News and views from an unique perspective

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.


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


26 Responses to “How to differentiate foreign from local graduates in the workforce”

  1. jf said

    There should be joy and exhilaration when we tested oneself and emerged wiser, stronger if not ‘richer’. If we look closely we’ll see someone is continually eating some else’s breakfast, lunch and dinner – lucky to have a humble pie. In Singapore we could still run back to ‘mama’ while learning to stiffen our backs.

    A friend said that he was grateful to his late father for rigorously forcing him to learn Mandarin. The caning(now known as child abuse) was painful.

    When we could not even have humble pie to eat it will be too late to blame government and parents.

  2. The job market is like a fish market. The locals must find out why the local employers buy the foreign fish. We are here at the pleasure of the PAP. If LSL wants us out, a new law can be passed and we will have to leave. The problem has been exploded because people are allowed to use pseudonyms when they put forward their complaints. Just like the guy who posted on facebook saying LKY was dead. When another person posted a photo showing LKY was still living, the former writer claimed that photo was shot many days earlier. Should we allow these people to carry on with their lies on the internet?

    • Lucinda Goh said

      At the pleasure of PAP? If LSL wants us out, …..we will have to leave? What utter rubbish!

      • Anthony Ho said

        Are you trying to advocate a ban on using pseudonyms in FB. Perhaps LSL should ban pseudo-Singaporeans from participating in Singapore politic too. Anyone can use a fake full name in FB. If all the foreign workers leave at the same time, true-blued Singaporeans will celebrate. I have already found my answer and that is – foreign workers can be exploited. If business bad simply sent them home immediately without compensation. If FW is seriously injured can dumped him in a deserted location. Can owe FWs wage for months. Can pay lest wage than the amount declare to MOM.

      • Anthony Ho said

        If all the FTs leave Singapore at the same time, true-blued Singaporeans will celebrate. Before the GREAT MIGRATION policy was introduce, we the true-blued Singaporeans have built enough housing because the many near empty blocks of HDB flat say so, our highways although congested is not as bad as today, no problem for true-blued parents to find a school for their children, MRT got seats to sit even during peak hours. What the FWs/FTs is building right now are meant for themselves. The true-blued has helped the present ruling party to built this nation but the ungrateful all white party claimed all the credits and prefer to share the fruits of the true-blued hard labour with new citizens and FTs and they are not satisfied they want more so they cooked up the story about falling birth rates. They also cooked up the story about we true-blued survival depend on the FTs/FWs. The former wooden block PM said with his HDB upgrading policy life will be better. Almost all old HDB were upgarded, is our life any better?. In the Guiness Book of Record Singapore is the country that has the highest birth rate(62,000 babies per year) in the world based on her population ration in the 60s. Only those with human head pig brain believe that we need to top-up 100,000 new citizens each year to replace our falling birth rate. When a country big or small achieved the developed country status it’s natural the next thing they wish to have and that is quality life and not to continue to be hungry and work hard for more. Only the greedy type of human species is not satisfied. These group of people want to join Oliver Twist in asking the miser Mr.Stooge for MOOOOOORE. At least Oliver Twist have a good reason to asked for more because he had nothing.

      • animal farm said

        Interestingly subservient comment…. At the pleasure of pap …., perhaps we need to call for change, as well as to sit back and ponder about nation building and the true purpose of government …. lest we forget who should be the rightful master…

  3. Free Trolley said

    Not just college graduates, practically all tertiary student work based on a 8-5 attitude. They are more focused on clearing the working hours and not at improving their work performance.

    • Lucinda Goh said

      Not true, looks like more so for govt servants – clock watching. I was with the civil service before that’s why I know.

  4. Justice Bao said

    Samantha dear,

    I am not faulting for your attempt but for the lack of your wisdom.

    Let me rephrase your own question,does the CEO of DBS or any of our top dogs as foreigners need to fight for jobs as in the dog eat dog world?If not why,will you ask yourself.

    Let me tell you as a person who had eked my living entirely in foreign turf…Yes,some were very hostile to the whole idea of foreigners ever stepping on to their motherland…since the bitter memories of past colonist is still afresh.

    I was employed in foreign lands simply because they needed my expertise which otherwise was not avilable.Hence they tolerated me.The point being locals had no axe to grind with me or I have to put more time and effort than locals.

    Let me rephrase in another persepective.If foreigners are welcome simply because they are hungrier and aggressive,why not flood our waters with ‘snake-head’ and piranha fishes?No,I am not clowning because that’s what your idea of foreigners striving harder .tantantmounts to..I hope you understand both fishes are banned in almost all 1st world countries because they are deemed destructive to local fishes.

    Now,about this thing about locals unable to think or act out of the box thingy.Perhaps,you don’t know that Singapore expat workers are preferred anytime over even their own in countries like Indonesia and Phillipines.Why?Because despite their nativeness you get honest work out of Singaporenas and not excuses.

    For heaven sake,realize your own values…as i had traveled more than 60 countries and lived and worked in a dozen.

    • JT said

      Hi justice bao….60 countries but your comment sounds like you have never left a village. Be true to yourself…what Samantha says has some truth and you are just giving excuses

    • samanthalkw said

      I wrote the published comment in view of a local graduate who had commented on how its not graduates’ faults that they cannot get a job in the current market and that companies need to open up suitable jobs. The comment published was in the context of local graduates getting into the job market against the influx of FTs and from your opening paragraph you aren’t referring to the same issue which I was commenting against.

      As a Singaporean working overseas at the moment, I am very conscious that the influx of FTs are an issue for those just entering the workforce and those who are currently seeking jobs. This especially since one day I’m sure I’ll be back in Singapore and I’ll need to start the job search which has been illustrated to be a long and laborious process given the current competition from FTs.

      I dont believe that the government is headed in the right direction, as per my published comment, they need to instill some working value into the younger generation for one, and for another they need to be tighter on immigration and local content laws to help keep the job market a viable option for the current unemployed and job seekers. I myself have had to fight to keep my current job here in the UK as a Singaporean, an FT, my company had to go through rigorous interviews to prove to the UK government that I could not be replaced by a local because of my skills.

      If the government works from the bottom and instills working values into the current undergrads, when they emerge as graduates, they will have the experience. Following which if they tighten down on local content laws, then Singapore can safely say that they have qualified AND experienced individuals they can employ locally. Local content laws should not only dictate the number of locals companies need to employ before they can employ FTs, local content laws should also dictate the salary a local should earn as compared to an FT. There needs to be some failsafes against FTs before they should be allowed into the country to ruin the job market, and I personally am not in favour of how the system is currently in Singapore, which is why I’m not keen on returning to Singapore any time soon.

      I am under the impression that you think that I’m an FT speaking from an FTs view in Singapore, but if you read my first line, I have mentioned that I’m an overseas grad in another country but that I’m originally from Singapore. Singaporeans are definitely a favoured workforce and we are known to be hardworking and efficient, but then again, only if we have the experience of a working environment, which then brings me back to my original published comment.

  5. Hopeful said

    “…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.”

    Agree with some part of your write-up but can you tell me how we were spoon-fed by this government? Another sweeping statement to generalise Singaporeans is not appreciated really…

    • samanthalkw said

      I have lived 18 years of my life in Singapore, gone through Singapore’s academic system, and went through primary school, secondary school, junior college and all. Then I left to go to Uni overseas, I wasn’t told what to do, how to achieve, which streams I needed to be in or that I needed to take triple sciences to be successful because our government wanted to invest in biomed for the future, or so they say.

      Tell me how this isnt spoon feeding? Trying to nuture us into a specific stream of work, to what extent is this of? Look at the current biomed job market and tell me that we were not told that there would be hundreds of jobs within this sector, and yet where are the jobs now? Many took the path the government fed us, got the biomed degrees, and now look where we are at within this industry.

      • animal farm said

        Well, I wouldn’t put that as spoon feeding. A system is in place and people follow the system. People adapt to the environment, as you would consider staying in your newfound environment. The question is how does the system come into place and whether it will continue to serve us well into the future. This calls for deliberation and consideration of different viewpoints.

  6. Alan Lau said

    this is quite true …. locals lack the hunger in them

  7. Hold my Cigar said

    Stop looking down on Singaporeans, our country is heading the wrong directions. Too many wrong and selfish policies are created by our govt and employers are exploiting cheap labours in every sectors.

    Everything is expensive except labours and wages, this is a shameful position considering
    our so claimed status of being the world’s riches and first world country.

    • samanthalkw said

      I’m not looking down on Singaporeans, because that is tantamount to you saying I’m looking down on myself being a Singaporean. I totally agree, the government has its issues and needs to resolve it, it needs to tighten its local content laws and immigration policies, which is the reason why I am not keen on returning to Singapore to work because like everyone complaining in Singapore, I dont feel that I will be as appreciated by Singaporean employers and companies if I do.

  8. Silent Majority said

    Singaporeans, not the PAP should be blamed.

  9. parks&rec said

    Overseas exposure does make a difference to one’s behavior. But just because someone is reactive rather than proactive doesn’t make the latter a more productive worker. What you are doing is to equate reactive with being lazy. But to me, being reactive is also being respectful of personal space. It could very well be the case that a reactive worker goes around doing his/her work quietly and diligently while the proactive worker is only good at proclaiming what he/she can do without actually showing the final product.

  10. lsvop said

    The reason why Singaporeans are like that is because the pay is just too low! Look at manufacturing, $800 for shit work and must work overtime, and shift. Which Singaporean wants to go all out to do that for $800. The time spent with family is more valuable. This is exactly the same as pay high taxes, your expandable income is really low. Now, what happens if there’s a minimum wage? Pay $1200, will you pia to get $1500 with shift allowance and overtime. You see, if you pay $800 and you pia like shit to get $1000 which singaporean want to work?

  11. Unfortunately the education system is one of the reasons the wife and I decided to leave Singapore. There’s too much focus on rote learning and academic results. Students aren’t encouraged to challenge or to ask questions.

    One can’t blame the teachers. The system is set up for academic excellence. Teachers are under pressure to deliver results. That’s how they’re evaluated. And students are under pressure to perform. It’s how they’re judged. It’s a system that only serves to feed automatons to the machine that is Singapore Inc. Eventually you’d get a workforce that’s passive, reactive, lacking in creativity and innovation. But it seems to agree with lots of Singaporeans and the Singapore government.

    There was an article a few months ago in The Guardian (a UK newspaper) about the Finnish education model. It’s a very complex system, and reading the article, you’d have to wonder how and if the system actually works! But apparently it DOES work. Finland has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. The workforce is also amongst the most highly skilled and innovative in the world.

    And the Finns take an opposite approach to Singapore. Students are encouraged to relax and learn in a non-pressurised environment, where they can actually enjoy learning.

    I’m not for one minute suggesting that Singapore adopt the Finnish model, rather I’m saying that there are different approaches to education. And academic achievements and excellence isn’t everything.

    • Ckoh23 said

      You are right on all accounts! But it would be best if our government stop making us submissive, and passive, and most of all, cowards.

      • Q said

        A majority of Singaporeans are obedient hardworking employees who do what they are told to do. Not too different from being good kids who pay attention in class and do their homework everyday. After a while they get disgruntled as FT who talks but does not deliver gets promoted. Not realising saying right thing at right time is often interpreted as “intelligence” and we should not shy away from it. We owe it to our family! Hope that the younger generation of Singaporeans who are more vocal will be more well suited to the dog-eat-dog world that their docile parents slightly struggled in.

        Education system has to evolve to go beyond technical knowledge dissemination (eg sin/cos/tan which 99% we dun use) to equipping real life survival skills like debating while smiling. Else we will always find Singaporeans stuck at middle management and few successful international local companies.

  12. Jeff said

    Very logical in thinking and fair in dishing out your opinions. I respect your opinion. Of course, there are those who will disagree with you because they have this stupid thing call nationalistic blinders on their horsey eyes.

  13. animal farm said

    The author is just sharing the obvious, any migrant in new environment will tend to be more driven and focused on achieving their personal set goal. However the duty of the government is to implement policies that provide a rigorous, fair and transparent process to the integration of the newcomers for her citizens. There is no way that the ordinary citizen will be able to withstand the floodgate of migratory workers for obvious reasons. Many government of developed economies have understood this, such as us, japan, europe, australia, canada, etc. They owe it to their citizens to safeguard their basic livelihood and to provide that levelled playing field. It is asounding that Singaporeans have continued to relegate much of such policy and decision to the sole discretion of a single party government. This kind of system is not healthy and needs to be changed.

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