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What I wish everyone knew about millennials in Singapore.

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“To create more university places, to produce more graduates, print more degrees – it’s not so hard…the difficult thing is to train people and to build the economy at the same time, in such a way that after you graduate – having done something which you want to do – there is a job which is available, which will match your aspirations and what we’ve invested in you,” he said.

“And that’s much harder, because you have to create the jobs and you have to match the expectations, and sometimes, we have to manage the expectations… and that’s why in Singapore we don’t have a youth unemployment problem – unique among many of the developed countries,” he added, pointing out that youth unemployment is a serious problem in Europe, and countries like South Korea and Taiwan.

Emphasis in Italics are mine.

Our PM Lee Hsien Loong said the above in his speech at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) yesterday. Watch:

Today, I want to write briefly about what I wished everyone knew about millennials in Singapore.

As millennials, our problem is that we are not hungry enough.

Millenials–defined by HR research consultancy Aon Hewitt as individuals born between 1979 to 2000–are increasingly stereotyped as individuals with entitled mentalities.

Admittedly, some of us do want to be spoon-fed. We are actually pretty sheltered folks. Can you blame us fully though, if we weren’t taught to be crazily ambitious? Or, can you blame us for thinking this way, if all our teenage life we’d been told to work hard in school and get a great, well-paying job upon graduation from universities?

It’s fascinating how our kids are blamed for the deficiencies in our education system–“You should be stronger, you know? You should be more hardworking, you know? You should be more flexible, you know?”

Actually, if you worked so hard through your undergraduate years, paid like 30kSGD for tuition fees and then end up with a starting pay of 2400SGD, would you not think that the starting pay does not justify the investment for tertiary education? Why shouldn’t millenials expect a higher pay given the investment made on university education?

Okay let’s assume that you don’t give a damn about ROI. For 2400SGD you might be working 8-10hours a day, and if you are in an industry that doesn’t interest you, that would totally suck. Then why do you want to work full time?

Yet we must not blame the Singaporean government, because it is indeed difficult to forecast the future economy.

Like what Channel NewsAsia reported:

“Projecting ahead, Mr Lee acknowledged that a major uncertainty is the economy, as technology transforms industries and old jobs fade away. He reiterated that Singapore is at a new phase in its development – one in which the jobs available and the skills in demand are different from before and are changing rapidly.”

When it comes to planning for the education system, the job is hardly easy. Research has shown that 50% of total jobs would be made obsolete by 2020. Learning stops after graduation?

Hell no–it’s only the start, and it shouldn’t be a chore.

At the end of the day–it all boils down to millennials not knowing what they really want. We millennials seem to do things without knowing exactly what is in it for us as first priority— be it to learn, to earn a lot of money, to serve others, or to contribute back to society.

Sometimes, we don’t even think that these attributes can be seen as trade-offs. I know, because I’m like that too. Sometimes I just assume that I can have it all, because I’m used to having it all. Yet life is not always like this–we have to get used to trade-offs, to losing, to failure, to discomfort–if not we’d not grow.

Really, I’m talking about us millennials being lukewarm.

It’s really a matter of imprinting. If you have never been imprinted with the idea of “living life on your terms”, how do you do it? You can’t. You’d be condemned by nagging parents who try to fit you into their mould, according to their prior world-views.

At one point in life, every millennial in Singapore probably has to make a choice: To pursue the more satisfying path less taken, or to continue on the safe but financially rewarding path for civil servants/ corporate warriors.

My point here is simply that if millennials in Singapore know what they really want, they will then go all out to achieve things on their terms.

This is what I wish everyone knew about the millennials in Singapore.

Millennials in Singapore are actually incredibly resourceful. However, many of us just live life so quickly that we forget to ask ourselves what deeply satisfies us. Our Singaporean society grades and judges us so much on financial terms that we get incredibly insecure.

I love how my friend Syahms phrases it:

“I think what needs to be done is to remind people that there’s more to life than doing well in a monetary sense (i.e. there’s a certain stigma associated with not being entrepreneurial, equating this to a lack of drive and lack wanting success) – we become so entrenched in a culture of grading ourselves through our own financial means that we forget that there is more to it than that. Maybe concentrating on finding personal satisfaction regardless of what you do, would be good?

So here are my personal tips for fellow Singaporean millennials, and let them be a reminder to myself too–

Slow down. Be random. Be curious. Explore. Experiment. 

Let’s know what we hold as first priority in everything we do.

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