Career Workshops for NUS Students

There is a pressing need to raise the career preparation skills of NUS graduates. In a recent survey of major employers of graduates in Singapore, 70% opined that NUS graduates are lacking in this area. This is what employers are saying about NUS graduates:

  • ‘I was shocked to see an NUS graduate dressed casually in jeans for the interview, thinking that it is appropriate, because it is at Sentosa.’
  • Only half of the interviewees did proper research about our company.’ This feedback was received from one of the largest companies in Singapore.
  • Students can sell themselves better by putting important things upfront. For example, they should highlight their CAP score if they did well academically.  Students are quite shy, and are too modest. They should try to market themselves better and ask more questions.’ This feedback was received from an American MNC.
  • Local graduates are excellent at breaking down problems and delivering results. But they undersell themselves and do not get opportunities they deserve as they are being overshadowed by the vocal and domineering personalities from the US.”
  • And one of Singapore’s largest graduate recruiters wrote Some candidates were neither prepared nor appropriately dressed for interviews. In terms of ratings of performance among the 3 local universities,
    • for Oral Communications: SMU 1, NUS 2, NTU 3;
    • for Maturity: SMU 1, NUS 2, NTU 3;
    • for Grooming: SMU 1, NTU 2, NUS 3.’

Clearly, this is a gap we need to fill.

What should the university do, and how can we help our graduates?

Let me share more about the current situation.

Career preparation workshops are being offered to students on an optional basis, and they do not carry academic credits. Last year, the NUS Career Centre (NCC) offered a suite of 5 workshops (comprising Career Planning, Resume Writing, Interview Skills, Networking Skills, and Business Etiquette and Corporate Dressing). Each workshop was a 2 to 3 hour session, and students were charged $8 to $10 per workshop. The workshops are offered to students at highly subsidized rates, and a nominal fee is levied to prevent no-shows.

Of the 25,000 undergraduates enrolled at the NUS, only 1,500 students attended at least one workshop, and amongst them, 320 of them attended all 5 workshops. Of the 320 students who completed the suite of workshops, about 150 are from Pharmacy, because they had an astute Head of Department, who saw the importance of the workshops, and had made them compulsory for final year Pharmacy students.

Should we then mandate the workshops as a compulsory graduation requirement? If we maintain status quo, the take-up rate of the career preparation workshops is not likely to improve. Interestingly, in a recent survey involving more than 3,000 NUS students, 56% supported the idea of the university implementing compulsory career preparation workshops; 11% of the respondents were unsupportive.  At the NUS Business School, career preparation workshops are not compulsory. Yet, students prioritize these learning opportunities and nearly 95% of their students elect to attend them sequentially over 3 to 4 years.

We then sought to understand why NUS students are not signing up to attend career preparation workshops. The student survey further revealed that top 3 reasons were:

  1. I do not have time! (40%)
  2. The workshops clash with my lectures/tutorials. (25%) We were certainly puzzled by this response as many workshops are held on weekends.
  3. I am not aware of these career development workshops. (25%)

After much deliberation, we have decided to defer the ‘compulsion’ measure for now, and will instead adopt a moderate approach.

Over the next 3 years, we will nudge all students from the Faculties/Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, Computing, Design and Environment, Engineering and Science, to complete the suite of 5 workshops. The workshops will be offered free-of-charge.

Here are the implementation plans:

(1) An Opt-Out System for Freshmen

  • Each freshman will be assigned to attend the 5 workshops in one of the two semesters in AY2012/13. Students who do not wish to attend will have to provide good reasons to the NCC.

(2) An Opt-In System for the Graduating Cohort

  • For existing students, career preparation workshops will be offered to you in your graduating year, and we will facilitate your attendance by ensuring that the workshop schedules do not clash with your formal classes.  You will have to register to attend these workshops.

To conduct these programs on a large scale, the NCC will be recruiting more career counsellors; many workshops will also be outsourced to competent vendors. Notes and resource materials will be prepared and made available online, so that the workshops are more hands-on and practice-oriented. On top of the 5 first-tier career preparation workshops, the NCC will also offer many additional courses under the umbrella of the ‘Future Ready Programme’. Some target specific skills; others are industry-specific.

The workshops by themselves are no guarantee that NUS graduates will become expert job hunters after attending them.  But, our aim is to sensitize our students, right at the onset of their university life, to the importance of planning and preparing for their future careers. Better earlier than later, as students can then start to think and plan their curriculum, education and projects accordingly, to hone expertise and experience and to develop a credible portfolio towards their career goals.

For students who do not have stellar CAP scores, please do not give up, or be overly discouraged.  It is heartening to note that many top employers such as Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Keppel Corporation, Proctor & Gamble, ExxonMobil and others, have shared that they are moving away from CAP to look at strong CCA qualities and soft skills. One firm shared that We do not look at grades, but how the graduates present themselves. Core values such as integrity, and encouraging a non-defeatist, positive attitude is vital to success in society.’ Do take heart, and press on with your job hunt.

In short, we will be making career preparation workshops as accessible and convenient for students to attend them, and in so doing, we hope to ‘nudge’ students towards making beneficial decisions. We sincerely hope that our students will take up these opportunities to enrich themselves, and to enhance their employability.

39 comments:

  1. Actually, NUS Libraries subscribe to (expensive) databases that contain tonnes of company profiles that are useful for researching on the companies before attending the interviews. Sadly, most students are either indifferent or ignorant of such rich resources that are available to them. Let’s not allow such useful information to go to waste. It will be good if the Career Counsellors provide the URLs to such company profiles at the NUS Libraries (e-resources).

    See http://search.ebscohost.com.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/GoToSite.aspx?community=y&authtype=ip&id=0&ugt=723731263C8635073706358632953E0221E365D36913639365E326E337133503&return=y&IsMobile=N&authpid=ehost

    Click on Company Profiles, Search for company name.

  2. I personally think your examples of bad interview techniques a little unfair. I wonder whether this is more about the university saving face. I agree that the Sentosa interviewee was wrong to dress casually and I’m sure he was in the minority. The people who didn’t research the company also made a fundamental error. As far as highlighting your CAP, I see no real need to do this at an interview as the employer should of already read your CV and perhaps if I was to boast about academic achievement, I would come across as arrogant. The next comment seems to stereotype local NUS graduates which is again very unfair. As far as the ranking goes, I suspect that SMU students are more geared up for jobs in Singapore because offer a lot of business related degrees which are more desirable to employers.
    The main point I would like to make is interview performance works both ways. There are a lot of interviewers who cannot interview very well. They ask inappropriate questions, they show a lack of interest in the candidate. They already have an internal candidate in mind for the job and your just there to make up the numbers. Employers can ask questions that suggest that they haven’t read your CV.
    If you see a company that advertises jobs a lot, this may suggest a high staff turnover and you should reconsider whether they are worth working for.

  3. Must students attend ALL FIVE of those five career workshops??? I mean these comments by the employers, I’m sure, look at the most ill-prepared of NUS students, but why should other middle-of-the-road NUS students have to get penalized for their peers’ ineptitude??

    How about making 2 or 3 workshops compulsory instead of all 5? That way, we can pick which areas to focus on, and if the quality of the career counselling is REALLY that good, then students will be motivated to attend all 5 anyway.

    My main worry is that, despite the good intentions of the university administration, the quality of NUS Career Centre’s workshops may not live up to their function and this whole scheme will backfire! I mean in SMU you hear amazing things about their courses like Finishing Touch or whatever (I think it is called) and it’s like a “sold-out” course, students are clamouring to take that course because it really prepares students REALLY well.

    I feel that the administration should stop assuming that the student is this unmotivated, undiscerning unit of labour, and that if we do not attend career workshops it is because we do not realize the importance of them. The administration should instead reflect and attend some of the career workshops themselves and maybe then they’ll realize why students are not attending.

    If the course is good, there will be demand!!!

    I myself have attended a few career preparation talks / programs offered by my faculty and some have been forgettable. Instead, I find out from my SMU friends what they learn, how to format one’s CV — but one drawback of course is that everyone’s CV looks identical, so the downside of a successful MASS career preparation program is that EVERYONE ends up looking/presenting themselves/appearing in an identical way!!! So much for differentiation of character and selling oneself.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, jumping to “successful mass career prep program”. All we have right now, it seems, is a “mass career prep program” in the works! Seriously now, what is The Idea of a University? Is it just a mill churning out units of labour to be funnelled into the working world??

    This top-down instinct to make it mandatory-across-the-board-unless-you-have-a-good-reason is so typical. Sure, you’re creating jobs for many people who are going to get hired by NUS CC, but how about saving some of those resources and channeling them somewhere else?

    In conclusion:

    1) Don’t overreact due to some really bad comments by employers. Sure, I’m certain that those students may have been really bad. But is it fair to compare SMU to NUS? The size of SMU is the size of one faculty in NUS. Or one and a half.

    2) Has the university administration done some quality checks on their own career preparation programs vis a vis NUS’ “competitors”, ie SMU / NTU? Has any referencing been done? Instead of assuming that NUS students are somehow “lazier” or less motivated than their SMU/NTU peers, has NUS thought that perhaps the ‘problem’, if any , lies elsewhere??

    3) Mass implementation is too “easy” for somebody in University Hall to do. Really taking the time out to analyze the problem, to understand the problem, is the harder way out. I suggest the administration take more time, have more patience, talk to more students, to find out what the “problem” really is.

    Not all the comments in the previous post have even been replied, and this post has already appeared. I thought the purpose of this blog was to take students’ feedback seriously.

  4. I would like to point out that it is not on everyone’s mind to sell themselves! What is wrong with being modest and with being overshadowed by the vocal and domineering personalities from the US? We should not blindly follow the crowd in a rat race for a career or a high rung of society! If one really values integrity, one should also value a direct and honest appraisal of one’s strengths and weaknesses, not a salesman’s pitch! Let those who want to obtain gain through such means do what they wish, but let those who want to present an honest picture of themselves do so. If we do what is good, why should it matter whether people take notice unless one is attention-seeking? Therefore we can give our advice and opinions, but should not think that other people should do what we think they should. And I will not be surprised if I am disparaged for giving my frank opinion here, but so be it. To each his choice! =)

  5. @#3: I beg to differ. FT courses at SMU are only so in “demand” as the seniors have to complete this compulsory module (0.5MC if I remember correctly). They also have this course as part of their curriculum; graded and such. I’m not sure whether it’ll be good to have this in NUS…

  6. Undergraduate life can be very stressful, and I believe the poor turnout for the optional workshops can be linked to people deciding to take a break on weekends after a hectic school week. I would not think it appropriate to draw a correlation between desire to attend a course, with the turnout of a course that is held on weekends for precisely this reason.

    NUS and NTU have traditionally been universities that concentrate on technical competence, and our curriculum reflects this; an undergraduate spends the majority of his time doing modules from his own faculty to deepen his specialist skills.

    While we should have preparatory courses for work place practices, they should be held in a larger overarching concept of personal development, which should have been a core part of the curriculum. This means reducing the number of specialist modules undergraduates take in order to accommodate compulsory elements that develop a person’s character, as well as soft skills (such as negotiations, writing, and in public speaking).

    This is not going to be easy to implement: many courses are dependent on certification credentials, which would be compromised if the pre-requisites for the certification cannot be met; There is also pressure to grade students on these personal development courses instead of leaving it as CU/CS, thus artificially limiting the appeal of these courses even if they were made compulsory.

    For one, my polytechnic has already implemented such a system, and although it is too early to see the results of this approach, I believe that such a holistic approach to undergrad education would help us in the long run; not just to become technically competent in our individual fields, but also to be good people (we’ll be surprised at just how many things we believe to be commonsensical actually do not appear to be intuitive to many people). For one, it could have averted the Joo Chiat neighbour saga.

  7. David, unfortunately, interviewers do want candidates to sell themselves. Maybe especially for bigger companies. I learned this the hard way when I went for my first internship interview at a Big 4 accountancy firm. I didn’t get it and the interviewer emailed me to say I didn’t sell myself well enough. I thought it was good to be honest and modest. After this experience, I told myself I must sign up for an interview course at NCC or NUS Business School’s own Career Service Office.

    I’m glad that I was made to go through a compulsory career planning module in the Business School. Most of my peers from other schools don’t know how to write a proper CV or see the importance of doing internships in improving their employability. They should certainly be made aware of these if NUS is concerned about how its graduates present themselves. Perhaps a compulsory introductory session to explain why students should sign up for NCC’s workshops, then they know what’s available. Reduces administrative work in the opt-out system.

    Btw, I couldn’t access the Company Profile library database – link error or something. Can someone kindly direct me from the library homepage?

  8. Thanks for all your responses and comments. I should point out that the feedback from employers captured may reflect the most extreme experience that they have had with our graduates. Far from stereotyping our students, the intent here is to better prepare our students for their careers in a holistic manner. You’re right – NUS does care. The NUS Career Centre’s workshops that students can attend over their 3 to 4 years of studies here will help better prepare them for life in the workplace, and hopefully give our students a headstart in differentiating themselves in their careers.
    I am heartened to see the comments on my blog. We take your feedback as well as those from prospective employers seriously. While our students are acknowlegded to be intelligent and savvy in many ways, we want our students to be future ready. We will continually gather feedback and fine-tune these career planning workshops for the benefit of our students.

  9. Below are some of the reasons I didn’t attend

    1) Most interview techniques/ career workshops are available on Youtube.

    2) I go for good, understanding bosses rather than job prospects.

    Best bosses are hard to find and they may not be in the most prestige organisations.

    2 of my friends went to E**. High salaried jobs sometimes come with bad bosses and at a cost. The one in E** said that her boss purposely loaded her with a lot of work at 4pm and expect it to be completed the next day. She also said her boss was indecisive and can change the entire report at the last minute. After 1 year, she had to go.

    Another friend also worked in a bank. Quite high salary but because most of their friends are rated on individual performance, many of them play office politics and are not helpful towards each other.

    Even if Career Workshops provide tips on how to tackle bad bosses, working with bad bosses will slowly and gradually sap your energy.

    3) Most public sector organisations still go for 1st class honours. My friend said that he didn’t really do well for interview but was accepted into M** because of his grades.

    4) Career Fairs in NUS still require a second round of interview. Even if I do attend, they will still need me to go for a second round in their premises.
    The jobs are also available online.

    Perhaps you may wish to encourage more students to blog about their interview sessions (provide insider valuable intelligence) and lock up their blog posts.

    Many students are ‘kay-poh’ and like to read other people’s experiences.

    So students who attend Career Workshops are entitled to a special unique key in which they can share insider secret intelligence amongst each other.

  10. Dear Sir,

    It is not that students are not interested in career preparatory courses. In fact, I am very interested in attending them. What prevents me from attending them is the hectic school curriculum in NUS. The school workload is too overwhelming with readings, projects, assignments and exams. I would be too busy trying to put out the fire than to even think of finding time to attend enrichment courses such as career planning.

    Moreover, there were many occasions where my classes clashed with the workshop sessions. Hence, it would beneficial if NUS can conduct more of such courses during the school holidays, such as the summer vacation, so students would have the time to attend them without worrying about uncompleted school work, or clashes with the schedule of the workshops.

    Thank you for your kind attention.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Concerned Student

  11. Looking at some of the comments here, I can only look at the lack of hunger and laugh.

    e.g. 1. “If one really values integrity, one should also value a direct and honest appraisal of one’s strengths and weaknesses, not a salesman’s pitch!”

    -> dude, to succeed in the real world, you NEED REAL marketing and sales skills. For a good example, just google “Robert Kiyosaki interview reporter in Singapore”

    e.g. 2. “but why should other middle-of-the-road NUS students have to get penalized for their peers’ ineptitude??”

    -> “peers’ ineptitude”. author thinking he/she’s damn good, which shows an utter lack of hunger.
    -> “penalized”. so sending u for career workshops is a punishment? LMAO.

    e.g. 3 “but one drawback of course is that everyone’s CV looks identical, so the downside of a successful MASS career preparation program is that EVERYONE ends up looking/presenting themselves/appearing in an identical way!!!”

    -> What a joke. U guys are still thinking in terms of CV.
    -> With a deluge of undergrads today, the real resume which allows you to stand out is what you find when you google your own name. What special things have you done? When the provost said that companies are moving away from CAP, he doesn’t mean it literally. CAP is still important, but what is more important is what special things have you been doing, what sets you out, what is your personal brand, and what is your unique selling point?
    -> For those still ignorant, the good jobs don’t wait for you to email your resume to them. Good jobs get the people who have proven themselves with results, and by results I mean real world results.
    -> Dont think within the box, think outside. e.g. I see everyone doing OCIP for the sake of doing it. It’s a great experience, I’ve went through it before, but when people zig, I zag. I’m much more ambitious and have much bigger plans than that already.
    -> And do things that value add to your own life. You are an individual, be ambitious and imaginative. That’s where foreign grads > local grads.

    Final Thoughts:
    It’s pretty apparent from the tone of the provost’s blog post that this is a serious and utterly urgent issue they have to address, and it’s pretty obvious they did quite some research to identify the school’s competitive position.

    The general sentiment of the comments I see here seem to assume that decisions made by the school were done overnight with a limited thought process. Seriously??

    Seriously guys, think. Stop dreaming. I wouldn’t mind a bit if you guys continue in your slumber, cos that’ll mean less competition 🙂

  12. Just to add on, all those reasons (or should I say excuses) such as “no time” etc, hint at a deeper, underlying malaise, and that is the lack of hunger/exposure of local undergrads. It’s good that the school is taking action to rectify it, since raising awareness is the first step to take, but it depends on how “hungry” and how driven an undergrad is.

    Sadly, most undergrads will only realise how ill prepared they are for real working life when they graduate and get thrown into the deep end. That’s when they start regretting. These people are just too well sheltered. For those who have friends studying overseas and in the ivies, ask them, if it’s easy finding jobs, or good jobs. You’ll be surprised, I promise.

  13. The opt-out idea for freshmen is a good idea. As adults, rather than forcing the course upon everyone it is still better to give an option of choice. I predict that the participation rates should improve but not spectuarly. I also forsee the problem where some freshmen would simply not opt-out and also not attend at the same time thus possibly wasting time and resource. Hence I suggest that freshmen are asked to choose to opt-out via a complusory online form say through myISIS as part of the registration procedure or similar. Also, rather than simply telling freshmen of the course timeslots, impress on them early on in the freshmen package while they are still curious and eagar to read the freshmen guide on the importance of the courses. After the opt-out option, follow-up with reminders about their scheduled course timings.

    On another point, the seeming lack of “sell” and shyness of our local students as noted by an american MNC can be attributed to the natural asian culture. This of course reduces our ‘competitiveness’ especially when our graduates go overseas to work. Even locally, when there is much foreign labour in the job market, it is important to be able to ‘sell’ oneself especially so if one wants to get a high salaried job in a big company. If students go overseas they must be aware of the markedly increased competition that they are bound to face there.

    While the americans might value knowledge and ability in the workforce and are willing to pay a good salary, the local mentality is different. Unless you manage to secure a job in an MNC here of which there are obviously not enough for everyone, the majority of SMEs here seem to value ‘cheapness’ due to cost reasons. Unless you ask for a low salary or have a niche job, it is difficult for the local SME to hire a demanding local graduate over a cheaper foreigner. It can be attributed to chinese culture where goods (material wealth) are valued over labour. If you ever have had to send a device for repair, have you ever baulked at labour/service charges? Yes, thats valuing good over service. If you get a car repaired overseas, the components are cheap but the labour is very expensive. Even the youth today can be said to come from more comfortable backgounds since our parents and grandparents did all the hard work back in the 70s to 90s. Am I saying to pin all blame on culture and do nothing about it? No. However, we cannot formulate any good solution assuming everyone starts with the same slate, the same mindset, the same cultural background. Cultural and societial background is a key component to understanding the big picture of the problem. Assuming otherwise will simply result with inadequate solutions which tend to be ‘fixed’ with an array of even more inadequte patches. Problems should also be approached perspective first (in this case the typical student’s perspective) rather than cost-first or ease of difficulty first.

    I have completed the 5 courses during my freshman year but I must say that the quality of the courses is mediocore on average. There is no good reason I would tell any of my friends who have not attended to attend.

    The Provost and the administration is aware of the lack of ‘hunger’ of local students for the courses and the difficulties in finding solutions to the ‘problem’. I will strongly discourage that the courses are ‘forced’ unless it is essential to the targeted job scope of the degree. Forcing the courses will only result in resentment and disinterest. No point ‘force feeding’ if students are not hungry. Even if they are made to go for the course, it it will do little good if they have no interest to apply the techniques taught. It only really works when one realises the importance and pressing need. It is easier to make people to take a minute decision on an opt-out choice than to force them to attend hours of courses when some clearly do not want to.

  14. Hi Prof Tan,

    From my own experience, I have not gone for any talks by the career centre because I felt that ES2007S (Professional Communications) had provided me with sufficient preparation for my future career ahead. I had taken ES2007S because I felt that I wanted to kill two birds with one stone and use some of my curriculum time to prep some soft skills required for my career. The module provided rigorous training, and I really must thank my instructor, Ms Kim Lim, for painstaking going through our resumes, presentations, emails and even staging a simulated interview session for us to go through. I have learnt tremendously from her personalized feedback, and I guess most of the other students in the class did as well.

    I’m not sure if the workshops by the career centre provides such thorough and one-to-one coaching , but I guess if the plans that you have suggested are going to be executed, I would hope for some leeway to be made for students like me who wants to use curriculum time to learn soft skills and our modular credits requirements at the same time.

    Once again, thank you for your encouragement and being open in getting our feedback.

  15. I am very glad to hear about this. It’s great that something will be implemented – it’s a competitive world and the simple lessons should be conveyed.

    The emphasis about hands-on and practice-oriented sessions is encouraging. In the late 80’s, NUS undergrads attended compulsory, pass/fail Human Resource Management (HRM) classes during our 2nd year holidays. The well-meaning lectures were theoretical and forgettable but the tutorial sessions were very useful – we were awakened to real-world issues such as corporate culture, worker/management/executive perspectives and negotiation, interview strategies and recognition of the diversity of skills people bring to problem solving.

    Critically, all the HRM tutorials were highly interactive and required active participation by everyone. The part-time tutors who facilitated sessions were working professionals, not pure academics.

    A holistic approach is ideal – some faculty already highlight the need to extract life skills (reading, writing problem-solving, communicating, networking) from within their modules (alumni will tell you if something works). Have CDTL encourage them to share their attempts and suggestions and ask how to encourage this.

    Feedback during oral project presentations, for example, are also opportunities to examine conciseness of delivery, ability to emphasise strengths, preparedness and grasp of wider subject, composure through objectivity during questioning and professionalism of appearance. Even a checklist ranking would allow reflection. Communication skills are required in most disciplines and a critical asset in a noisy world.

    Learning the hard way after graduation is no fun, so its useful if some of the hard knocks can be absorbed during undergraduate life. Glad this being addressed; do keep listening to ensure its practical. Thanks!


  16. someone:

    Looking at some of the comments here, I can only look at the lack of hunger and laugh.
    e.g. 1. “If one really values integrity, one should also value a direct and honest appraisal of one’s strengths and weaknesses, not a salesman’s pitch!”
    -> dude, to succeed in the real world, you NEED REAL marketing and sales skills. For a good example, just google “Robert Kiyosaki interview reporter in Singapore”

    Well, as I had predicted. And as I said, not everyone wants what you think. I was simply pointing out that integrity and “real marketing skills” rarely agree, and if being a showy or boastful person is what NUS wants students to become, then say so! Clearly not everyone thinks I should voice this out either! So “not being vocal” is merely a label for “not knowing how to tickle ears”. As some have pointed out also, it would be much better to provide students with the choices and advice than to tell students what to do. Allow them the freedom of choosing their own paths.

    To write a proper resume and to dress appropriately is one thing, but to sell oneself as if in an advertisement is quite another. I agree that NUS should do what they can to help students prepare for their working life, but not to push them to do whatever interviewers seem to desire if they do not think it is right to do so.

    Even if you may completely disagree, think about it. =)

  17. Hi David,

    Haven’t u realise that by trying to reiterate your point, you’re actually trying to SELL your idea? Everything we do is about selling – selling ourselves, our brands, our ideas, and those who do so successfully are able to influence others, take up the leadership roles and achieve success.

    And I realise you hold a couple of serious misconceptions about selling.

    1. Knowing how to sell yourself does not mean boasting. On the contrary, boasting affects your ability to sell yourself negatively.

    2. You mentioned “integrity and “real marketing skills” rarely agree”. That’s totally off the mark. They are never mutually exclusive and will never be.

    -> The very existence of the provost’s blog proves my above points.
    -> It is a form of social media marketing in a sense whereby the school attempts to gather feedback and to disseminate information with its customers, aka the students, etc
    -> It engages in “selling” as well, introducing new initiatives such as this and explaining why so as to encourage students to accept it.

    So now, can you honestly tell me that this blog has no integrity?

    Finally, there’s a reason why NUS is pushing students to prepare for working life.

    Ever heard of market failure? I’m sure you do. The government – in this case, the sch’s admin – has to step in and do something about it. Giving students the choice is simply ineffective. They already have, don’t they? But is it working? No, it isn’t, and to expect different results from doing the same things over is insanity. Instead of taking a passive position, the school is actively doing something about it, and I applaud them for it.

    1. Hello someone,


      someone:

      Hi David,
      Haven’t u realise that by trying to reiterate your point, you’re actually trying to SELL your idea? Everything we do is about selling – selling ourselves, our brands, our ideas, and those who do so successfully are able to influence others, take up the leadership roles and achieve success.

      As I said, “to each his choice”. I am not selling my viewpoint to those who do not want it. Rather, I am stating that NUS should not force their choice upon students, because not everyone thinks like them (or like you). You on the other hand are indeed attempting to get me to agree with you, while I do not care whether you agree, but whether you actually give others’ freedom a thought.


      someone:

      And I realise you hold a couple of serious misconceptions about selling.
      1. Knowing how to sell yourself does not mean boasting. On the contrary, boasting affects your ability to sell yourself negatively.
      2. You mentioned “integrity and “real marketing skills” rarely agree”. That’s totally off the mark. They are never mutually exclusive and will never be.

      If you read the original post carefully it makes itself pretty clear that some (not all) employers felt that NUS students lost to US students who are more vocal and domineering. That, in itself, already suggests that some employers are more inclined to hire showy personalities (at least in the interview). And that is what I said is at odds with integrity. As before, you may choose to disagree, but you should not expect everyone to follow your standard of integrity.


      someone:

      -> The very existence of the provost’s blog proves my above points.
      -> It is a form of social media marketing in a sense whereby the school attempts to gather feedback and to disseminate information with its customers, aka the students, etc
      -> It engages in “selling” as well, introducing new initiatives such as this and explaining why so as to encourage students to accept it.
      So now, can you honestly tell me that this blog has no integrity?

      It depends on whether the owner of this blog puts forth all important issues for discussion and does not hide facts that students and related members of the public should know. As far as I can see it has not been dishonest about anything. However, I do not see how it proves your point as the “selling of oneself” that I was referring to is clearly different. Unless you claim that this blog is domineering like some (not all) US students are at job interviews, and does not mention any possible weaknesses of NUS, like many job interviewees of themselves, you cannot claim that this blog is “selling NUS”.


      someone:

      Finally, there’s a reason why NUS is pushing students to prepare for working life.
      Ever heard of market failure? I’m sure you do. The government – in this case, the sch’s admin – has to step in and do something about it. Giving students the choice is simply ineffective. They already have, don’t they? But is it working? No, it isn’t, and to expect different results from doing the same things over is insanity. Instead of taking a passive position, the school is actively doing something about it, and I applaud them for it.

      As I already said many times earlier, I fully agree that NUS should continue doing what it can for its students, which includes providing the courses and talks and materials for those who choose to “learn how to sell themselves”. But NUS should never teach students that they should do that! If you choose to reduce people to mindless people in an idealistic but unrealistic economic model, you will be able to argue for implementing many things besides this. Why do you not tell the government to ban items which are very well known to severely damage people both mentally and physiologically? That would be the first things to deal with if you really care for the welfare of the people who cannot choose correctly for themselves. Again, you are free to hold your own opinions. Likewise let others be free to choose what they want instead of insisting that others be subject to your preferences.

  18. ‘Local graduates are excellent at breaking down problems and delivering results. But they undersell themselves and do not get opportunities they deserve as they are being overshadowed by the vocal and domineering personalities from the US.”

    I have attended more than 100 job interviews and although I do not have numbers but quite a lot still prefer the conservative type.

    Bosses sometimes prefer docile, subservient types whom they can control rather than the over-confident types as they are perceived as hard to handle.

    A hint: if the interviewer is the chatty jovial type, they prefer the more vocal type. if the interviewer dresses conservatively in dull colours, speaks softly and doesn’t smile often, she/he prefers candidates who speak softly but show a quiet sense of confidence.

    Like and like attract and there is no way a woman or a man will prefer to hire someone who is opposite of their personality.

    I always have to adjust myself like a chamelon.

  19. Too much optimism may be bad as they can be seen as too arrogant.

    My previous lady boss doesn’t like to joke. There was one time I shared a joke and she frowned and asked me if I was over-confident. After that incident, I avoided conversations with her and only spoke to her on work matters.

    I strongly feel that NUS students should get a reality check too. An NUS degree is no big deal nowadays.

    I just went to a job interview as a welfare officer in a voluntary welfare organisation (VWO)

    The interviewer asked me why I wanted to work in a VWO with no career prospects and low salary when I had an NUS degree and can work in a more prestigious organisation. She was in her fifties and would think that a young man like me should have better prospects elsewhere.

    I had to pitch my answer and sell myself that I am interested in social work and counselling.

    When in actual fact, I just couldn’t tell them I had no choice! I couldn’t find a job!

  20. Actually, I do think that most interviewers prefer the conservative quiet confidence candidates. Despite the fact that some employers say they prefer confident candidates who can bring another point of view, most employers still prefer “Yes-Man” candidates because “Yes-Man” candidates will do their jobs as per their orders and instructions.

    For example, i went for a job interview as a training co-ordinator. The interviewer asked me what are some of the ways to predict trends of social problems. I said that one way is to do focus groups and on-site surveys.

    She frowned and said that the correct answer is to do policy analysts and modelling first before doing on-site surveys. I didn’t get the job.

  21. Hi all, recently I chanced upon a blog entry on Career Fairs on http://darylkwok.wordpress.com/. I was shocked and taken aback by the elitist and rude attitude adopted by the supposed NUS student.

    Although he has not broken any laws, I believed that he may have tarnished the reputation of NUS and NUS Career Workshops.

    I am sincerely against any elitism (for example the Wee Shu Min incident), and hope that this student, if caught, will be at least reprimanded. I assume he is not using his real name, so that would be a challenge.

    Personally, I believe in the Chinese saying that “Hang Hang Chu Zhuang Yuan”, and every career (even non-elite) has a prospect and future if one is willing to work hard.

  22. Hi all, recently I chanced upon my nephew the Righteous Hobbit posting about a certain troll blog. I was shocked and taken aback by the total lack of common sense and understanding of sarcasm displayed by my nephew.

    Although he has not broken any laws, I believed that he may have tarnished the intellectual integrity of the human race.

  23. I think generally speaking, those who are from the Banking industry are rather arrogant because they rub shoulders with private wealth people. My mother had a six figure digit bank account with OCBC and even though I am just her son and it is not my money, the banker lavished praises on me during a meeting. The banker also disclosed he was from NUS Business. I think generally, NUS Business students are more interested in Career Fairs or Workshops because some of them may specialise in HR or because the workshops are relevant to their studies. ……. That being said, I think workshops are more important for Science students and should be made compulsory. I went for a job interview once in NTU Student Affairs and the interviewer also disclosed that NTU Science students have a much tougher time finding jobs than law, engineering, business students…….. I also don’t have much choice. My career option was to join AVA (because I am passionate about Food Resilience issues) or NEA (environmental issues) but it seems that I am fated to be stuck in a job which I do not like….. Some of my friends said that my career path is like a blind-date or pre-arranged marriage….. Go force yourself to marry someone first and later on, learn to love that person. I probably need to heed their advice too as I need a reality check.

  24. The faster students get out of their ‘student-mentality’, the faster students adopt the recruiters’ mentality, the better.

    To the students – don’t think the world of yourself. When you join the rat race as a fresh grad, you are like a new rat, a fresh rat, and unknown rat, amongst millions of other unknown and known rats.

    Recruiters have very little time. They may have to read through hundreds of CVs, for a start, before narrowing down to a few to call for an interview.

    So, how much time do you think a recruiter spends on a CV on the first screening? 15 seconds, maybe 30 seconds max.

    Help yourself by helping the recruiter highlight your top achievements.

    If, within 15 seconds of scanning through a CV, I am not impressed, that’s it for the potential job candidate.

    I speak as somebody who has hired many local grads. I have, at times, had to re and re-read CVs (to be fair not just from NUS grads but also from other grads), and I have noticed some gem-like qualities hidden within. The candidate did himself a dis-service by not highlighting such strengths.

  25. “The workshops clash with my lectures/tutorials. (25%) We were certainly puzzled by this response as many workshops are held on weekends.”

    Dear sir,

    I’m a freshmen from FASS, AY2011/2012, looking for weekends workshop, but apparently i couldn’t find any in the “Career & Personal Development Workshops Schedule January 2012 – February 2012” Semester 2 workshop document. And most of the workshops’ timings do clashes with my lecture and tutorials. Can anyone please look into this? Thanks so much!

    Yours sincerely,
    ZH

  26. “The workshops clash with my lectures/tutorials. (25%) We were certainly puzzled by this response as many workshops are held on weekends.”

    Dear sir,

    I’m a freshmen from FASS, AY2011/2012, looking for weekend workshops for the Career Foundation Series, but apparently i couldn’t find any in the “Career & Personal Development Workshops Schedule January 2012 – February 2012” Semester 2 workshop document. And most of the workshops’ timings do clashes with my lecture and tutorials. Can anyone please look into this? Thanks so much!

    Yours sincerely,
    ZH

  27. Wait what? the antispamscript is “5hospamplease” lol. And I thought it was there to prevent spam.

    Back to topic, one of the rationales behind the hiring of the more confident type is that if you, who know everything about yourself, view yourself with a low level of confidence, people who do not know you will unconsciously (or in a few cases consciously) believe that you are therefore not appropriate for hire, as there may be some flaw you are not disclosing which justifies your view.

    From your own perspective, if you do not have confidence in yourself, you cannot expect people who do not know your full range of abilities as well to have any greater confidence in you.

    It’s one thing to pad your resume with lies and exaggeration, and indeed that is done commonly in a few other countries, of which many are Western societies. In those areas, it is far harder to follow up to verify the veracity of your claims in the resume, and as long as you do not visibly show signs of lying (inconsistency, hesitation etc), you can basically BS your way into jobs. In Singapore, which is very small and very easy to regulate (no doubt something the Government loves), this type of blatant deception is not possible and checking is very easy.

    However, it is quite another thing to not talk about what you are good at. Boasting involves some level of exaggeration beyond what is reasonable. If I was Yao Ming, and I said that I was tall, that wouldn’t be boasting, it’s simply stating a fact. And that would be an important fact if i was applying to join a basketball team. Boasting would be more along the lines of “I’m the best player you will ever hope to find”, which is probably not true.

    For individuals with exceptionally high levels of ability, it may seem as if they are boasting if they just state their exact level of ability matter-of-factly, but everything can be backchecked, or verified in the initial period after accepting a job.

    It is, however, true also that interviewers in general like their candidates to place themselves below the level of the organisation they are hiring for. An approach along the lines of “it’s your loss if you don’t hire someone like me, another company will benefit from the sales that only I can bring” will not fly wiith the vast majority of interviewers.

    In summary, to place yourself at a level above your competitors and below your hirer.

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