Scared Graduate

It’s your final year of school, and soon you’ll have a full-fledged degree on your hands. In the next few months (or even shorter, hopefully), you’ll be a working adult, and be counted amongst the 3.4 million people in Singapore’s labour force.

But wait! Before throwing that mortar board in the air and framing up your degree, don’t forget to make the most out of everything your university or polytechnic has to offer you. Once you graduate, chances are, you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits (some of which you might not even have realised) of being in an educational institute.

Here are some of the things that should be in your checklist:

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1) Start Applying for Jobs 6 Months Before You Graduate 

apply for jobs
Photo Credit: Cartoon Stock

 

This may sound like common sense, but it’s important to get a head start on job applications. It usually takes a month before employers get back to you on your applications, so starting early means you’ll have job offers before you graduate. A month is a long time to be doing nothing, so why not start early while you’re still studying?

Also, practice makes perfect. Your first few job applications will be spent fine-tuning your CV, rewriting your cover letters, and honing your interview skills. You probably aren’t going to ace any salary negotiations right off the bat, and having a few job interview experiences in the belt will give you the confidence you need to be able to negotiate better terms and benefits for what will likely be your first full time job.

 

 

Read also: 3 Steps to Discerning Your Career – A Fresh Grad’s Reflection

 

2) Ask Your Teachers and Professors For Testimonials and Referrals

While you’re still fresh in your tutors’ minds, ask for a testimonial from them. This will help your future employers get a better idea (and impression) of you before they hire you. Remember that your teachers also have other commitments as well, so offer to write the testimonial for them if they like – this also means that you get to put what you think are your best qualities in the testimonial.

In addition, most job applications require that you list down two or more character referees. Rather than asking friends and family, have your former professors be included as character referees. It looks more credible and impartial.

 

3) Get a Certified Copy of Your CCA Record

Most tertiary institutions will provide a certified copy of your CCA (co-curricular activity) record upon request, but it’s usually not automatically given to graduating students. Check with your institution’s CCA department to see how you can obtain a copy.

It might not seem that useful at first, but there are two benefits to having a school certified copy of your CCA record. First, it provides validation for all the CCAs listed in your CV. Second, it might remind you of some ECA that you took part in but forgot, and thus help boost your resume as well.

 

 4) Get Your Resume Vetted

resume
Photo Credit: Ari Agency

Every university and polytechnic has a career guidance department, which is a good place to start if you want someone more experienced to vet your CV. No amount of Internet advice and resume help books can boost your portfolio better than a person who’s seen and improved hundreds of resumes.

Sometimes it’s the choice of words or the way you present your educational and work experiences that makes all the difference between a cookie cutter CV or an outstanding resume. A well-trained eye will be able to spot these differences, and don’t forget, that’s what the career guidance department is for. So walk on in and ask a career guidance counsellor to check out your curriculum vitae!

Read also: 4 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Resume

 5) Attend Career Guidance Workshops

career guidance
Photo Credit: TASI Online

Towards the end of your final semester, your inbox will start getting bombarded with emails for resume workshops, job interview seminars, personal grooming talks, and many other sessions that offer free advice and training for prospective job applicants.

Sign up for them, especially if they’re free. They might not seem important while you’re rushing out your final year project or mugging for that one last paper, but you’ll be thankful for the extra skills and knowledge they bring when it comes down to your future employment opportunities. Also, they tend to make you think more about your upcoming career paths and how to present yourself, which is always a good thing.

 

 

6) Sign Up With All Your Alumni Clubs/Networks

Again, this is especially so if membership is free. These networks tend to provide freebies, possible job openings, and other opportunities (provided you read their emails). It’s likely that you’re going to be automatically subscribed to them anyway, but always take the chance to maximise your networks.

This will prove especially useful in future, if your job requires you to tap on your networks to access a broader base of potential clients, consumers, or even employees. These alumni clubs are usually very helpful if you need to broadcast (relevant) information to like-minded people, and are often your foundation for future networking.

 

7) Maximise Your School’s Print Facilities

printing
Photo Credit: Laser Age

 

Many tertiary institutions have discounted printing prices (as compared to printers outside of school). You’re going to need to have at least ten copies of your resume on hand, as well as copies of all your relevant certificates and transcripts for job interviews. This adds up, especially when you’re an unemployed student. So appreciate the low printing prices while you still can.

Just watch out for those printer jams!

 

 

 

 

8) Research Potential Employers and Industries

Remember how I mentioned you should start applying for jobs six months before you graduate? This is an excellent reason why. When you get called in for a job interview, use your free access to your school’s subscribed databases to read up about your future company as much as possible.

If you’ve never used these databases before (how did you do any research papers?), start with your school’s library website. You probably won’t get a chance to have unlimited access to JSTOR, Lexis Nexis, and Factiva after you graduate (and your account is shut down), so use it as much as you can now.

Going into a job interview having thoroughly researched the company will give you the additional confidence and knowledge to answer any potential questions the interview might ask, and also prompt you to ask the right questions as well. Google is useful, but paid databases will give you the edge.

 

9) Make More Friends and Invest in Them

enjoy the friendships

This may sound slightly mercenary, but this will be the last time you can make friends as easily and quickly. Firstly, you won’t have the chance to be exposed to as many strangers as you would be in your classes. Secondly, the people you meet will be more wary and guarded, since it’s difficult to be friends with your colleagues at the workplace. 

Treasure the friends you have. Get to know more people, even if it’s your final semester. Just like signing up with your alumni clubs, this will help your broaden your network. And you never know when you might meet your soul mate, or best friend, along the way.

 

10) Enjoy the Last Semester of School

Most importantly, enjoy your last few months as a student. Don’t be so caught up in maximising every last minute of your academic life that you forget to stop and smell the roses. You may not know it now, but this will be the “good old days” that you talk about in the future.

Sign up for that mountaineering trip that you have been procrastinating to all these years. Accept every invitation for a meal with your schoolmates. Ask your professors out for coffee. Form a team and take part in your varsity’s sports day. Support your friends at school performances. Organize cook-outs at your place for your classmates. Perform in a school play.

A time like this will never come by again. You’ll have a lifetime to work after you graduate, and the older you get, the less your education matters (although it’s still important) in your resume. But you’ll never be able to access as much free stuff, get to know as many different people, or have as much freedom as being a student.

Have fun as your education draws to a close. And always, always keep your student pass/ID – the amount of discounts you can get with it is staggering (provided you still look like a student).

Labour Day, ironically a day when you’re not supposed to be labouring (unless you’re on shift duty), is a holiday on 1st May which celebrates the 8-hour modern work day and achievements of employees. In other words, Labour Day was quite possibly the first celebration of work-life balance.

The 8-hour work day came about as a result of the Haymarket Massacre in 1886, which happened during a protest in Chicago for better working hours and conditions (working hours ranged from 10 to 12 hours then). After a bomb exploded in the middle of the protest, killing police and demonstrators alike, the police responded with gunfire, further increasing the death toll. Similar demonstrations occurred worldwide thereafter, but this was the beginning of Labour Day celebrations and the shift to a 8-hour work day.

This year, Labour Day falls on a Wednesday, which means there’s no long weekend unless you’re willing to spend two days of leave to create that five day weekend. After being spoilt by so many long weekends, what can we actually do on this one day public holiday? Plenty, as it turns out.

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1)      Join the White Paper protest

It worked over a century ago – so why not return to the roots of Labour Day and join a protest? The next White Paper protest will be held on Labour Day, at the Speakers Corner in Hong Lim Park. This is a ground-up movement and is happening from 4 – 7 pm, with the theme “For A Better Singapore”. Singaporeans from all walks of life will be coming on stage to speak on various issues such as employment challenges, influx of foreigners, etc. If it gets too hot and crowded at the protest, you can always head over to Chinatown Point for some good old fashioned shopping.

 

2)      Shop at Chinatown Point Uniqlo

The newly renovated Chinatown Point boasts a vibrant selection of shops, including Uniqlo. Their grand opening promotions are on till 2 May, and you can pick up some pretty sweet deals there!

 

3) Buffet brunch at Paulaner Brauhaus

Paulaner Brauhaus at Millenia Walk has a special BBQ buffet brunch, and with an additional $10 you can get free flow beer with your brunch as well. What better time to indulge in Singapore’s favourite past time? But if you’d rather a place to sleep after you eat, you can always opt for Fullerton Hotel instead.

 

4) Food staycation at Fullerton Hotel

Eat to your hearts’ content at Fullerton Hotel with their Labour Day specials, which include an American buffet breakfast for two at their very own Town Restaurant, as well as a dining credit of $50. Best of all, the offer is on till 2 May!

 

Read also: Labour Day in Singapore: An Evaluation of the Foreign Labour Situation

 

5) Spa staycation at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel

If the favourite Singaporean past time isn’t for you, then how about a spa getaway at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel? Their Labour Day offer includes a daily breakfast for one and a one-for-one Hair/Face/Body Treatment Voucher at their in house J’s Salon. And it’s available all week till 5 May!

 

6) Take a Chan Brother’s cruise

Turn this Labour Day into a long weekend and book leave for Thursday and Friday. How about going for a short trip instead of staying in Singapore? Book one of Chan Brothers’ 2/3/4 to go two night cruises to Redang or Malacca. With 4 to go prices at nearly half of the regular offers, there’s no better time to head out in a ship.

 

7) Watch Austin Powers and Grease for free

If trips and staycations are hard on the pocket, how about some free movies? Channel 5 is airing two blockbusters on Labour Day – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Grease. Perhaps the most cost effective way to spend Labour Day would be on a couch in front of your TV.

 

8) Catch an Esplanade show

Hello Paige”, a family friendly show about Paige, a young girl, and her kitten Neko, premieres on Labour Day. Watch Paige and Neko navigate the world of sounds at the Recital Studio in Esplanade and you might actually find yourself liking it even more than your children.

 

9) Join a Zumba class

The Zumba Meetup Group is having a Labour Day Special, where you get to try out Zumba at offer prices. Just join their group and sign up for a class, and you’ll be burning calories while the rest of Singapore eats and shops.

 

10) Visit the Istana

The Istana is only open four days a year to the public – and Labour Day is one of those open houses. Visit one of Singapore’s iconic landmarks and relive history and you might even get to meet the Prime Minister!

A word of advice to all: If you are thinking of making a trip across the border to Malaysia, you might like to change your travel plans. Traffic at the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints is expected to be heavy according to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

To all workers out there, this day is meant for celebrating you. Put aside all work and enjoy this day that you deserve.

Image Courtesy: Esplanade Theatres

 

Most Singaporeans just see Labour Day (known as International Workers’ Day in some countries) as an opportunity to rest instead of having to work, but many of us aren’t aware of its violent origins. This public holiday was created in commemoration of the 1886 Chicago Haymarket affair, where workers were holding a strike at Haymarket Square to protest for 8-hour weekdays (10 to 16-hour weekdays were common then). One of them threw a bomb at the police who were attempting to disperse the crowd, causing the police to open fire at the demonstrators. Seven to eight civilians died as a result, while another 40 were injured. It took another 18 years and more riots in between before 8-hour weekdays were finally legally established. While we now have our 8-hour weekdays, there are still some labour issues closer to our hearts and worth some consideration, such as foreign labour (but please – no strikes!).

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Foreign labour has been one of the hottest topics in coffee shop conversations now, and will probably remain as such in the next few years to come. Foreigners currently make up close to 37% of the labour market in Singapore, where this percentage has been steadily rising for the past five years (see Figure 1). Many locals have been lamenting how foreign labour is taking jobs away from them because foreigners are willing to do the same job at a lower salary, or at the same salary but for longer hours. Locals experience more difficulty in finding work as a result, such that they cry foul over the government’s seemingly lax foreign labour policies. Locals also lament how they are having difficulty earning a living in the very country which they were born and bred in, while the government freely lets in foreign labour to “poach” jobs which should rightfully belong to them.

 

Figure 1 Increasing percentage of foreigners in Singapore’s labour market over the last 5 years. (Percentages calculated from figures as published in the Ministry of Manpower’s website.)

While there is some truth in their complaints, there is another side to the story. Sometimes, employers have no choice but to hire foreign labour. This is because local workers are uninterested in the jobs which employers have to offer, even if offered higher salaries for the same job than their foreign counterparts. For example, it appears that Singaporeans are generally not keen on entering the service industry because they do not enjoy serving others, be it as sales staff or wait staff in food outlets – they would prefer being served by others instead. Foreign workers, on the other hand, have no such qualms and are more willing to take up such jobs. It could also be that there are not enough Singaporeans who are trained in skills which employers are looking for, such that employers have no choice but to look beyond our shores for employees capable of fulfilling the needs of the company.

The government is also taking measures to restrict the entry of foreign labour into Singapore so as to lessen the economy’s reliance on foreign workers for growth. During the Singapore Budget 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that foreign levies would be increased from next July onwards, with the extents of the increase being higher in sectors experiencing larger growth in the foreign workforce. Foreign worker quotas will also be cut for services and marine sectors, and the qualifying salaries for S-Pass holders will be raised from $2,000 to $2,200 per month so as to equalise the playing field for locals and foreigners with respect to salary.

With the government working to tighten Singapore’s foreign labour policies, locals may be able to rest easier knowing that competition for jobs vis-à-vis foreign workers will be lessened such that they may be able to secure jobs more easily. At the same time, perhaps we should try to be more open to jobs which are traditionally shunned, and also continue to improve on their skills in order to become more employable across sectors. A change in mindset and strategy may be just what is needed in order to secure a decent job.

To all job-seekers: keep searching, and don’t lose hope yet! If you have your eye on a particular job with a certain company, be sure to check out Jobiness for more information on that company to see if it is in line with your career goals. And to all workers: enjoy your Labour Day break – see you back in the office on Thursday.

To read more about the Singapore Budget 2013, click here.

To find out more about the latest government policies regarding foreign labour, click here.

Read also: 10 Things to do this May Day in Singapore