from a FT’s point of view its a dog eat dog world, and if the locals cannot hack it, I’m trying to feed my own rice bowl.
I’m not entirely defending FTs and that the SG government is headed in the right direction, given that I’ve seen one too many problems faced within this country because of the introduction of FTs, such as immigration and crime issues associated to lax immigration laws. However, because I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to live and work in a foreign country, I’ve realised how pampered most Singaporeans are and how hungry you can really be when you are forced to step out of the bubble which is Singapore and its comfy spoon feeding government.
A comment one of my managers made the other day made me realise this; this came from a man who has worked in several countries previously, one obviously being Singapore and for a considerable amount of time. He said to me that when he worked in Singapore, he could immediately tell who had overseas experience and who were local grads. The reason simply being that overseas grads were more proactive and hungry to do jobs because they knew that this was their one up, they did not have sparkling certs which had honours or first classes like the locals, but because they knew what their competition was like overseas, they worked hard to make sure they stood out. Local grads were book smart but lacked common sense, they were reactive, and waited to be told what to do, in theory they stood out, but practically they could not hack it.
Yes local Singaporean companies should help by offering jobs to graduates, but whether the graduates are hungry and are willing to be proactive rather than reactive and wait to be told what to do makes a difference. If local graduates are really looking to take the job market seriously, then do what all job hungry graduates are doing else where. Intern for free. Work for free. Experience is all you need to stand out in this current job market.
I am only saying this from a personal point of view because I myself have experienced this and can safely say that this has worked to my advantage here. I have seen one too many local graduates here eager to get their degree and start work only to be told they do not have the relevant experience, while their peers who have taken at least a year in between to do a year of internship either free or partly paid get a job at least within a year of graduating. Employers are more than happy to take a graduate on if they can show they can apply themselves or do not need babysitting or extra training costs.
I’m not saying the onus is completely on the graduates, the government also needs to start to rethink their current education plan for undergraduates seeing that they are accepting FTs with more work experience than their own next gen work force. Work experience needs to be made an optional or compulsory course itself with credits within the degrees. I myself thank the fact that my degree included a full year’s work experience which culminated into a course at the final year, it really taught me how to eat humble pie, and that working in the real world meant stepping out of the comfort zone to go out of my way to stand out in a working environment, the only reason why I am now working overseas just shy of 2 years from my graduation.
So all in all, it takes 2 hands to clap, the government and the youth. Neither can be blamed entirely for how this has panned out for local grads and the job market, but both must take equal responsibility and start working to make the future work out rather than blaming either side.
SAMANTHA L W
*The above was first posted as a comment on The Temasek Times.