Monday, December 19, 2005

Have Your Say : School & Job Prospects

Hou, The Students' Notebook

From "Neighourhood vs elite schools: Does it matter?" (pg 42), 11 December 2005, The Sunday Times, RGS student Cheryl Tan says that "Having RGS on your resume makes a different impact...employers make the assumption that if you come from a good school, you have received a good education."

This week's question : Does the name/type of school you come from affect your job prospects?


"In this paper-chasing society, a job applicant from an elite school is more likely to get the job than others."

"Employers now look for something else rather than just academic qualifications."


Or do you have other views? Have your say! In particular, we would love to hear those from the working world to comment.

32 Comments:

Blogger Raen said...

Does the volunteering world count? :D


Let's see.

Initially when one goes out into the world for the first brushes with working, one might think that it does matter.

There are local stigmas which we cannot ignore, social boundaries which are unspoken of but somehow instinctively known by others, and certain mindsets about people from a certain school.

I've just started volunteering, so it's still pretty fresh in my mind. There's a certain unease when you get the courage to say that you're from a school which is not particularly well-known, and see the "huh" expression on the other party/parties' face/s. Then the spotlight turns to the next person who quietly declares that s/he is from a so-called "elite" school.

Ooh my. The soft sense of inferiority seeps in, because we are but children still.

But then, as you progress in life, climb up (or down?) the career ladder, the scales will almost be definitely tipped in favour of experience. Paper achievements are only as much as they are - paper. Look at those job adverts - "People with experience wanted".

Even life's about experience. No one's gonna give you a cert at the end of life's journey and say, "Well done, you've completed the Phase of Life, now you're on your way for the cert of Phase of Afterlife" - of course not. Tried and tested methods from those manuals or what not may work, but in the end experience is what makes the solution better than the original.

When you die, no one's gonna remember you as "So and so, the ___ boy/girl."

Non, they're going to remember you as "So and so, the (insert occupation/position)".

My 2cents. Did that even make sense? >_>

9:39 AM  
Blogger dan said...

I do agree with rien to some extent-

yes, at the end of the day it is experience that counts.

but when a person first starts out in the working world, and the interviewer is faced with two equally inexperienced graduates, who scored equally in their interviews, and one is from a neighbourhood school while the other is from an elite school, i believe the employer would be more invlined to pick the one from the elite school.

in all, what i'm trying to say is that, while going to an elite school does not exactly up your job prospects completely, it does, to a certain extent, allow you more opportunities.

elite schools do expose their students more to career fairs and also, and though this may be not entirely true- I think that elite schools provide better networking as the students there are generally more well-to-do.

however, at the end of the day, it's what you do and the work you put out that matters, and where you spent your school years eventually do not matter.

11:20 AM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

Yeah I think paper qualifications, whether you came from an elite school does matter at the beginning. See, at that time, the boss doesn't know you and has not seen whatever you've done, so naturally he'll judge you by your academic qualifications, etc.

But in the long run, when you start working and start showing your boss what you can do, whichever school you come from does not matter and does not mean anything to the boss anymore.

So it's like, whatever school you come from, whatever academic qualifications you have, all that is only temporary. The permanent determining factor is still your product and your work experience. Yeah, that's what I think.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Sak said...

Well, I am not in the working world but I have to say, I don't think that employers will care that much about what school you were from.

Like, let's say there are these two job applicants, one from RG and one from Macpherson. The applicant from RG has zero experience but on the other hand, the one from Macpherson has the experience and alot more.

Needless to say, the applicant from Macpherson would get the job.

Maybe it's just me or it may be that that's how it works..

8:47 PM  
Blogger Fan said...

In the working world, education is not everything that an employer would look for. An example is if 2 persons are eyeing for the same job - technician. Guy A studied in RI and then went on to RJC and lets say Cambridge. Guy B studied in some neighbourhood school lets say Yishun town and went on to poly and no uni degree. Guy A just came back from England but guy B had 5 years of experience as technician. If you are the boss, who would you choose?

9:56 PM  
Blogger mad girl said...

Yes, I believe your school name does affect your job application.
The truth is that most well-known schools provide more and better quality extra-curriculum activities (e.g. workshops, lectures from external professionals etc.) This, more often than not, produces people who are relatively more efficient in the workforce. This hence leads to the common mindset that people from well-known schools are 'better'. Companies will, as such, have a higher tendency in employing people from well known schools.

6:13 AM  
Blogger honeystars said...

but if it's all about experience. then the newbies will never get a job cause they always lose out to other more "experienced" ones, no?

that didnt make sense.

8:09 AM  
Blogger snl- said...

There's no doubt that the school you graduate from would count to your job prospects.

When you step into a job interview, the boss doesn't know who you are and what qualities you exactly have. The next best thing to judge you would be your testimonial. At this juncture, the school you graduate from would be a major influence in how they look at you.

It is how society is. The common mindset that you come from a top school means that you got a more "well-rounded" education and you would be able to contribute more to the company.

I'm currently a student now and holding a part-time job. As a brief introduction into my background, I would just say I came from a top school and am now in a better-known JC. I was lucky to get this part-time job due to the school I came from. The boss felt that I would do better. Thus from this personal experience, I would definitely say that it does influence you job prospects.

But yet, after you get the job, everything does not end. In the end, your work attitude is the most crucial factor. If you are talented and do well but have a really bad attitude, it would be difficult to hold on to the job. Again from the job I hold now, I find new-comers working for a few days before being asked to stop for work attitude.

There is one thing I have to clarify though. Personally I feel there is no difference what school you come from. Even if you are from a "neighbourhood school" it doesn't mean you cannot make the grade. I know of friends whom come from these schools and have shown themselves more capable than me (sadly hahas). So although the brand name of schools have an impact, I would say attitude in the end is the deciding factor.

Geez, I don't know if I made sense. Hahas. My one cent worth though.

8:48 AM  
Blogger scroll_lock said...

It's too superficial to accept a job application just on one's academic qualifications. But then again, this is the real world. It is the simplest fact that our society has already stereotyped people based on the school they attend.
Why do you think students would choose RGS over any neighbourhood school, should they have the ability to? It is because they know, that a RGS brand, would be a ticket that can take them further than any other school could. And that includes job prospect.
A RGS brand doesn't just guarantee a reasonable level of intellectuality, it also brings them closer to other opportunities. Such as volunteering in prestigious organisations.. All in the name of a shiny, polished resume.
And seriously, how often do you hear about neighbourhood students making good? Yes, there are success stories. But because it is THAT rare, that's why there are success stories.
Sure, there are other factors to consider such as, work attitude, blah blah blah, but wake up! Chances are, elitism's gonna win hands down.

9:37 AM  
Blogger [L]Ab|tx said...

Ok lets see.

I personally come from a rather good school. Seeing some of the comments made by some people here, i would say that your comparison is not that fair. Obviously what is more important when you apply for a job is experience in the related field. Thats is undoubtedly the most important factor. But for some of the comparisons made here, you have compared a fresh graduate to an experienced person. That is not a very fair comparion i think. Obviously the experienced person would get the job.

But if you were to compare between two fresh graduates, i would say that the person who have a better qualification than another would get the job. The school name and reputation that you come from is often equated to the quality of education you receive. Having come from a rather good school and with frequent chats with friends that come from neighbourhood school, i myself can feel that there is indeed a difference between the quality of education received. In a good school, it is very obvious that i know more about what im studying and i have been exposed to more stuff such as attachments and research projects. So I would say that when employers are interviewing fresh graduates, they would choose one that comes from a better school.

Even though i had said that people from a better school have a better chance to get a job, it does not happen always. You will have to consider the nature of the job. For example, if you were to enter the research and development (R&D) sector of a company, it is obvious that the person which comes from a university (not even mentioning a prestigous university) would get the job as compared to a poly student. You have to consider the nature of the job. In the R&D sector, more knowledge is required of the specific field and therotical knowledge is more important. In a university, students are taught towards the therotical side. Therefore this makes the job more suitable for a university graduate.

However, if the job requires more pratical and techical abilities, I would say that the poly student would be more appreciated than the university graduate. In a polytechnic, the students are exposed more towards the technical and hands on side of a specific field. Thus they would already have hands on experience in school and would thus be more preferrable for the job. Employers would definitely choose the poly student. The university student's therotical knowledge is rendered useless and thus puts him at a disadvantage.

So in conclusion, i would say that job prospects are not exactly affected by the school you come from. But the school's name would give you a certain degree of prestige when you apply for a job.

PS:My mum always complain that she have this surbordinate that she cannot fire simply because he is a scholar. Her boss thinks that he can work because he is a scholar, but in fact he is only a white elephant. Hope this example illustrates well enough what im trying to explain above if my english is too lousy for some people to understand. =)

9:44 PM  
Blogger chia said...

Aye,I think it matters. I agree with [L]Ab|tx !

To rephrase what he said,if you wanted to buy a can of mushrooms, and you had a choice between a really really well-known advertised brand of mushrooms or a can that you just chanced upon in the supermarket, you would probably pick the well-known brand.

And if you were looking for really salty mushrooms,and the other brand was known for its saltiness,you'd pick the other brand!
BUT if you didn't know that the other brand was well-known for saltiness,you'd pick the first well-known brand anyway,because you know that it'll taste good. And yopu know it won't give you diarrhea.

I think it all just lies on what the brand of mushrooms are known for.
and if you don't know what the particular brand of mushrooms is known for,you'd pick the brand of mushrooms you were most familiar with.

I KNOW THIS MAKES SENSE!

7:00 AM  
Blogger kingofcornysignoffs said...

ITs the employers choice if he should wish to pick the RI dude over the macpherson guy.
What are we going to do? Introduce affirmitive action like in America?? Where they sack white americans and pass it to african americans???

"OH you from RI? You sacked due to over-employment of RI boys."

we are all here discussing as if this issue is so grave. In all honesty, the macpherson guy will still have a job, based on his merits and the RI boy may get a better start in his career because he chose to work hard to his childhood.

Cry me a river.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Augustin said...

Its just the people you mix with. In the so called "elite schools", there are honestly the richer and sometimes the smarter people. So going by probability, both elite schools and neighbourhood schools have students who will succeed in life, just that more opportunities are given to elite school students and therefore the proportion of successful people coming from elite schools increase proportionately. =)

-Aug

9:27 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Elite school students will perhaps have an edge over neighbourhood school student due to several reasons:

Brand - Assuming same qualifications and experience, i believe that most employers will employ the elite school student, as employers largely believe that the culture of such schools have inculcated in their students will create students who are "elite" and "should be able to do a better job" Of course neighbourhood school students can do better than them, but it's the first impression that sometimes count the most.

Opportunities - being in a top school myself, there are lots of career opportunities in the form of careers forums, talks, internship etc. which i don't think are as common in other schools. Correct me if i'm wrong. Such opportunities will make the student more impressive, as he has a headstart by knowing how some things are done in the corporate world.

But these factors will only affect perhaps the application stage, beyond this, like in the interview stages, i think it's still anybody's game.

12:14 AM  
Blogger dot_the_differentials said...

well...i believe the school makes a difference.not just in terms of its brand value but also as an institution that is able to set the foundation for a great future. Being from an elite school does not equate to better job prospects. However it does enhance your chances through the moulding it provides.
Just take a look at our own society, maybe even the world. People who come from elite schools do have a higher rate of sucess in terms of career oppourtunity as a whole
Sure, we will have our Bill Gates, Sim Wong Hoos who may prove that it is more than just paper qualification. But how many are there in reality? Take a look at our own government,almost all our ministers,various heads of different ministry.name me one government official who did not have a elitist schooling background. Even in the private sector, more 50% of all our top proffesionals,i.e. Doctors,lawyers,accountant come from elitist school.
This may not be sufficient to substantiate the claim that school do affect your job prospects. But we cannot deny the fact on how our society functions.

3:08 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

I'm currently a student studying in NTU... Actually, nowadays, it doesn't really matter which secondary school or JC you come from anymore when it comes to applying for a job... Now, it's mainly what companies want to see on your university degree...

Wait, there's more than that. Even then, scoring good academic grades in the university doesn't matter anymore. What matters most is your CCA participation. I've a good friend who did crap in his University and he didn't even get any honours. Yet, he was offered a job in a prestigious Engineering company (Infineon Technologies) and scored a leadership position where he now managed a group of techinicians. This was because he was very active in CCA and he held several key positions in Engineering clubs for many years.

Also, my NTU friend told me that some companies in Singapore don't even want to look at your grades. They only want to see your CCA and working experience. At the bottom of the application, it was written : "Please do not attach you result slip".

At the end of it all, what matters most is your experience. You can be a chao mugger and get excellent grades, but in the cruel working world, you'll hardly get far with little experience. Just ask anyone in the university or the working world. They'll have the same views.

Oh, and how you present yourself during your interview is EXTREMELY important too. It's what makes or breaks you.

Note: This probably only applies to the higher class system like lawyers, engineers, doctors etc. I'm not very sure how other "lower class" jobs apply. But then again, if you don't have a university degree in Singapore, you're pretty much screwed (most of the time).

6:40 AM  
Blogger NGCH said...

I'm sure almost all of us agree that it is superficial and naive to determine a person's abilities based purely on the education institutes he studied in, and the results he gets.

Unfortunately, the truth is that most people have this flawed way of thinking, and it seems like it will not change for a long time.

Being a recent graduate of an 'upper-class' all-boys secondary school waiting to enter JC, I have yet to feel the stigma of being a student of an 'inferior' school. However, four years spent with my peers has revealed to me the ugly side of being among the so-called 'elites'.

I have racist peers who look down on malay teachers. I have heard the worst insults directed towards neighbourhood schools from them. Their behaviours and attitudes certainly leave much to be desired.

The point I want to make is, although studying in an elite school certainly gives you an edge in academic terms, the character of a person has little to do with which school he or she has studied in. A careful interviewer always take into account the candidate's character and abilities, not just his academic achievements.

In the real world, what seperates a capable person and one who is not is not black and white

7:30 AM  
Blogger readon. said...

well i peronally think the school name does affect the job prospects but to a rather limited extent.

for example, person a comes from an elite school while person b comes from some neighbourhood school.
person a goes on to study overseas, while person b finishes his studies in singapore. person b has a headstart and begins working, say as a technician.

both a and b apply for a job. so who will the boss pick? person a with no experience but lots of degrees or person b with the experience. i think person b, cause the job of a technician requires experience.

however, if it were other jobs, say accounting. having a degree, and a good one would be essential. having an elite school on your resume would therefore make a huge difference as there is a very sad sterotyping of elite = overseas educated, scholarships and full of degrees.

it is kind of sad why people bother to sterotype elite schools to more degrees, as in the current world, it is not always the case. studies are not everything ; one has to be sociable and have good social skills. what is the point of having an employee who does nothing but recall stuff from memory from his study days. interacting with others matter now, in this country where tertiary services form a major sector of our job industry.

i personally think that studies arent everything ; being in an elite school only secures your job prospects to a small extent [in a small realm of job sectors]. for today, experience and social skills do play a huge part. in fact, many companies are now making candidates for executive jobs take personality tests to see if they will fit into the company ; i.e. are they sociable? are they open to ideas?

9:28 PM  
Blogger brennan said...

School does not maketh the person. An elite school would definitely give you a better image, but not the fundamentals of working in the society.

I, for one, have started working after I had graduated from a neighbouthood secondary school. There are plenty of learning points at work which cannot be grasped in the vincinity of the classroom.

Being loaded with theories aplenty and minimal practicals which we have in our schools today (from what I had experienced) is barely enough for us to step into the reality of the working world.

However, it is true that many employers in Singapore uphold paper qualifications as the utmost importance. In many cases, this is not very effective judgement of a potential candidate.

In the real world, actions speaks louder than words. Apart from sound education, experience in the arena is another important factor in seeking jobs.

In retrospective, expeirence need not be calculated in years - but the quantity and quantity of knowledge he has relating to the potential job. This is the knowledge which I am refering to that cannot be obtained from the classrooms or school.

It is all up to the individual. And his aspirations and dreams. :)

7:19 AM  
Blogger bruddaKhai said...

hmm.. i cannot help but mentally concede the fact that employers would be inclined to favour a prospective employee from a so-called 'elite' school.

But i just wanna make an extension outside the peripheries of this issue: after the employee employs the 'elite', wouldn't he/she be coupled with a higher expectation checklist?

6:08 AM  
Blogger 23degreecelsius said...

Assuming exprience, acadmic qualifications are the same, CETERIS PARIBUS, an employer will MOST PROBABLY go for the candidate from an elite school. It's a hard-wired mentality for most employers I think...

8:25 AM  
Blogger calvinlinzw said...

All job seekers are equal, but some are more equal than others.

employers will have to discriminate based on whatever information they have, be it education level, experience, age, personality, response to situations, etc.

Sadly, sg seems too harped over paper qualifications as yet, in part thanks to the govt's attempts to preserve human resource.

Perserverance, performance (and maybe guan xi) win out in the long run.

1:56 AM  
Blogger theONEandONLYnick said...

I belive that both experience and school affects your job application.

However they are 2 completely different determining factors.

For example. If you came from a so called elite school while another person came from a neighbourhood school, obviously at first glace without considering their experiece, the employer would be more satisfied with a person who he believes has more experience, in this case, the person from the elite school.

If both factors are being considered, the whole process becomes more complicated. No one can say either factor outweights the other for both are just as important in getting a job.

5:20 PM  
Blogger tensonkourin said...

It's a social stigma at times.

I'm still a student so i'll just cite a recent example from my school life.

My cca was trying to get appeal cases through. Well, we had 3 pple appealing. 2 were from 'elite' schools compared to the 1 from a neighbourhood school. The 2 scored 20 and 19 for prelims while the one from the neighbourhood school scored 8 for prelims. My school principal refused to accept the appeals. For the 2 i understand. However, she did not accept the 8 pointer, citing that since the student is from a neighbourhood school, the student's prelim papers were suspicious in standards.

My point is social stigmas do exist that place neighbourhood school students at a disadvantage as they are denied opportunities to prove themselves at times.

5:41 PM  
Blogger KwokSiong said...

oh well, things like that cannot be helped.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Asuran Zara said...

well. in my opinion, being from a top school does help. although one should not always be overly dependent dat the brand name will always be there to ensure dat you get the job over ppl from schools, labelled as 'less elite schools'.

coming from a better school, i'm always constantly reminded dat its not the school which the determines your worth, bout you determine wat you you're worth.

about the experience bit, different job scopes will have different requirements. perhaps some companies which are only sourcing the best in the field will go for 'experience prefered', while some ther may juz look for the school. but a better option will be sourcing the best possible candidate based on experience.

look. if there are companies only looking for the top grads from cambridge, harvard, NUS juz to name a few without much experience, it wouldn't go very far. and if the company only employs ppl with experience, fresh ideas will be limited. it wouldn't be able to go very far anyway.

if society worked only on either principle, it will fail to progress and stagnate, or the ppl with fresh degrees will find it hard to get a job. balances are always required, and dats why different job prerequisites exist for different companies and jobs.

1:34 AM  
Blogger tensonkourin said...

From my dad's experience:

It matters if you are looking for local employment, doesn't if it's foreign companies. Once they know you are from RI, the employers would open their eyes wider.

4:04 AM  
Blogger iantannyiann said...

i think we all should just grow some brains
and realise that our education system is antiquated.

and so is the mindsets of our employers.

its not how much you can scribble on the paper.

its how much value you can portray towards your prospective employer.

12:55 PM  
Blogger kenny goh said...

To answer your question directly i think we need some quantitative data. One way is to send in bogus resumes, where two applicants have very similar credentials, but differ greatly in where they studied. Run the percentage of 'discriminated applications' with some statistical tools, and we should get a good answer. Qualitative arguments, in this case, can only do so much.

11:49 PM  
Blogger whoiswise said...

here is my experience.

i completed my NS in jun 2004. i was due to enter university but due to financial constraints, i could not make myself go through with it.

i decided to find a job and maybe save some money for a few years before going to uni.

i went for a few job interviews. namely, in the hotel industry and service industry and even in maritime. and i must say that it was interesting that every one of my interviewer would not fail to ask me this particular question.

"so, how come you are not furthering your studies?"

this is because, when they read through my resume and certificates they see the school that i came from. i am a rafflesian. and well, the natural path for any rafflesian will be to go to uni as soon as NS is done. and when they see the school i am from, they happen to seem more friendly. they comment that since i come from such and such a school, i must have better "manners" and will be able to grasp new things better and faster and should be well suited for the job.

so, frankly, in a sense, i have had favourable interviews due to the school i was from. but i am not going to depend on that in the future.

i am now in uni. and i plan to acquire as much experience as i can in as many fields as possible. and also i do part time work during the holidays and also participate in volunteer work. these are the things that will set you apart from the rest.

for esentially, acing the interview is how you get hired. having the qualification is just like wearing a nice suit to the interview. if you can make yourself favourable to your interviewer, you are guaranteed that you are not just going to be easily struck off the list of potentials.

yup, eliteness strikes you apart but eloquentness in the interview and experience gets you the job.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Gabriel said...

Certainly it does have a variable effect on jobhunts.

Some companies may be more liable to recruit graduates from prestigious institutions like RI. However, with the changing times, this is particularly having a very minimal effect.

They want quality workers like punctuality, effectiveness and productivity.

Sometimes, there is one issue which I think I want to address in here. Polytechnic graduates are more likely to be harder to get into Universities compared to JC students. Though a diploma has a higher value than an A level cert, this somehow creates problems for post graduates of secondary schools who are deciding whether they want to enter JC or Poly which directly affects their path of career.

7:55 PM  
Blogger blablablabla said...

Oh Singapore, Singapore, what a superficial world your people live in. Your standards and policies have blinded your people of true values in life. Curse be upon you who had made your people live in despair. Life is made meaningless and indirectional because of the perceptions you intend to keep so hardly, just for the sake of your own richness. But little do you realise you ripped apart life's meaning and purpose in them. Singaporeans became kiasu, heartless, living in despair and yet they still find no search of things that mattered the most in life, all because of the superficial belief your government implanted into the people's mind through your selfish regulations for your selfish ambitions.

That they do not even know it is characteristics and attitude that matters most in workplace. Experience matters a lot, but what is it when personality is in non-existence? With experience, skills, character, but not purpose in life, what are you people living for? Things that doesn't matter in life the singaporeans hold, but things that are necessary, the singaporeans lose.

8:11 PM  

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