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What It Means to Work for a Startup (As a Fresh Graduate) Part 5 of 6

Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. In my previous two articles as part of this 6-part sequel, I have shared about my personal experiences as an undergraduate and fresh graduate. In the final two articles, I would like to share the ups and downs of starting my career in a startup. Choosing the unconventional path takes a lot of courage and by sharing my own story, I hope to encourage you in finding the career that you desire.  


 

 

Choosing The Startup Path 

My decision to work for a startup was not favoured by many relatives and friends. 

Salary, job security and career progression were shaky. 

Personally, it was also contradictory to my initial goal of securing a good-paying job. 

And frankly speaking, a low starting pay was a huge concern. I’ve heard common advice on how a low pay in my first job will affect the next job offer (I hope not!)

 

As many put it, working for a startup is not for everyone. 

 

Sacrifices in The World of Startup

Choosing this unconventional path came with tremendous risks and stresses - mental stress of having to manage multiple roles and huge workload, physical stress of working long hours (during peak period) and financial stress of having to survive on an intern pay for some months. 

 

 

 

Many sacrifices had to be made - be it personal interests, material wants or social life. 

It takes a lot of passion, determination and discipline to keep up. 

Work benefits were minimal, progress (in terms of advancement) was limited. Given a volatile startup environment, hard work is not necessarily proportionate to returns. Being overworked and underpaid is common. 

 

With the fast turnover rate, manpower was hardly replaced and workflow was unstructured. 

I had to adapt fast and manage the additional workload - ranging from marketing, simple designing, sales and events etc. I had to be extremely organized and well-paced to continue performing at optimal amidst the “chaos”. 

 

Working hours was not necessarily long everyday, but I was never truly out of work. I was constantly on social media and handling email correspondences after working hours, during weekends and holidays especially when it’s event period. Not that it’s a must, but I felt accountable (you’re likely to feel it too).

 

Food For Thought: How Ready Are You to Work for a Startup? 

 

Opportunities in The World of Startup 

Of course, sacrifices came with many diverse learning opportunities, and growth. 

I challenged myself in ways I could never have imagined should I have chosen the “safe” path.

I was immediately put to test during my first week of work (as a fresh graduate) to roll out marketing and promotional efforts for the company’s largest festival of the year (close to 1,500 people!) 

I was challenged almost every single day, constantly learning about marketing trends, social media strategies and business dealings to accelerate my learning. 

 

It was stressful. 

I was constantly accountable for event ticket sales, website traffic and social media engagement. Any mistake I made could affect the company greatly.

 

 

But there was something new everyday.

I liaised with sponsors, vendors, influencers, media and experimented with different social media tools.  

I learnt about digital marketing, events liaising and management, sales pitching and fostering partnerships.

I took part in many events and met inspiring entrepreneurs!

 

Food For Thought: Are You Looking Forward to The Opportunities? 

 

How The Startup Life Nurtured Me

Every decision, no matter how small - and every member, no matter how new - are rudimentary to the company’s survival. 

Being part of a young and dynamic team, I was given a say. I could give feedback and meet clients on my own. I was constantly communicating very openly and working very closely with the management team, as well as being introduced to valuable insights of how businesses were managed. These translated into very useful skills and experiences that I could share and display during meetings, interviews and networking sessions. I believe the best story we could ever share, is our own personal experience. They’re unique, enriching and inspirational. 

 

3 Key Strengths I’ve Gained 

While I’m in the process of searching for a new full-time job, I’ve grown a lot from where I was six months ago prior to my working experience in the startup. 

 

 

 

As a problem solver - addressed customer dissatisfaction, proposed constructive feedback to improve workflow and system, crisis management

As a versatile learner - tested and validated my ability to pick up new roles fast and manage multiple projects simultaneously in a fast-paced environment

As an effective communicator - more confident to network, foster and manage relationships with clients 

 

The market is tough right now, I’m feeling it as a fresh graduate. But with valuable learning experiences in both startup and agency environment, I have learnt to present and articulate my thoughts better during interviews. 

 

Food For Thought: How Do You Wish To Grow?

 

What I’m Currently Doing

I’m actively on the lookout for suitable job openings, attending more interviews and meeting more people. 

 

Every interview attended is a door unlocked.

Every networking opportunity taken is a relationship forged. 

Every conversation with prospective employers is a lesson learned. 

 

 

I am constantly understanding what companies are looking out for and what the different industries entail. As much as I’m dealing with potentially more rejections and disappointment, I strongly believe that every journey is worth taking.

I keep myself abreast of new opportunities by utilising job search portals and updating my presence on fast-growing career platforms such as Linkedin for networking, Glassdoor for industry and company insights and Stroff for useful and applicable career guidance tips. 

 

Food For Thought: What Are You Doing To Help Yourself?

 

End of Part 5: Career Guidance for Fresh Working Adult

 

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What I Went Through as a Fresh Graduate - Part 4 of 6

Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. Through my 6-part sequel, I will like to share my personal stories during my university education and post-graduation. Following my first article where I shared about my experiences as an undergraduate, I will be sharing some of the personal struggles I faced as a fresh graduate in my fourth article. Trust that you are not alone in your journey, enjoy the article.

 

 

Fresh Out of School - What’s Next? 

You are exhilarated by the moment of glory, wearing the graduation gown on stage.

The next moment you find yourself overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity. 

You start experiencing the realities of job search. 

 

There’s so much to start preparing yourself for - applications to send, series of interviews to attend, questions to ask.. 

 

There are many questions which, at the moment, you don’t have an answer to.

What exactly do you want as a career? 

Where should you apply to?

Can you get your desired pay? 

 

Job search is hardly smooth-sailing. It takes effort, patience and perseverance. 

Even if you are desperately looking for a job, give yourself some time to identify suitable opportunities instead of rushing into one (really, don’t rush into it). 

 

Think Broad, Research More 

If you are really lost at the start, think broader and widen your options. Based on the list of job postings you have encountered, start eliminating those industries and jobs which you definitely do not want. 

 

 

Come up with a list of job options that you are willing to take up. 

 

If you are not sure of what specific skills you can highlight in your resume, start identifying the available job positions with prerequisites that you satisfy (based on your degree, past internship experiences, softwares learnt during your coursework etc). 

 

As you view more job postings and send in more applications, you will soon get a better sense of important skill sets that are highly sought after by your prospective employers. To improve your chances of securing an interview, personalise your cover letter and highlight key experiences that the specific employer has listed in the job posting. 

 

Practice Makes Perfect, Even For Interviews

 

Being shortlisted to attend an interview is a good start. 

 

Other than making good use of online resources about interview tips, experiencing them first-hand is also an effective way. Meaning to say, as you attend more interviews, you perform better. From there, you familiarise yourself with the common interview questions, interview flow and structure. You find yourself getting comfortable in a seemingly stressful setting. You will gradually feel less uptight about having to over-prepare for the interview. Just know, what they want to find out is actually just YOU. Yes, you.

 

Be ready to share more about yourself - Your past education, internship experiences, personal interests and aspirations etc. That’s most likely the very first question they’ll ask. 

Unless the role requires demonstration of technical or specialised skill sets which involves tests and assessments, most interviews will have a personal touch to it. 


 

The best speaker is your true self. The best knowledge is self-awareness. 

This includes being able to articulate your strengths without over-promising your skill sets, and mentioning your weaknesses (if asked) while expressing genuine interest to overcome them. 

So, start finding out how much you know about yourself.

 

TWO Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Job

Eventually, some offers will start coming in. The first one will take a while but trust yourself, more are coming. 

 

If you find yourself hesitating whether to accept an offer, consider based on factors that are important to you. It is too idealistic to expect your first job to meet every single requirement that you have laid out, so exercise your judgment realistically. 

 

1. What Matters MOST To You?

You can’t have everything (most of the time). So prioritise. 

Good starting pay, benefits, work-life balance, future career prospects, skills, company culture - what is the deciding factor for you..

 

 

A good-paying job at a bank can satisfy your financial needs but comes with long working hours. An entry level job at a creative agency may meet your personal interests but starting pay is lower compared to other corporate roles.

Landing a job at a startup provides great opportunities to learn but lacks financial stability. 

So be clear about what’s important to you. 

 

2. Are You The Main Pillar of Support For Your Family? 

 

You may have your personal interests to pursue but it is important to stay grounded and understand your circumstances. If opting for a startup role may affect your ability to support your family, you should lay out possible risks involved and consider a better-paying job of similar nature or industry. Considering that you are independent of financial stress, then it’s worthwhile to consider a job that will lead to good skill sets and prospects even if the starting pay may be less than your ideal. 

 

3 WAYS to Speed Up Your Job Search

If you are struggling to compete for the roles you desire, seek to understand and analyse your situation better.

 

1. Find Out What’s Lacking in Your Resume and Overcome Them.  

It might be that you lack certain technical skills that employers are looking for in a specific role, be it computer software skills or industry knowledge. Or you lack actual experiences to prove your skill sets.

 

 

In the event that you have those skills but didn’t mention in your resume, be sure to highlight them upfront and capture the employer's’ attention. If you don’t, adopt an action plan by taking online courses to enhance your competitiveness or conduct your own desk research. That way, you can at least demonstrate some basic understanding even though you have no experience (show your willingness to learn!).  

 

2. Give Examples to Validate Your Points

On the other hand, if you are confident of performing certain tasks but lack specific work examples, try coming up with personal scenarios such as final year project, coursework that can help prove your point and illustrate them in your cover letter. Be creative and resourceful!

 

3. Explore!

Or if you are still struggling to identify a job option that suits your personal interests, then consider alternatives. For all you know, there are other options that offer you a platform to apply similar skills, or further your expertise in similar areas. So explore, explore and explore. 

 

Along the way, there would be rejections you need to deal with. And also, many possibilities that you can unlock. So, learn to manage disappointment but stay hopeful of opportunities!

 

Stroff Portal

What I Went Through as a Fresh Graduate - Part 3 of 6

Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. Through my 6-part sequel, I will like to share my personal stories during my university education and post-graduation. Following my first two articles where I shared about my experiences as an undergraduate, I will be sharing some of the personal struggles I faced as a fresh graduate in my third article. Trust that you are not alone in your journey, enjoy the article. 

 

 

Fears of a Fresh Graduate

Closer to graduation, I asked myself if I’ve achieved “Success”. 

And what are indications of success? 

 

I didn’t get a first-class honours, neither have I secured a good-paying job before graduation.

These are not strict indications of success. 

But it’s hard to get them out of my head sometimes. 

Perhaps it’s societal expectations that are associated with an university degree. 

Or, simply my own expectations.

 

As a result, I felt the pressure of having to secure a job nearer to my final semester. 

I’ve heard so much about peers who landed good-paying jobs (especially in the banking and finance industry), and fellow scholar friends who had already secured jobs as part of their bond. 

I became more and more worried about my career prospects.

 

Food for Thought: Do You Feel the Same Way as I Did? 

 

The Reality of Job Search

Nevertheless, I still remained hopeful. Hopeful of exciting opportunities ahead. 

As a communications graduate, I wasn’t expecting an impressive starting pay as compared to other professional degree holders. As cliche as I may sound, I wanted a job which I would enjoy and earn a decent income. 

 

With that in mind, I started searching for jobs around April when I was close to finishing my final year project. I came by a few good opportunities but they were immediate hires which I could not commit to. I went full-force into my job search in end May, applying to marketing/social media/events related roles. 

 

 

I wasn’t extremely particular about industries, but job search wasn’t smooth sailing. 

I spent a significant amount of time each day, filtering job options and applying for them. 

I submitted applications after applications, went interviews after interviews, in hope of landing a suitable opportunity. This went on for a month.  

 

Food for Thought: How Have Your Job Search Been? 

 

Dilemmas I’ve Had in Accepting Job Offers

It took a while before the first offer came in. And eventually, I received several job offers. 

But I didn’t manage to secure my top few choices. 

Among the roles that I really wanted, they preferred experienced hires (with at least 2-3 working years) over fresh graduates. While I had several internships, certain companies didn’t regard them as real working experiences. In the event that they did accept fresh graduates, the roles were mostly temporary hires, trainees or contract-based. 

 

 

Among the offers that I had gotten, I assessed based on personal interest, job scope and learning prospects. I rejected those that were a mismatch for my interests and learning prospects. Eventually, I narrowed down to two options - a digital marketing role at a MNC versus a marketing & sales role at a startup. 

 

It appeared as if the decision was easy to make. 

 

The marketing role offered financial stability and very attractive benefits, it was obviously the ‘sensible’ decision to make. Yet the startup offered an ideal combination of offline and online marketing opportunities in an industry of my interest (but with a very humble intern pay). 

 

At that point, I was caught in between. 

 

 

As a fresh graduate full of drive and passion, I was intrigued by the immerse possibilities in a startup culture. What’s more, my family was not undergoing much financial stress at that point in time. After much deliberation, I seeked my parents’ support and decided to pursue the startup path. 

 

Food For Thought: If You Were Me, Which Option Would You Have Chosen?

 

End of Part 3: Career Guidance for Fresh Graduate

 

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What I Encountered as an Undergraduate - Part 2 of 6

 

Hi everyone, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information (also from the pioneer University Scholars Programme). 

Through this 6-part sequel, I will like to share my personal stories as an undergraduate, fresh graduate and first-time working adult. From the frustrations and difficult times I went through, to how I came to overcome these challenges, I hope to encourage each of you who might be struggling with your undergraduate studies, feeling lost in your final year or finding your graduate jobs like me. I will be sharing more on my personal thoughts on my undergraduate experience in this second article.

 


 

University is next. What’s your choice?

 

Which Degree Do YOU Want?

 

 

It might take a while for you to decide which course to take. The one with more “future” as others would tell you, or the one you have more interest in?  

 

If you are at this junction, it is worth your time to think through what you truly want out of your degree.

Not because you will definitely end up doing what you are studying (since most likely you would not). But it will affect the group of people you get to meet, the industry-specific opportunities and insights you can get. 

 

If you are someone who’s open to diverse learning opportunities, juggling multiple roles, then a generalist degree (social sciences, communications etc.) may be worth considering.

 

If you have already decided on exactly what to pursue, going after a specialist degree (medicine, law, pharmacy etc.) seems more suitable. 

 

However, your decision does not stop there. 

 

What Does It Mean to be a Generalist

Find out how a generalist or specialist degree would impact you.

 

When you choose to be a generalist, be ready for the challenges ahead. Companies would most likely expect you to know (or be willing) to do many things outside your scope of work. Say, the role of a social media executive. It is not as straightforward as handling just social media. It is likely to include making sense of data and doing report. Likewise, an events executive is not all about fun and meeting people. You may need to be sales-driven and carry logistics. 

 

 

In current context, many industries have integrated. There is less and less boundary between marketing, sales, designing, social media and PR roles. Being a marketing executive also means you have to manage the social media, drive sales and hit certain targets. Or be expected to create simple graphic designs using design softwares as part of your designation. It varies from companies to companies, so there isn’t any hard and fast rule. But one thing for sure - you are expected to multi-task and deliver multiple tasks. 

 

What Does It Mean to be a Specialist

Being a specialist, on the other hand, is much more defined in terms of career path and progress. But it also implies that you need to commit to your decision. Really commit to it.

And it’s important to get a better understanding of the industry before entering. Let say your interest lies in medicine, take time to identify the type of medical practice you want to pursue as a long-term career. If you choose accountancy, know how the career structure works in the industry. 

 

Why Do Internships Matter?

Being able to make an informed choice then lies in how much you know, how much you’ve learned. 

There is just how much a lecture can teach you. And the rest is for you to explore. 

It is not just for your resume. It is for yourself. 

Nothing helps more than experiencing it. 

 

Apart from meeting industry leaders and seniors, internships provide an entire learning experience. It helps you to have better understanding and expectations. Besides gaining skills in your designated role, you get to build relationships and experience the team dynamics within the company. You learn by doing, observing, interacting and questioning - everything that you need. 

From each experience, you learn more about yourself. What you are good at, how can you improve and also, what you really enjoy doing. 

 

Personal Thoughts

For me, internships helped to manage my expectations about a job. 

 

 

In the past, I used to have an overly idealistic image of advertising - I get to copywrite, come up with big ideas, or develop a fun campaign. But there’s SO much more to it. Being an account servicing intern in the past, I was exposed to a lot of nitty gritty details. The communication flow, tedious planning, administrative groundwork etc. There’s a lot more labour and sweat before the fun comes. Deliverables and job scope would also differ depending on specific roles and client accounts involved. There is no fun without hardship, no excitement without boredom. So as you are intrigued by the fun side of things, be ready to embrace the mundane and challenging side. 

 

Stroff Portal

What I Encountered as an Undergraduate - Part 1 of 6

Hi everyone, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information (also from the pioneer University Scholars Programme). 

Through this 6-part sequel, I will like to share my personal stories as an undergraduate, fresh graduate and first-time working adult. From the frustrations and difficult times I went through, to how I came to overcome these challenges, I hope to encourage each of you who might be struggling with your undergraduate studies, feeling lost in your final year or finding your graduate jobs like me. Have a read on my very first article where I share about what I have been through as an undergraduate in a top Singapore university. 

 

 

Opting for a General Degree

With a Junior College education, moving on to university was a sensible option for me. It didn’t take me long to decide what I wanted to pursue, since I had already decided to venture into the media industry before taking ‘A’ Levels. I spoke to some seniors, did some research and eventually decided to apply to NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information. 

 

It was an easy decision, but I won’t call it an easy path. Some of my close relatives advised me to pursue more professional degrees (medicine or accountancy) as expected. While some recommended double degrees. Though my parents were supportive of my decision, my mother would have preferred me to pursue dentistry. 

 

Deep down, they were worried about my career prospects. 

So do I.

 

Food For Thought…  Would You have Chosen a Generalist or Specialist Degree?

 

Complications of a General Degree

The concerns they had were the fear I had. 

 

Given the nature of Singapore’s media industry, communications degree is not highly sought after compared to other professional degrees. A specialist is much preferred over a generalist under most circumstances. But at the point, I wanted to go with my passion and make the most out of it. 

 

I’ve always been someone who knew what I wanted. Or at least, knew what I didn’t want. Though I didn’t regret my choice, there were instances where I doubted myself. As I progressed year after year, the “obligations” to figure out my career aspirations grew heavier. 

 

In my first year, I was taught mostly on foundational courses about communication theories. I enjoyed them, but they were abstract. Moving on to year two, there were more specific specialisations to consider but there were too many things I wanted to try.

 

I’m interested in building rapport with people. PR?

I enjoy writing and designing. Advertising? 

I feel excited by big ideas and strategies. Branding and marketing? 

 

More and more questions popped up. I kept my options very open and it became part of the reason why I was constantly feeling unsettled, unsure of what I could really do as a living. I felt that I was a jack of all trades, but master of none. I didn’t have a niche. I started going for internships to gain new skills, hoping to get a clearer idea of what I could do. 

 

Food For Thought… What Do You Really Want To Do?

 

Taking Up Multiple Internships

I took up my very first internship as a CRM Marketing intern in an e-commerce. It was a position that helped me to gain some understanding of consumer data analytics, html and copywriting. 

 

 

Then I moved on to explore the advertising scene as an account servicing intern at one of Singapore’s biggest advertising agencies. I also took up a part-time internship in a startup, alongside other ad-hoc opportunities like freelance writing and events management to gain more exposure.  

 

Food For Thought… What Skills Do You Want To Learn? 

 

Personal Thoughts

Every internship was fruitful in its own way. I picked up new skills and met talented people in the industry. More importantly, I gained some industry knowledge about marketing and advertising. 

 

However, I was still a little lost. I had some skills to offer. But I wasn’t exactly sure of the type of companies and job scope to apply for. The more I’ve explored, the broader my options became.

I don’t feel ready enough to enter the workforce. Maybe I never would, I wonder. 

 

End of Part 1: Career Guidance for Undergraduates