KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 ― Driven by the success of celebrity influencers on social media, many younger people, especially Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) school-leavers are hoping to take a similar path.
In reality, this “dream job” among teenagers today, would not assure them of their future. While the more famous celebrities can make big money posting on social media, it is not possible for others to become influencers or even achieve success.
At the same time, the decision of these school-leavers, who hold the key to the future, is likely to see depleting human resources, especially skilled workforce and professionals in the country.
A study conducted by the UCSI University Poll Research Centre last month showed only 51 per cent out of 1,000 SPM school-leavers aged 18 to 20 years planned to continue studying, while 39 per cent chose to look for a job while another 10 per cent had no plans.
According to the study, those who did not wish to pursue their studies said they wanted to become influencers and social media affiliates (34 per cent), 26 per cent were interested in gig economy such as e-hailing, 22 per cent intended to start their own business and another eight per cent had no future plans.
Not an easy career
Acccording to popular TikTok influencer, Namie or his real name Najmi Shahrudin, 27, being a full time influencer is no mean feat as it cannot be planned at a young age.
Youths especially SPM school-leavers who are keen to jump on the bandwagon, should not make hasty decisions, said Namie, who is also a comedian and has been a ‘TikToker” for nearly three years.
“While we know our direction, we shouldn’t be hasty. In fact, we should have a plan and strategy.
“I was previously a teacher, but was also doing work as influencer. After carving a name in the industry, I then decided to change my career to full-time influencer,” he shared.
Deputy Dean (Graduate Studies, Industry and Community Relations), Human Ecology Faculty, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Assoc Prof Dr Zainal Madon said the younger generation are attracted to the “glitter and glamour” world of celebrity influencers, who can easily earn attractive income for their social media postings.
Without a doubt, the affluent and glamorous lifestyle portrayed by influencers through their social media accounts has motivated SPM school-leavers to take the career path as influencers.
“For some students, continuing their studies is not something to look forward to as they feel that good academic results do not guarantee them high-paying jobs. That’s the reason why many SPM school-leavers in particular, are no longer interested to further their university education,” he added.
A psychiatrist and Head of Department of Psychiatry, Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Azhar Mohd Yasin said the SPM school-leavers’ reluctance in pursuing their education is due to the ‘3P’ factor (Student, Education and Environment).
“From the student aspect, it is usually self-interest. We know today that there are students from the beginning are not focused on their studies and are just obsessed with online games and smart phones.
“Second factor is education. Perhaps for them (SPM school-leavers), the learning process itself is not exciting while realising that passing SPM or university will not guarantee them a good job.
“Third factor is environment, that is, many job opportunities are available such as e-hailing, with influencers portrayed as generating lucrative income. This is luring them to this career path as influencers,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, a psychologist from SEGi University, Prof Dr Datin Mariani Md Nor said, driven by quick results, SPM school-leavers tend to opt for such career as influencers.
“In today’s fast-paced world, people expect everything to be as simple as possible. For example, in a normal job, one has to go through three to four years of learning to obtain their academic qualifications before they are eligible for high positions and attractive salaries.
“However, they now feel that even without higher education, they can still afford to generate lucrative income,” she said.
However, some affected SPM school-leavers may decide to pursue their education if their career as influencers or in the e-hailing sector, does not meet with much success, said Mariani.
“Parents play a crucial role in motivating their children, whether to continue their higher education or ensuring their kids are well-provided for,” she added.
“Parents may not be able to make plans for their kids but at least they can play their role of ensuring their children succeed in life,” she said.
A psychologist at the Career Advancement Centre of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM-Karier), Alyaa Insyirah Huzili sees nothing wrong in the group choosing to become influencers or joining the e-hailing sector, but they should be given the right guidance by their successful mentors.
“Assistance should be given to these wannabe influencers with the guidance of their mentors. This is important as the mentors can guide them in their career path.
“They may not be working as influencers or in e-hailing forever, but if given the opportunity to build their own network, this group can look for other jobs that are economically stable,” she said.
Helping the family
For SPM school-leaver Ariff Farhan Zulkarnain, 18, who works as a food delivery boy, he decided to join the job market to help his brother support their family.
The second of five siblings said, he had to share the responsibility with his brother after their father could no longer work due to elderly health issues.
“It is very tiring, especially with the current uncertain weather conditions, but I am doing this (rider) for my family,” he said.
Ariff Farhan shared that he had been working as food delivery boy at the age of 16 by sharing the account of another rider, who was his senior in school.
“Officially, I’m still new at this job...less than a month. After completing my last SPM exam paper, I immediately applied for the food delivery job. Before this, I also delivered food while in school by using my senior’s account...he collected RM30 a day from me as rental,” he said.
Another SPM school-leaver, Muhammad Adam Danial Mohd Zamrie, 18, however does not agree with friends of his age who chose to become influencers rather than pursuing their education.
“There is a probability that they’re not able to gain popularity as expected, and besides that, looks and talents matter in this career. As such, it is better for them to opt for further studies first,” he added.
His view is supported by Norshuhada Zainol Abidin, 18, who is currently working temporarily at a factory after completing her SPM examination recently.
“Education makes you knowledgeable and is the key to developing character. With education, we develop the ability of making fair judgement and become self-dependent.
“To date, none of my friends wanted to be influencers, thanks to our experienced teachers who have instilled the importance of higher education in their students. That’s the reason why my friends and I plan to apply for further studies at a certain institution,” she added. ― Bernama