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Friday, January 27, 2023
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MAN TELL FRESH GRADS TO BE NOT SO COCKY, THEIR BRANDED DEGREES ARE USELESS

After working for 10 years, I think young uni students need to remind themselves that the industry is nothing like school.

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People who do very well in school will generally do much better than the average income earner, but there isn’t any reliable metric that we know of to predict how far up the corporate hierarchy you can go based on how well you’ve done in school.

I work for a multinational, and the most successful Singaporean in the company, in fact one of the only non-American partner at the firm who is based in Singapore, was a poly student who graduated from Tasmania. One level down, and many of my Singaporean associate directors come from an enormous variety of backgrounds, none of whom did particularly well in school.

In Singapore, it is not uncommon to hear of young graduates from Cambridge or Oxford or an Ivy League university and it is easy to think that the competition is overwhelming.

In reality we honestly don’t know how well these people will do. Being a very good student comes down to two things, natural intelligence and discipline. At work, many other traits are rewarded. It isn’t an asset to be sociable in school but the managing director of sales at our company made 700K last year. I worked on her team for a year and our job was primarily talking to customers and building relationships in the industry. Nothing technical. In school, if you’re the most technical person you’ll end up at MIT; at work, if you’re the most technical person it is rare that you will make management. If you do make management as a genius engineer it would have been for reasons other than your engineering skills.

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Success in the world of business is even more varied. I have met owners of a small family business that make close to a million in profit every year from just managing rental properties for landlords. They clean, they market, they find tenants, and they earn a fee from doing it. I have met a marble dealer who made 2.5 million profit last year. I meet a lot of business owners because of my work in consulting.

It’s fine to be proud of scholastic achievements. It’s fine to pursue it hammer and tongs. But know that the world is enormous and people are rewarded for many skills and traits that many people would deem useless.

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