Singapore’s universities are known for their academic rigour. It is no surprise that most university students find themselves putting in long hours of study every day just to stay ahead of the (bell) curve, perhaps complemented by a part-time job on the side or short full-time stints during school holidays.
While you could argue that devoting themselves to their studies is the best way to prepare for their future careers, there are a select few who embarked on the path less-travelled by taking on some rather unconventional jobs for university students.
Today, you’ll meet three of these new kids on the block, who are making good money while plying their skills and gaining valuable work experience in the real-world.
Jervis, Real Estate Agent
First Year University Undergraduate, 22
DollarsAndSense (DNS): How did you land this job?
Jervis (J): From young, I was always interested in real estate. Once I crossed my 21st birthday, I jumped on the opportunity and took the Real Estate Salesperson (RES) Examination, which is compulsory for becoming a certified real estate agent. After I passed it, I decided to embark on a career in real estate to get first-hand industry experience and haven’t looked back since.
DNS: What are the biggest perks of the job?
J: Being a real estate agent allows me to meet many new clients from all walks of life, which has made me more confident. I’ve become more disciplined, so now I find it easier to complete the things which I set out to do.
I was also recently recognised as a top performer at an awards ceremony.
DNS: How about downsides?
J: It’s really competitive, and there are moments where you do feel discouraged when you can’t achieve the goals that you want to achieve. Personally, I’ve been privileged to have my mentor Bobby, who has always been there for me whenever the going gets tough. Also, I think home is where the heart is, and I’ve always been grateful for the continuous support my family has always given me.
DNS: How you balance your studies and with your job?
J: Honestly, it isn’t easy managing a career in real estate together with school work! One habit which has worked well for me is setting time aside to plan my weekly schedules and adhering to them as best I can. It is equally important to stay adaptable as schedules do change.
DNS: What is your most memorable experience?
J: Helping my former Secondary 3 teacher fulfil his dreams of upgrading from an HDB to a private property. It was gratifying to be able to thank him in a special way.
DNS: What is the commitment needed?
J: It depends on how involved you want to be whilst in school, since your remuneration depends mainly on the number of deals you successfully close. For myself, I work about 15 hours a week.
Penultimate Year University Undergraduate, 22
DNS: What are the biggest perks of your job?
P: You get to work with a great team to produce fabulous pictures. For fashion shows or events, there are typically after-parties and you get to enjoy the “glitz & glamour” bit of the industry, and knowing people from all over the world, including many international models that come to Singapore for work.
DNS: What would you say is your most memorable experience?
P: My first fashion show. It was a student fashion show at Orchard where the stage was huge, with great sound effects. Looking back, I think my walk was terrible, because I was feeling so nervous as all eyes were on me when I strutted that runway. With that said, no matter how your first fashion show goes, the experience is something you’ll always remember.
DNS: Sounds really great. Are there any downsides?
P: The casting locations can be very ulu, including industrial areas. Rain or shine, you must brave the weather for the ideal shot. There is a lot of waiting involved. Rejection is common, the job is inherently unstable and may not necessarily pay well.
DNS: What’s the pay like?
P: It depends on the nature of the job, since we do editorials, fashion shows and other events. A typical fashion show pays about $400, but the total time you need to spend depends on the job. It’s not just the time on the runway, as we also need to spend time for casting and fitting.
DNS: What’s the commitment needed?
P: We work on an assignment basis, but you must be always ready, as you can be called to do casting at a few hours’ notice.
Dennis, Robotics Trainer
First Year University Undergraduate, 21
DNS: What made you take up this job?
Dennis (D): I kept in touch with a technology equipment vendor since my JC days, who reached out to me about this job opportunity.
Basically, you get to play with cool stuff! From Snap-On magnetic circuits to random sensors that measure just about anything you can think of. Sometimes, we receive experimental prototypes from vendors and it’s always nice to see what’s up-and-coming.
DNS: What’s your most memorable experience?
D: It takes only one receptive student to make your day. I once had this student who was genuinely keen in the subject, and we talked at length about his interest in robotics while I shared advice for his journey ahead. Knowing that I can make a tiny difference is something that keeps me going.
DNS: How do you balance your studies and your job?
D: It’s on an assignment basis so I just take fewer classes when school work ramps up. It helps that peak period for classes usually coincide with the end of my final exams.
DNS: What’s the pay like?
D: I earn about $40/hour on average, but this depends on the level and class size.
DNS: What’s the time commitment needed?
D: The hours are quite flexible, ranging from an ad-hoc 2-hour class to more regular arrangements. Beyond teaching, I generally set aside time to collect and test equipment parts beforehand.
Just because you’re in university, there’s no reason to restrict yourself to the ‘usual’ part-time jobs to earn some cash. With the rise of the ‘gig’ economy, more industries are opening up for university students considering part-time work.
These ‘unconventional’ part-time jobs allow you to acquire real-world working experience, uncover your personal interests and strengthen your personal branding.
The networks you make while on the job will also put you in good stead when you do look for internships or full-time work. If nothing else, the sheer feat of balancing a part-time job and your university studies also serves as a testament to your drive and time-management skills.
DollarsAndSense.sg aims to provide interesting, bite-sized and relevant financial articles.
Learn together with like-minded Singaporeans at the Personal Finance Discussion SG Facebook Group by discussing a range of personal finance topics.
If you have not done so, subscribe to our free e-newsletter to receive exclusive content not available anywhere else.