If you’re graduating from polytechnic or university soon, you’re probably experiencing some pretty conflicting emotions right now. No, I’m not leading you into some health discussion about raging hormones. I’m talking about how your excitement at finally graduating begins to transform into anxiety over one BIG question – what happens next?
Unless your future is set because you’re heading into the family business, you *ahem* have the right connections to land a prime public- or private-sector job, or your career path was foretold by Nostradamus – you’re probably going through a “quarter-life” crisis right now.
Fortunately, four students at Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information have dedicated their final-year project to finding out what scares graduates the most. And more importantly, to give them the information they need to make life’s “next stop” a lot less frightening.
Dealing With the “Next Stop” After Graduation
Easing the anxiety that many fresh graduates experience as they’re about to head into the “real world” is something that Long Teng Chan, Agnes Ho, Shawn Choy, and Vinnie Quek hope to achieve.
That’s why they created The Next Stop, a social campaign aimed at helping fresh graduates survive the financial and career-related pitfalls they’ll face in today’s increasingly competitive workforce.
Through an extensive survey of 390 students from National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore Management University (SMU), NTU and several Polytechnics, they discovered the three biggest fears that graduates face:
1. Building a Career
“Many soon-to-be graduates are afraid of making the wrong career choices early in life and want to find the right job as soon as they graduate,” says Long Teng. “That’s because they’ve invested so much time, money, and energy into earning their diploma or degree.”
In fact, nearly 80% of the students they surveyed were concerned about making the right career choice after graduation. And when you consider that Singapore’s cost of living is the highest in the world according to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report, you can’t blame them for being selective.
Here are three reasons why:
- If graduates land a high paying job earlier, they can buy life’s necessities (home, car, etc.) sooner.
- Many graduates have student loans and want to pay them off as soon as possible.
- Some graduates want to start contributing more (financially) to their families.
With nearly 80% of survey respondents saying they’re concerned about their finances, it’s another hot button issue among students. The biggest reason is because many students have little or no knowledge about personal finance.
That’s not surprising when you consider that personal finance isn’t taught at polytechnic or university. As Long Teng states, “In your early life, your parents were the ones who traditionally handled the finances. But when you start handling your own money, it can be a very daunting experience.”
In fact, many students know little about the following:
- How to maximize and manage their credit cards
- How to understand the effect of interest rates on their student loan repayments
- How to use their CPF accounts towards buying a home, healthcare, or retirement
- How to use compound interest to build savings quicker
“I wish I knew more about finance before graduating, especially about how the interest rate on my student loans will affect my finances in the future,” says Agnes. “But I’m glad I know more now. I’d rather learn about finance late in my academic life than through an expensive mistake in the future.”
3. Pursuing Passions vs. Practicality
More than 75% of survey respondents said that pursuing their passions in life is important. “Finding a job in Singapore isn’t what scares fresh graduates, there are plenty out there,” says Long Teng. “Fresh graduates are picky not just because they want decent starting pay, but because they seek jobs that utilize their talents and passions.”
While many students have dreams of having a job that pays well and allows them live the famous quote “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” the reality is that most will have to make a tough choice.
That choice is this – either do something you enjoy that pays less (pursuing your passions), or do something you don’t enjoy that pays more (practicality).
“It’s a paradox of choice,” states Agnes. “There are plenty of job choices available to fresh graduates, but you still need to make that sacrifice of choosing to either do what you love at lower pay, or do something outside your interests at higher pay.”
What’s Your “Next Stop?”
The purpose of The Next Stop isn’t just to confirm the biggest fears of Singapore’s graduates. It’s about providing students with the information and resources they need to make better career and life decisions down the road.
“Finding information about buying a new home, using your CPF account, or choosing the right credit card can be overwhelming,” says Long Teng. “So we’ve made it a point to provide our fellow students with information that’ll help them cope with their quarter-life crisis through The Next Stop.”
The Next Stop will be holding an event called “A Casual Cuppa” (yes, there’s free coffee!) on 15 March 2014 at Lowercase café on the LASALLE College of the Arts campus from 1:30pm-5:00pm. It’s worth attending not just because it will be a forum-style event where you can ask your most pressing career and financial questions – but because you’ll receive a free Quarter-Life Survival Guide as well.
You can RSVP here to join this free event.
What words of wisdom do you have for the fresh graduates that will soon be joining the workforce? Share your views on Facebook! And to find even more useful information on everything personal finance, visit MoneySmart today!
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