If new graduates wait longer than 6 months to find a job, you’ll risk not landing any job at all.
If you’re just out of university, you may be a bit disappointed at your current job prospects. Singapore’s job market is not at a peak right now, due to global economic uncertainty. While you can’t control that, there is something you can take command of: how soon you start working.
The Waiting Game
We often speak to fresh graduates who play “the waiting game”. These are people who have expectations of a base salary, on account of their degree. For example, some feel they should not settle for less than S$3,000 a month as a start, whereas others have high expectations of up to S$7,000 a month.
For some others, it is not a dollar value but social connotations. They might feel that, as a degree holder, they should not be working on a factory floor or selling cars even when those jobs can pay their expected salary.
We don’t believe the whole “millennials are a strawberry generation” argument. However, we do acknowledge that peer pressure, and especially pressure from parents at home, often drive these expectations. The older generation is often under the impression that, when they put their child through university, it means their child will not have to struggle as hard as they did*.
However, it may be best to face that awkward conversation, and just start working as soon as you can. Here’s why:
*We hate to tell you this, but that’s a myth. Degree or no, many millennials will find themselves scrubbing plates, handing out flyers, or doing one of hundreds of menial jobs at the start…just like their parents almost certainly did.
The Sooner You Start Working, the Sooner You Start Building Your Savings
Perhaps your first job doesn’t pay what you expect. Maybe S$1,200 a month doesn’t strike you as much, but remember two things:
First, you are getting CPF contributions of 16 per cent from your employer. Second, any amount of money in your CPF or retirement fund is better than S$0. And the latter is precisely what you get when you play the waiting game.
Say you decide not to take up a S$1,200 a month job. You spend a whole year cruising around looking for your “ideal pay”. By the end of 12 months, this would have cost you S$16,704 (including the CPF top-up) in salary.
Assuming you spend just half of the disposable amount after CPF. That’s a savings of $5,760 – enough for a decent start in a savings fund, or to cover the cost of a growing endowment plan for more than a year.
And by the end of that first year, you may have developed the work experience and contacts necessary to move further ahead. If not in the same company, you can always look elsewhere; and now you have more qualifications.
Long Gaps Will Turn Hiring Managers Off
Different companies and hiring managers have their own standards. However, many hiring managers dislike seeing long breaks between getting your degree, and starting work. A one year break is acceptable to most, but if there is a gap of 18 months or longer, you’d better have a great excuse.
Saying “I was unable to get the salary I want” is definitely not a good response.
This hesitation comes from the fear that you may be an “Ivory Tower” case. These are people who are academically talented but have little use in the working world. It’s important for you to dissuade any such notions, by showing that you jumped into your industry and got your hands dirty.
Being Out of the Work Force Too Long Can Make You Obsolete
Some qualifications, such as Information Technology (IT), go obsolete faster than others. A technology that you studied today can turn irrelevant overnight, so it’s important to get your job while the ink on your degree is still wet.
Even for other qualifications, such as business or the humanities, the world does not stand still. The theories and methodologies you learned can fall out of favour, or be replaced by others. These degrees are a little more evergreen, but don’t fool yourself into thinking they make you forever relevant.
When you are working, you tend to move with the industry. At the very least, an employer is going to pay to train you, as they don’t want their investment in you to go to waste. If you are a potential fresh hire, a business may decide to just upgrade their existing staff, rather than take you on and have to pay to train you anyway.
Your Degree Won’t Guarantee Your Promotion
Promotions don’t come from just having a degree. When you start working, you will find the degree is often your foot-in-the-door and little more. When it comes to promotions, companies look at various soft skills.
Do the rest of your department like you? Can you lead them? Have you learned to be assertive without being aggressive? These are all skills that cannot be learned on an academic basis. You need to actually work and face the daily grind, in order to cultivate these skills.
The sooner you learn them, the sooner you can be promoted to the salary level you want (or perhaps even beyond it). This is a more assured method of getting a higher income, than just waiting to stumble upon a generous company.
Start Working as Soon as You Can
We suggest new graduates give themselves a maximum of six months to look around. After that, they should take the job they can get. Remember, nothing stops you from continuing to look for better pay, even if you currently have a job chopping vegetables in a kitchen.
By all means keep looking as long as you want. But make sure you are getting that CPF top-up, and building your savings and work experience while you look for it.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.