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My First Job: Expectations vs Reality

Mid last year I wrote a reflective post about 5 things to remember as I embark on my first job in SE when I was about 1 month into my first rotation. 1.5 years in, I must admit that I was struggling a lot at the start of my journey. I found myself often questioning my ability and my role in supply chain as I often felt that my knowledge and experience was a complete mismatch from what is needed in my role during the rotations. There were plenty of tears shed.

Below is a personal piece about my journey and the 3 expectations that I had initially.

Expectation 1: I’m going to do something relevant to my degree

The reason why I probably felt very stressed at the start of each rotation was probably because at the start of my journey, I had this mindset that the work that I will be doing will be very much related to what I studied in NUS Business School, involving case studies/ marketing/ hr management etc. I mean there must be a reason why we are encouraged to go to university right?

Reality: Not everything is going to be relevant. What's important: Transferable skills + AN OPEN MIND

I realized the knowledge that I learnt may not necessarily directly apply to the work that I’m doing at work. It is the transferable skills that was acquired in school that is most relevant. Eg. Doing research papers made me more resourceful. Marketing projects helped to hone my creativity and my ability to put my thoughts and ideas into words and frameworks. Business classes gave me a voice as class participation encouraged us to share our thoughts. These were some of the transferable skills that I paid little attention in school as I fixated myself on the end goal, a better cumulative average point (CAP). But these are the skills that have helped me to become more adaptable and agile at work and to embrace the uncertainty that came along with it.

I was crying every day thinking this job isn’t for me and that they should have gotten an engineer instead. Thankfully, I had friends that pointed out that if I don’t change my mindset, I will always remain an imposter. As such, I worked on myself to quickly learn the essential knowledge and seek out experts who could guide me on certain processes (blessed with kind colleagues willing to take some time to explain things to me). It took me about 3 months to realise that I need to stop harping about how my degree is not relevant to the work that I’m doing. Instead, find ways for which the skills I have can be applied here.

I still struggle from time to time as people tell me that I need to be more technical, but it’s a process that I’m learning to embrace.

Expectation 2: You are going to make a difference in the company

I mentioned in my previous article about how as fresh graduates, we are excited to make a difference in the company eagerly, but we need to be patient about it. Sometimes this eager and excitement, may be the reason why most of us end up jaded in our first job – when we feel that what we’re doing is just not enough to make an impact or that some red tapes or bureaucracies are preventing your ideas/ projects from going forward. Sometimes, I feel like my role to manage certain projects is insignificant because I feel like I’m merely a middleman. These thoughts will drag you down if you’re not proud of what you do or if you don’t find greater meaning to your role.

Reality: You are going to make a difference anywhere you go, not only in the company, if you take the initiative

A colleague told me it is important to find and create those opportunities for yourself to be able to make that difference (be it in your career or life in general) and not just be patient about it. Upon reflecting, I realized what he said was true. I am not only constrained to the company processes to make a difference. ‘Making a difference’ need not be something huge. It could be greeting people in the corridor or helping to give out fruits to your colleagues. Taking part in the wellbeing recreation committee is also one way I felt I could make a difference. I also pursued things outside the company such as my rural electrification expedition with the aid of crowdfunding and my savings to pursue a mission that I believe in. So yes, when you take ownership of what you want to achieve and think outside the box, it will happen. Having said that, not everyone will have the luxury of doing things outside of work/ jobscope and in a result-oriented company, it may seem as a non-value adding activity but in a company that values its employees, I’m sure it will go a long way.

Expectation 3: My job is better than yours

Growing up, I constantly compared myself with my peers. Some say it is a kiasu mentality and the desire to thrive in this rat race and ‘be the best’. After graduating, naturally, comparison would be based on the types of jobs we take, the title we have, the salary that we bring home, the lifestyle we lead etc.

Reality: It’s not about the comparison but the meaning you find in your job. But essentially, don’t compare

Did I settle? Should I be getting a higher salary? Why do their jobs sound more exciting? These thoughts were constantly in my head. It caused me to struggle even more with the technical terms/ feeling like an imposter at work. I had multiple breakdowns at the start until I reached a point where I told myself that I need to stop comparing because it was making me so unhappy. I had to constantly remind myself that I am me, and that they are themselves with different goals/ passion. For me, I was glad to work in a company whose mission I strongly believe in and that was enough to ensure that I persevered despite struggling in the various roles. I know I shouldn’t compare my job with anyone else’s and vice versa. Everybody has different ideals of what they want to achieve in their career. The only person you should be comparing against is yourself, if you are a better version today.

"It's the climb!" (The Climb by Miley Cyrus)

There have been plenty of learning in my journey so far and I hope this was relatable in some ways. Ultimately, the mindset adopted when faced with such expectation vs reality is what will set us to be better versions of ourselves. Now, as I move on to my last rotation in this program and eventually my landing role, I will need to constantly remind myself to take on a growth mindset through this career journey! And I hope the same for you 😊 The following article is written in conjunction with Singapore’s Career Stories 2019 Writing Competition on the theme of #MyCareerJourney organized by CareerSocius.


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