Individual initiative important in securing meaningful career

Given the uncertainty of the global environment, policy changes in the classroom and at the workplace can prepare young Singaporeans for future challenges (Help young S'poreans attain basic goals by Mr Louis Peh Chwee Hoe; Feb 16).

Yet, often absent from such discourse is the initiative of the individual, especially in the context of securing long-term and meaningful careers.

Three endeavours can be useful: securing internships, seeking career advice, and building connections.

Not all schools work actively with companies to provide internship opportunities, but students can source for their own openings.

Even though internship stints are short, they help students determine whether they are well-suited for a company or an industry. In this vein, participation in different stints widens exposure.

The intern has to be diligent and punctual, deliver on roles and responsibilities, and interact with full-time employees of the company, so as to maximise their learning.

When career decisions are being made, the intern will be in a better position to narrow down sectors and fields of interest.

Thereafter, the second and third endeavours should fall into place.

From my experience, effective career counsellors do not decide for the individual what jobs or industries are "the best".

Instead, interests are matched with realistic job options as far as possible, over iterative sessions and personal research on the part of the student.

The student can also seek information and insights from experienced professionals, such as career counsellors or contacts made through internships.

Individual initiative remains important and, in this regard, policies should be complementary.

Internship programmes, for instance, should not be a source of cheap labour, and oversight from the Government or the universities can ensure fair amounts of compensation. Directories or listings of internship opportunities should facilitate the matching process.

Career counsellors could also be appointed in secondary schools to get younger students thinking about suitable pathways.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Individual initiative important in securing meaningful career'. Print Edition | Subscribe