In recent weeks, there are lots of news articles (online and print) on how difficult it is for fresh graduates to get a job in today's declining economy. Of course, more than often not, they are referring to the local Uni students and not so much of graduates from private universities.
A lot of controversies spun around the lack of skills that fresh graduates are equipped with, thus they are often offered a job that they are "over-qualified" for. In a way or another, local Uni grads do have a competitive advantage over private Uni students because as much as we find it ridiculous, many people regard local uni grads smarter and more capable. Indeed, there are certain truth in this mentality - in academic context if you were to ask me.
It almost seems like a debate that will never come to a conclusion: Local Uni Grads Vs. Private Uni Grads and the all-time hot debate, JC Students Vs. Poly Students. Each to his own I would say.
Before I continue this post with my own personal point of view of this topic on hand and shamelessly going on to telling you guys what I feel Private Uni Students should do, let me conduct a short introduction of my personal academic background.
I am not the smartest dude you would identify in a class, most probably just slightly above average, who scored a decent PSLE score, attended Temasek Secondary School, score a relatively ok O-Level results and attended Tampines Junior College. Well, from the schools that I've attended, I guess it gives you a good summary of how "smart" I am as a student. Of course, everyone's final stage would always be attending University, likewise for me. I managed to get myself a place in NTU's Wee Kim Wee School of Communications, reputable for its communication courses in Singapore.
However, I took a plunge into design and attended LASALLE College of the Arts and studied Interior Design, just to realise after 1 year that it is taking up way too much of my family and personal time (I spent everyday, 7 days a week in school from morning to night), and so I gave up and went to Murdoch University in Kaplan to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Communications, in specific Public Relations.
Yes, I went one big round just to let you guys know that I am a Private Uni Student.
A lot of my friends often got frustrated at me for not going to NTU, which many people want to land themselves in but could not do so, and decided to place myself in a private institution. My point of view is very simple: Experience matters more than the piece of qualification.
Of course, I cannot deny the fact that most governmental jobs or major organisations require a local degree as a pre-requisite for a job, even as an executive. Thus, if you are looking at joining big corporate such as Changi Airport Group, do strive hard to get into a local Uni.
The reason why I mentioned that I feel that experience matters more because I have personally witnessed for myself, how incapable some local Uni grads can be when it comes to work. Actual work in the society. Indeed, they have high IQ, but in many occasions, resolutions come with higher level of EQ thinking than IQ. This is especially so when it comes to Comms field. It almost seems like it boils back down to the JC Vs. Poly comparison, where the former is academically smarter and the latter is regraded as street-smart and those who knows how to work smart instead of working hard.
Not to forget that, what we learn in school, may not necessarily be applicable to real-life working situations. Often, we learn only the theories behind the practice and in actual fact, it is the hands-on experiences that we garner from working that will truly shape us into a survivor in the corporate world. This brings me back to my point that, being the disadvantaged, private Uni students like myself, got to step up our own game and work extra harder.
Here is how we do it:
1. Find a Full-Time Job/Intern At A Company of Relevance
We often lose out as most private institutions do not provide internships for their students. But that doesn't mean that it should stop us from being pro-active in looking for one ourself. If you are able to, find a full-time position!
And that was exactly what I did.
It is worst as I was a JC student and that means that I have ZERO internship or working experience at all, unlike my counterparts who studied in Polytechnics. Of course, many people would question the viability of working full-time/interning at a company while studying part-time. Oh, just to clarify, part-time students basically meant that your classes are conducted at night or weekends for some and in my case, it is 7-10pm for each lesson.
It is definitely tiring and exhausting to juggle between work and study at the same time. But trust me, this will do you more good than harm. The experience teaches you how to manage your time and shapes you into a mature adult that is responsible for their individual's work, be it at work or school. From my own experience, that has totally shaped me to be what I am today and i am grateful for the first step that I've taken 9 months back, with the support of my love ones.
2. Connect With Your Classmates
That is one great benefit that part-time students in private Uni has - you get to connect with your classmates who are essentially working adults in various companies!
The classroom is where you connect with people from various aspect of the industry. For me, I managed to meet a lot of people, working in big corporates to agencies, teachers and even entrepreneurs. With the diversity of classmates that I have, I realise that I actually manage to learn lot from them as well through many informal chats. Experience is something that you can never buy, much less working experience, something that you can never lay your hands on through textbooks or lectures.
Building relations and forming connections is very important, no matter which field you are pursuing a degree in or working in. Because, you never know when you will ever cross paths and need their guidance or assistance. It pays to be nice, so be friendly!
3. Make Full Use Of Your Top-Notch Professors!
In private institutions, professors with rich industry background are usually hired to conduct classes. This is a very good advantage to make use of, in a sense that you are in no way less privileged than those in local universities!
Similar to Point 2, make use of their knowledge and talk to them. I am sure they are more than willing to share their personal experiences with you and even give you advices on the dos and don'ts! Trust me, their attitude towards academic achievements is far lesser than those in local universities. To me, they are more realistic, as they themselves know that academic achievements is not everything in today's society. Achieving a First-Class Honours also does not necessarily meant that an individual is able to survive in working life and succeed.
And I feel that this mentality is very important!
These are the 3 simple "survivor" tips that I have for Private Uni students, and the most relatable one would be Point 1. Getting yourself involved in hands-on experience and job is the greatest lesson that you ever need.
Also, do not despise yourself just because you could not make it to a local university, because it does not mean much, at most being the fact that you are not hardworking enough or are just simply academic inclined, BUT, it does not mean that you are stupid or not going to make it in life.
Trust yourself and work hard, because we are all born to do something that will change the world, society and our love ones, in a way or another.
Cheers and let's build a better life for ourselves, our love ones and Singapore!