Expectations over Reality?

Cover Story

By Ili Aqilah and Nantini Krishnan

Last May 2015, minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar admitted that over 161,000 graduates or 8.8 per cent of youths, aged between 20 to 24 years old, had yet to find jobs. Malaysia’s youth unemployment rate was recorded at 10.4 per cent, higher than Singapore (7 per cent) and Thailand (3.4 per cent). These worrying numbers led Ipoh Echo’s team to investigate what went wrong. Are our youths too picky in selecting jobs? Are there any job vacancies left for them, now that the economy isn’t doing well? We sat down with a group of students to discuss their future and their entering the working world and the horror of being unemployed.

Are our Malaysian graduates picky when it comes to job selection?

Graduates tend to be too choosy about the jobs they pick. Everyone has that ideal job that they strive to attain. Perfect company culture, room for advancement, great pay and benefits and awesome co-workers. What more could a person ask for? Reality is likely to be a disappointment when you begin looking for a job and realise that the ideal is few and far between. When graduates demand so many perks and benefits, they end up losing an opportunity that could benefit them in the long run. Ultimately, they deprive themselves of the larger benefits of gaining professional exposure and enhancing career profile.

According to Kavineshshen Selvarajah, 25, a fresh graduate from University Malaysia Pahang, many are willing to take the leap from student life into career but not all are taking it seriously, causing the increasing unemployment rate. Besides, many are less concerned about market demand and don’t question themselves if they have what it takes to be one of the best in their respective field. Also, many are willing to emigrate overseas looking for better job opportunities.

Nor Farhana, 26, a fresh graduate from Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam,  said that “Obviously the current economic downturn in Malaysia is causing many fresh graduates or even experienced ones to not be able to secure a job. Some are even getting retrenched from their current jobs. As for me I don’t expect everything to come easily. Get experience and be willing to work anywhere as long as it is a decent job. Even if I can’t secure a job now, I can always learn to find my own job, like do online business, meanwhile waiting to be hired.”

“I do think that there are still sufficient job opportunities in Malaysia. However, we’re also learning about the unemployment rate of fresh graduates in the country. My philosophy is to ask what I can do for the company, and not what the job will lead me to. We can’t expect any company to blindly hire us and pay us high salaries, or provide us comfortable dream jobs without first proving our capabilities to them. We shouldn’t have too high expectations about the salary and the returns of the job because employers are the ones who are expecting something from us,” said Sia Woon Ann, 23, student from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR).

Selecting the right course

In choosing courses in universities/colleges, students should pay special attention. Subject choice is important. Read all the course descriptions for the courses you are applying for and check the career demand for the course. Do not ever apply for any course in the hope that you can swap to something else that is more interesting or you don’t currently have the grades for at the start of term. Universities aren’t to be trifled with; if the swap doesn’t happen, you could get stuck on a 3-year course you never actually wanted to do at all.

Students also should pick courses based on their capabilities and not based on popularity. For example, if you are not capable in Engineering, putting yourself through the course is not going to make you more employable in the Engineering markets.

Ipoh Echo asked a number of young graduates and final year students from different universities, their advice for others on selecting their future course.

“Choose what you love, and love what you choose. Never restrict ourselves in making choices. Instead, we should understand our strengths and weaknesses, and try to leave ourselves with more options. It’s good to open ourselves to whatever possibilities that may come!” said Ong Sing Hui, 26, who is studying in UTAR.

For Munny Chai Wai Mun, she believes in doing something with love and interest as that will be the only thing that drives you to be better. “Avoid following the crowd. Many students base their decisions on their friends and family. There is nothing wrong in that, but try imagining if all the passengers in the subway are walking towards the same direction to the front coach. Why can’t we walk in the opposite direction to a different coach?” said Munny, 22, who is in her third year of Bachelor of Marketing at UTAR.

What’s the end game?

With the unemployment rate getting higher, especially among the youths, it is indeed the time to think outside the box. Instead of waiting for it, why don’t we create a job? For Siti Shahirah, 22, and Loo Xiao Ying, 19, who are both students at Sunway College Ipoh, they decided to plan ahead before graduating.

“The job market is competitive. We are currently working on a business project together where we will use the social media as the marketing platform. It is still relatively new, but we hope we will rise to success,” said Siti Shahirah who is currently doing her diploma in business administration.

However, many future and fresh grads are still keen on applying for jobs despite the competitive market as it will be hard for them to start on their own.

“The dream is to open my own firm. To do so, I need to have the experience and learn from the seniors before opening up my own company,” said Chong Teck Shen, 21, who is currently doing ACCA at Sunway College Ipoh.

The question, remains: What is the end game for our future grads? Can they afford to be picky during this period of time? With the unstable economy we are facing now, it seems like they have no choice but to just go with any offer they can get, unless they can handle the risk of self-entrepreneurship. Revathy Ganesan, 23, who just completed her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at UTAR believes in choosing the course that has a good career demand in future,

“I am currently working so I can gain some industrial experience before pursuing my Master’s,” said Revathy who agrees that it is common to see graduates working in jobs that is different from their field of study.

Yong Say Fong, who is in his final year of Bachelor of Business Administration at UTAR, has a different opinion, “I believe in passion. That is what will keep us going. We need to follow our passion no matter what and how. Be different. After all, we only live once,”said the 21-year-old lad.

Work harder, be smarter and grab as many opportunities as you can because you will never know where it will bring you. Either you are doing the course that you like or the course that is in demand, do your best to succeed appears to be the general consensus.

As for the three fresh graduate reporters at Ipoh Echo, the two authors of this article and Mei Kuan, “we’re thrilled to have been given the opportunity to be hired by Ipoh Echo as fresh graduates. We find our work challenging and stimulating and we’re learning new things every day. The life and business lessons we’re learning will stand us in good stead for our future.”

Good luck to our future grads.

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