3 Career Skills You Get Out Of NS

Jeff Cuellar



Let’s be honest, if you’re looking for a job experience that offers outstanding financial benefits, NS isn’t it. Because while the pay has increased over the last few years, it’s still not far from what a foreign construction worker collects monthly.

But looking at NS purely from a financial perspective doesn’t do the experience justice. Because the real benefits of NS don’t come in the form of a fat pay check – but in gaining professional skills that’ll improve your chances of achieving career success.

Here are 3 positive career traits that you’ll get out of NS:


1. Discipline

If you don’t already have some measure of discipline by the time you take the boat to Tekong, you’ll definitely have it by the time you return. That’s because everything you go through – the early morning PT sessions, endless marches, uniform inspections, and corrective punishment (aka pushups) is geared towards instilling discipline.

Making the transition from the civilian world to NS is all about adopting a new daily routine, organizational rules, and “cultural” environment – and discipline helps you survive and succeed in NS (and any other work environment you’ll find yourself in).

Discipline is a trait that many employers find essential, because employees who learned it in NS typically:

  1. Arrive to work early or on time
  2. Manage their time well
  3. Can be trusted to do their job with minimal supervision
  4. Can handle constructive feedback without taking it personal
  5. Can adapt to organizational changes (e.g. change in supervisor) easily


2. Leadership

You don’t need to lead your own section or platoon to learn about leadership from NS. Because even the most timid of recruits learns can learn about management from the good (and bad) leaders they follow. Or as the old Chinese saying goes: “To lead, you must first learn to follow.”

If you happen to lead troops in NS, you’ll learn more about management than you will from any overpriced seminar – because there’s no better way to learn about responsibility and the consequences of bad leadership than military service. In fact, you learn that being a leader isn’t about striving for a “title,” but in bringing out the best in your subordinates so that your organization can reach its goals.

Leadership is a trait that many employers find essential, because employees who learned it in NS typically:

  1. Take initiative to improve their organization or work processes
  2. Manage people, time, and resources wisely when taking over a project
  3. Look out for their subordinates and inspire them to improve
  4. Can handle high-stress situations without panicking
  5. Communicate well with subordinates on what their goals are


3. Teamwork

The foundation of NS is built around teamwork across multiple echelons – from the section level to the company level (or higher). In a way, it’s structured a lot like some of the MNCs you’ll find Singapore, except for the fact that you’re actually living with your “co-workers” during NS.

You live, eat, and sleep next to people from every background imaginable. That’s the beauty of NS – it levels the social playing field and forces you to support, trust, and build relationships with the guy next to you. And when someone in your section screws up horribly, everyone pays for his mistake, which is exactly what happens in the “civilian” world when an employee messes up – the company suffers.

Teamwork is a trait that many employers find essential, because employees who learned it in NS typically:

  1. Find it easier to communicate with co-workers from a variety of social/ethnic backgrounds
  2. Are more conscious about putting the group’s needs ahead of their own personal agendas
  3. Find ways to motivate their co-workers towards reaching their goals
  4. Encourage co-workers to share their ideas for finding solutions to organizational problems
  5. Help new employees integrate into their new work environment so they can contribute to the team effort faster


Author’s Note: Although I haven’t served in NS, I can definitely relate to what Singaporeans go though, having served 4 years in the U.S. Army before attending University. Whenever I speak to my Singaporean friends about their NS experience, I’m always surprised at how much we share in common – especially when it comes to the career and life lessons gained from it.


What valuable workplace skills did you learn from NS? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook!

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.