Graduates: over-qualified or overly-unrealistic?

paper chase

I’d say it started out as an innocent dream, seeded by a simple masak masak toy that convinced the preschool me that being an NTUC Fairprice cashier was the best job one could have. Fast-forward 15 years later, and I’m nowhere near that dream.

Maraboli once wrote that ‘Cemetries are full of unfulfilled dreams’ and that notion greatly haunted me. I then set out to obtain a cashier job at a nearby Fairprice branch during my university summer break. Alas, my wait was futile and their HR probably just trash-canned by resume.

I was greatly disappointed… together with friends, we proceeded to analyze the situation umpteenth times. We arrived at a conclusion that could superficially plaster my wound: lack of experience and my inability to commit long term seemed convincing. But what really struck us was this – was I “overly qualified”?

Our discussion led to even broader discussions about graduates and careers.

Amidst newfound complaints by my graduated peers was that companies just weren’t offering a ‘good enough deal’. I began questioning:

  • What does it mean to be overly qualified?
  • Are many graduates offered jobs that seem below them?
  • Or are many graduates believing themselves to be overly qualified but are perhaps not so?

The Employers of Choice survey carried out by JobsCentral in 2012, reported that 64% Singaporean graduates of first and second-class honors expect a starting salary of $3000. If you thought that was shocking, wait for this. 3 out of 4 students have indicated expectations of promotion within 2 years of work and more than 50% of graduates expect to be in a managerial position within 3 years.

Responses to this survey included a post on Studentry, a division of an NUS student ran magazine, which deemed graduates having ‘unrealistic expectations’ of pay.

Needless to say, most companies have not been able to live up to our graduates’ expectations. Forums are peppered with their disappointment. Even top firms in Singapore (coughErnst&Youngcough) offer a ‘mere’ $2800 for a starting salary.



Au contraire, I believe it isn’t difficult to find a job; it’s just difficult to find one that ticks all the boxes in your list.

A Straits Time commentary in June 2013 shared horror stories from CEOs about how graduates stormed into interviews expecting a private office, personal secretary and a whopping $4000 salary. Many have also rejected long hours and overseas postings. How are you going to find a job offer that fits all your needs (but mostly wants)?

I’m not trying to say that these demands aren’t justified. Very often they are. Have you seen the state of our bank loans due to college? We’re poorer than church mice. Moreover, getting a place in Singapore’s top 3 universities was no walk in the park, more like a war in a jungle. Surely we deserve the additional pay for all we’ve gone through.

Yet in reality, as graduates we leave our schools with no experience and little relevant skills. How does a simple piece of paper determine we deserve more than an individual who has worked 3-4 years to get the same salary we demand from the beginning? Unfortunately for us, our demands don’t sound legitimate. No thanks to our lack of skills and experience, our first contributions to the company would probably be less than 50% of what our seniors can give. We can’t possibly ask for the same pay then right?

I think the term ‘over-qualification’ for a graduate is pure farce as it is a concept created by graduates who cannot see themselves working at the bottom of huge organizations or below people they deem ‘less-qualified’ than themselves because the less qualified didn’t have the opportunities to spend a good semester writing a thesis on something nobody really cares about.

So graduates, I think its time to suck it up. Stop complaining about the lack of jobs in the market.




…because in the exact words of “dangerboi”, ‘there will always be jobs, its just some people aren’t willing to get a lower than expected salary. (devil face)’







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