NUS freshmen hone career skills under new $10 million programme

SINGAPORE - Career skills programmes at most schools usually focus on interview and resume-writing skills, and are mostly catered to graduating students.

But at the National University of Singapore (NUS), more than 2,000 freshmen have started attending a series of pilot programmes that teach them how to cope with change and failure, and market themselves to employers by building a personal brand through storytelling techniques.

NUS is investing $10 million into these initiatives over the next three years.

One programme, for instance, is the Roots and Wings programme, under NUS' Centre for Future-ready Graduates (CFG), a new career centre that started in 2015, started running in January and lasts for 10 weeks.

It consists of two parts: Roots & Wings 1.0, which includes workshops and online video modules that introduces simple exercises like mindfulness, with the aim of increasing students' self-awareness, as well as Roots & Wings 2.0, which involves workshops in smaller groups of about 30. These aim to encourage students to reflect on their strengths and aptitudes, and delves further into the psychology behind their behaviours and attitudes.

Through better understanding of their underlying values and motivations, students can gain an analytical foundation that allows them to find out how to build their personal brands and market themselves to employers.

"During sharing sessions in the workshops, we observed that students tend to use the collective 'we' to express what they feel and are hesitant to assert themselves as individuals. But employers like Google or Vodafone have given us feedback that they need job candidates to take on a more entrepreneurial mindset, and articulate what they stand for in an age of change and technological disruption," said Ms Crystal Lim Leahy, 36, the director of the CFG, speaking to reporters at the NUS Career Fair on Monday (Feb 1).

First-year NUS electrical engineering student Ong Ming Lun, 21, has learnt to see things in a multi-disciplinary light after attending the Roots & Wings 2.0 programme, which teaches him broad-based skills like emphatic communication.

"I've learnt how to better relate my ideas to people from other disciplines, and adapt my views to their perspectives," he said.