APRIL 17 — When I finished secondary school, my father gave me a book on careers that also included a section on resumes and cover letters.

His wisdom is part of the reason I managed to get jobs, even if I wasn't very good at keeping them for a while. Not until much later anyhow.

What I learned over many years, and varied careers, is that people are different as are job environments. If you're lucky, you'll find somewhere you fit early on but other times it will take a while and a lot of times, it is not even your fault.


I graduated with an IT degree during the dotcom bubble burst. It was hard finding work, and many days, I found myself getting by with an allowance from my father and temping as a receptionist.

Now, again, I'm seeing kids being told: Hey, get into tech. Get into AI. Be data scientists. Learn to code.

I was learning the fundamentals of AI even in university and that was over 20 years ago. Even back then, people were trying to create smarter computers.


My short stint at an employment agency taught me that you can't expect for certain that a degree will get you into the field you studied and what higher learning institutions don't tell you is that many times those jobs you want are being held by people without paper qualifications.

The way academia is structured it feels more like a moneymaking scheme more than anything.

Having worked in corporate environments I find that degrees are little more than pieces of paper that prove you spent way too much money doing way too many exams.

For instance: why does a sales executive need a degree when their job lies mostly in product knowledge and networking, neither of which you learn in university?

I saw a Malaysian mother gush in the comments of an article about a student getting offers from various Ivy League schools.

“I must send this to my daughter so she will be inspired!”

She glossed over the fact that the student was from a very expensive and exclusive private international school.

I told my friend if that student didn't get any offers, his parents should ask for their money back.

Like during my time, kids were being told to do STEM for the future! Do STEM for your country!

The harsh reality is you could probably make more money working up to a managerial role in retail or in F&B than in the natural sciences.

What the writer learned over many years, and varied careers, is that people are different as are job environments. — Reuters pic
What the writer learned over many years, and varied careers, is that people are different as are job environments. — Reuters pic

As for IT, the founders of some of the biggest tech names today dropped out of college to pursue business opportunities though it's not something I would encourage.

The reality is that more than half of businesses fail. It's easy, if you're Bill Gates, with very well-off parents to get seed money and not worry about debt and homelessness.

Thinking back, I was luckier than most children of my social class (lower middle class) as I had parents with higher than usual language aptitudes and being able to gain basic computer skills at the age of seven.

Now, we have university students who don't know how file systems work and are used to having information just fed to them via short form video or Google searches.

For people to actually be prepared for the workforce, what they need has to be started from childhood ― language skills, computing knowledge, learning to navigate the complexity of networking beyond the insipid walls of LinkedIn.

I got my first writing freelance job by hanging out at a bar, at a media networking meetup. The thing is, putting yourself out there to meet people, hasn't gone obsolete at all.

What no one tells you as a kid or as a young adult is that what's most important is figuring out what you can do well enough to put money on the table.

What they also don't tell you is that sometimes it's all just a matter of luck or timing, knowing the right people or having a good support system.

In the last few decades, little has changed. All I can say is that what you need to do is invest in yourself and believe in your own potential, instead of trying to follow whatever seems to be in trend.

Though if you really just want a job that pays the bills, remember kids ― they will always want accountants.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.