Millennial Voices

What It Means To Have A University Degree In 2016

It’s the day you receive your diploma or your ‘A’ level certificate. University brochures are pouring in through the mail with their impossibly happy graduates, smiling about their university lives or their lives after that. “Come here. We’ll equip you with what you need to enter the real world”, they seem to say.

If only this were true.

How it is one can smile so glamorously in a study group, I’m not sure. Most of the time, we students are just slogging away when we’re in university. What’s worse, however, is that after years and years of mugging, late nights and examinations, grads are welcomed into adulthood with the best welcome gift: unemployment.

The New Unemployed

Got your degree? Congratulations! You’re officially unemployed. Upon graduation, graduates of 2016 will add to the “unemployed” statistics of the Singapore economy. Having a degree no longer gives you any kind of special edge and companies’ general attitudes towards graduates are more or less the same: “Everyone has a degree. Why should I hire you?”

With an excess of graduates and a falling number of job vacancies, that piece of paper no longer represents any kind of job security. Welcome to the 21st century.

Hustle, Hustle, And Then Hustle Some More

When was the last time you heard of someone going on a gap year? You haven’t? Me neither. No one has time for that anymore, not in this economy. Some people even skip their grad trips—and not to save money. Graduates of 2016 will start their job hunt at the beginning of their final semester in school. If you haven’t secured yourself a job somewhere, brace yourself for the sympathetic looks from your peers who have.

After 15-ish years of education, many graduates immediate dive into the working world. No one has time to rest or to take a breather – having a degree certainly won’t make your life any easier.

Eat Your Humble Pie

Despite the thousands of dollars we spend getting a university education, in 2016, the value of a degree is, sadly, equivalent to that of an ‘O’ level certificate 10 years ago. Everyone has a degree, so having a degree doesn’t make you very special. In fact, it’s the “bare minimum” if you want to land yourself a decent job.

Having a degree is simply not enough; you need to supplement that with work experience. And those of us who didn’t plan as far ahead and who didn’t get around to beefing up our resumes will have to kick ourselves as we struggle to convince employers it’s us they should hire. In this day and age, you can’t be too picky with your job. More often than not, it’s your job that picks you.

Coming Up With A New Strategy

While things may seem bleak, not all hope is lost. Instead of fighting their way into conventional paths, many graduates are creating their own paths through innovative startups. With graduates becoming increasingly disillusioned about their futures, many are looking into starting their own businesses, even if it’s got absolutely nothing to do with what they studied in university.

With social media and a digital space that is open and available to all, these days, you don’t need a brick and mortar store to run a business. A little Googling and reading up online will tell you virtually everything you need to know about how to make the Internet work for you. And if e-commerce isn’t for you, you can be your own brand by putting your perspectives and personality out there.

Millennials are a tech-savvy bunch and in the absence of opportunity, I think we’re adept to create some of our own. What this also means though, is that many degree holders will end up doing things that have little or nothing to do with the courses they studied—not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Having a degree today really isn’t the same as having a degree in the past. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the possibilities that a degree can promise, and keep your mind open to other options.

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