Just do what you love, they said. That’s why you went and got a degree in Tahitian Studies or Ancient History of Agriculture. And now employers are staring at your applications with a mixture of amusement and bemusement.
If you’re not about to become a professor of Egyptian Literature but still need a decent job to survive in Singapore’s cut-throat environment, you might need to be a little more strategic than those of your friends who graduated from business school and are skipping merrily to multinationals.
Here are some tips that will help you feed yourself while you figure out what to do with the rest of your life.
1. Bank Executive
People think of banking jobs as the domain of ultra-corporate business and finance grads who started wearing ties as kids.
In truth, most of the finance high fliers end up in investment banking or other front office positions like sales.
What many students don’t know is that banks are such huge organisations they need endless numbers of employees to do back office work. These are the people who work in “operations” or “compliance”, and their roles are often quite narrow and highly administrative.
I had a temp job at a multinational bank once. They just gave us lists of their clients and we spent all day, every day googling them on various databases to check that their names, addresses, etc were accurate. This is what many of their full-time employees did. Every day. For years.
Sure, some of these employees were finance grads. But there were also loads of people who had degrees in biomedical science, anthropology or literature.
It’s also possible although harder to get a job as a sales associate. Sales is obviously much more stressful and demanding than back office roles, but your salary will contain a commission element and can thus be very generous if you perform well.
How much?: Operations employees at multinational banks typically command $3,500 to $4,500 as a fresh grad. Not bad for a job that doesn’t require any specialist knowledge.
Hot tip: Many people get their foot in the door by taking on temp or contract roles at banks, not only to shore up experience but also because many banks convert temp staff to full-time employees within 6 to 12 months. Temp roles aren’t too hard to snag as firms aren’t that concerned about your credentials, since you’re just needed on a short-term basis. Big recruitment firms like Kelly Services often have many such roles on hand, so it’s worthwhile signing up with one. If you have friends who work in banks, tell them to give you a heads up when contract roles are being filled.
2. Recruitment Consultant
Otherwise known as headhunters, these are the guys who contact you out of the blue on the phone or on LinkedIn declaring they’ve found a role they think would be perfect for you.
Big recruitment agencies like Recruit Express and Kelly Services typically pay their employees a base salary and then supplement it with commission, which is earned by successfully linking up a job seeker with a candidate.
Most agencies couldn’t care less if you studied fifteenth century chamber music or rocket science at university. They’re willing to take on just about anyone. Those who don’t do well usually drop out of their own accord.
How much?: A good (but not exceptional) recruiter at a large recruitment agency can take home an average of $3,000 to $4,000 a month fresh out of university. On the other hand, top performers can find themselves earning much, much more. In industries like oil and gas, recruitment agents can make more than $100,000 a year.
Hot tip: You shouldn’t have much trouble getting a job, but your performance is going to affect how much you earn. Because much of the job is self-directed, you don’t get any brownie points for face time, and every minute you spend surfing Facebook at work can affect your performance. Working consistently and efficiently is usually enough to ensure you achieve at least average results. The really good agents tend to brief their candidates more thoroughly so they do better at interviews.
3. Flight Attendant
Many people see flying as a job there’s no future in, and a career as a flight attendant pointless if you have a degree. That’s not exactly true. If you’re interested in a career in public relations or corporate communications, having been part of a cabin crew can be a big advantage. And while many people tend to think of flying as an alternative to getting a degree, a not inconsiderable number of degree holders take to the skies after completing their studies.
While a degree isn’t a prerequisite for joining an airline like Singapore Airlines, being articulate and knowing how to present yourself well are distinct advantages. For instance, in the first round of the Singapore Airlines admissions test, candidates are asked to give a short presentation on the fly.
The job isn’t for everyone, of course, and many join to see the world and then quit after two or three years. Nobody’s saying it’s easy, but neither is working late nights at the same tired old office day in, day out. If you’re outgoing and skilled at presenting a smiling face to the world, it can be quite lucrative.
How much?: Air crew members earn a basic pay as well as generous allowances, which vary depending on which destinations they fly to. In general, stewards and stewardesses at a big airline like Singapore Airlines can expect to earn around $3,000 to $5,000.
Hot tip: While the requirements of different airlines vary, your appearance and ability to present yourself are paramount. This doesn’t mean you need to be supermodel material. But before you go for interviews, get a good haircut, visit a dermatologist if you’ve got skin issues and get clothes that flatter your figure. Ladies, makeup is very important, especially if you have scars. If you get rejected by one airline, don’t give up. There are plenty of other airlines out there.
Do you know of other jobs where what you studied at university doesn’t matter? Let us know in the comments!