Private University Grads: Here are the 5 things you must know to WIN in your career

Yes it’s true, Private University Students: You’re just not as good. Worse still: It’s probably your fault. Luckily for you, I fucked my life up early too. But, 8 years after my own graduation, I’m leading in a marketing role and closing pretty large deals. So, I suppose I’m uniquely qualified to help you pick up the pieces.

1. Recognise You Messed Up

Some people think that you’re not great because you had bad results in Secondary and Junior College, and by bad, I mean you didn’t qualify for a National University. In Singapore, that puts you a few notches lower than those who did qualify for a place. Wayne here put it succinctly: “It’s just facts”.

For the many of you that are reading this, you failed. Now recognise that you failed within the context of the Singapore system, but recognise that failing early means you have a lot more experience with failing than those that pass exams with flying colours all the time. This is important for the next point.

2. Graduate with Awareness

So, here’s the key:

You’ve got struggle on your side.

The truth is that you cannot prepare in school for reality in the workplace. At work, everything you do can backfire, and everything you can’t control can potentially cause mayhem in your work plans. Just ask the top executives at these companies if they expected to face profit-killing tariffs in 2018. A lot of them would have told you that this is screwing with their plans, but the seasoned ones will also tell you to roll with the punches.

The lesson in this for you is that you’re seasoned with struggling. So now, when your plans meet reality and start falling apart, you should be able to adapt, counter obstacles and move faster. It’s Jiujitsu!

If you’re looking for a practical application of this rule, here’s one:
Your plan is to apply for a job and get one within the first 3 months of graduation. You must first recognise that you’re going to be passed over quicker than students from the Big 3 (used to failing), so that means you have to be more precise, articulate and assertive (Practical Countermeasure 1). That means a customised cover letter with no grammatical errors, a well-constructed CV and the ability to articulate thoughts and opinions clearly during interviews (Practical Countermeasure 2).

3. Lay your Groundwork

I actually know quite a few business leaders, so the hirer’s perspective is important in this scenario. I’ve heard, time and again, that potential employees need to display more than just their grades or university. They need to see that you’ve got a handle on real world application of the skills you already have, and that you have enough grit to stay the course when things get hard. This is true for SMEs, non-government bodies, and multiple MNCs.

Those skills don’t come from class. They come from the intersection of the sum total of your being with the reality of the world at large. That means that you must consider the value of every single job you’ve taken so far, in the perspective of the employer. Here’s an example:

You’ve worked in a Starbucks store before.

So what are your skills in the context of different jobs?

  • Ad Traffic Controller: I’m able to multitask and manage multiple requests under pressure.
  • Sales: I understand how to open up and connect with customers and understand how to trigger purchase decisions.
  • Operations Executive: I understand workflow and manpower management, and I recognise that placement of personnel makes a huge difference in maximising operational efficiency.

So what if you haven’t ever done a job in your life, ever?

Get an internship, grind out the 3/4/6 months, then use that to your advantage in the next job application! I mean, so many business leaders I know have this exact piece of feedback:

4. Tap on your connections

A wise old man once told me the following:

“What you know is important, but who you know is more important”

This has rung true time and again for me in work, and in my side businesses. It’s not that your accountancy skills or eye for photography is not important. It’s that if you want to take that skill to the limit, you need friends and acquaintances who can amplify what you already have.

That means that you need to start seeking people with the same desires, drives or aspirations. Find those 5 or so friends who can drive you higher and further, and really go in deep with them. Share your desires and ideas with them and they’ll fuel your growth, as much as you fuel theirs. You won’t know it, but these are the people that will give you the ideas, vision and opportunities you need to supercharge your career. Surrounding yourself with the right people is super important, so make sure you do it.

5. Apply the No Complaining Rule

The reason why so many articles about salaries come out and make people feel so bad is that people love pity parties. Don’t believe me? Start complaining about how you’re not being paid enough for your shit job, and watch as people start commiserating with you.

Look: Life sucks. You dog’s gonna die, people are going to screw you, you might get fired from your job anytime, you’ll grow old and die. Guess what? No one really cares, and the ones that do can’t help you. So why are you wasting time on complaining? 

Stop Wasting Time!

Complaining doesn’t do shit for you. It’s the act of expending energy in a useless endeavour of self-pity. Instead of gathering your “friends” around to complain about life, go and do something about it.

The some of the best friends and business associates I work with and meet on a regular basis will tell you that they’re really busy to meet people. So when we do meet, we don’t have the time to do anything but share ideas, food, and a few laughs. These are people that have built businesses from scratch, bootstrapping in some cases to get their companies going and suffering to get things done right. Guess what?

I’ve never heard them complain once.

Do anything but complain, and I guarantee that by the end of this year, you’ll have achieved more than you did by wasting your time on bitching.

Go Execute

I get that Private University Students don’t have the same opportunities, that you have struggles. I empathise because I am one, and my friends and I have been through tremendous amounts of pain to get to where we are now.

You’re already starting behind, so don’t spend any more time worrying about your decisions. Go and do. You started on the backfoot, so you have to be ready to eat shit and grind out your early wins so you can get ahead.

Finally, If you take nothing else away from this, remember just one thing: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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