My friend, Jenn Jong, wrote a blog post sharing the benefits of students in Singapore taking up part time jobs.
In which, he recounted his daughter’s conversation with a cleaner auntie at work.
The auntie was upset that her son, a polytechnic student, had taken up a part time job managing sound systems at events. Events are typically held at night and hence he had to work late. While he assured his mother that he was still able to cope with the demands of his polytechnic studies, she was still worried for him not being able to perform well at school.
The mother’s concern is typical of the average Singaporean parents. They have been conditioned that the pathway to success in life is to get good grades. When you are studying, do not waste time on anything else. In many parents’ minds, grades are the only thing which matters.
I do not blame them for having such a mentality.
After all, till today, academic results are still an important selection criteria by the civil service and Singaporean companies. It is simply ridiculous that in this day and age, job applicants are required by some companies to list out all their O’level and A’level results for each individual subject they took and also provide their transcript.
In contrast, for the private sector, only a handful would even bother to ask for a copy of your degree or your GPA even if you’re a fresh graduate.
As such, many local children are told not waste time on other things, even if these are useful skills to have or can help one to develop their character.
In secondary school, I recalled feeling surprised when some parents told their child not to go for camps or to be too active in sports as it may distract them from their studies.
While this is a common perception of the older generation, I feel that it is misguided as it overlooks the importance of skills picked up from part time jobs that can potentially be valuable for one’s professional life especially in today’s market.
Learning can come in many forms. After all, Steve Jobs took calligraphy lessons, which he later credited to be the inspiration for Apple’s beautiful typography. In fact, in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, he explained how he could have never connected the dots looking forward, but the connection was very clear to him looking back 10 years later.
In my personal experience, running my own blog instead of purely focusing on my academic results while I was in university has definitely benefited my career today.
I started my blog as a side project in 2013 while I was interning as a journalist in Hong Kong. My objective was basically to improve my knowledge on sociopolitical issues and hopefully inspire other youths to get interested in current affairs to do something for their community.
As it was something I was passionate about, I was determined to grow my following and started to learn through experience and reading a lot about how to optimize my website design for clicks; grow and engage a community on Facebook; produce content that gets higher engagement levels and on search engine optimisation.
An accidental outcome was that I managed to pick up several skills in digital marketing such as SEO; how to create and present content that is relevant to my target audience and how to engage and grow my following.
When I entered the working world, I saw that there was a huge demand for these skills. The industry has moved so quickly and there was a shortage of talent who could keep up with all these changes. Even when I spoke to many people who worked in digital marketing agencies, I realized that some didn’t have as much knowledge about this field as I did despite their many years of experience.
When demand exceeds supply of talent, inevitably the compensation, benefits and prospects in the technology industry became generally better than average. Not wanting to miss this rocket ship, I quickly made a switch from traditional research into the lucrative adtech sector.
Besides equipping me with the necessary hard skills, being involved with blogging as a side project also built my character.
My experience helped me to better cope with criticism which was part and parcel of a blogger’s life: To block it out and laugh it off when it was malicious and intended to hurt. But also, to be humble and listen when it was constructive.
It also taught me to cope with ambiguity, to experiment and to learn things on my own as not all the answers would be readily found in school given that syllabus lagged behind the rapid developments in this sector.
I am not the only one I know who has benefited from this. My good friend Gerald Giam also shared about how he started as a developer in a dot.com startup in California while pursuing an electrical engineering degree. When he graduated, he never worked as an engineering but is now coding for his own tech startup.
Quoting him, “Sometimes part time work during your studies will be more useful to your career and life than the studies themselves.”
Besides having numerous benefits to one’s career, it is also clear from studies that higher education alone is inadequate in preparing students for the job market.
A recent survey by Glints showed that 90 percent of youths believe that the workforce they will be graduating into will be radically different from today’s workforce. On top of that 56 percent of young adults believe that what they are learning in school is inadequate for the future.
If one were to just spend all their time on just getting good grades, they would not only miss out on the benefits but also definitely lag behind their peers as 78 percent have already started to take ownership of their learning and look for opportunities outside of the classroom.
Our school system is largely geared toward the set-up: the emphasis on factual knowledge and certifications makes it seem like life is primarily about getting the best possible grades and giving our careers the best possible jump-start. Yet the connection between degrees and workplace success is growing ever more tenuous, while the ability to self-correct is growing ever more important—even though it’s hardly taught at school.Rolf Dobelli, The Art of the Good Life: Clear Thinking for Business and a Better Life
I hope that after reading my article, more parents would understand the value of letting their children work part time. Success in life is not related to grades and there are so much more ways which they could benefit from experiences outside of school.
Do you have a personal experience about how a passion project or part time job benefited you? Let me know your thoughts.