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Salary Guides For Fresh Graduates: Here’s Why Your Expectations May Be Unrealistic

A good salary or relevant experience? Which comes first?

At this time every year, you are bound to see plenty of (viral) articles on your Facebook feed, proclaiming how much you should be earning as a fresh graduate.

Many of these guides act as proxies for fresh graduates who are not aware of what sectors they will be entering into. And while some of these guides were written with good intentions, they may not always be helpful to graduates and may even be counterproductive by creating unrealistic expectations among graduates.

Know that the raw data about the salaries of fresh graduates from local universities – NTU; NUS; SIT; SMU & SUTD are all public information that is available online. You can find out more here and even download the data.

Go ahead and take a look for yourself and sort the figures based on the school and course that you are from. Look at the past employment rate, median and mean salary that your alumni are earning.

Once you examined the information for yourself, let us explain why you shouldn’t take these figures at face value.

Read Also: Why You Should Not Compare Your Pay To Salary Guides From Recruitment Firms And Job Portals

# 1 Salary Guides Are Useless If You Don’t Have A Full-Time Job

Here’s a hypothetical example to explain our point.

Imagine if a salary guide says that you should be expecting to earn $10,000 as full-timer upon graduation. However, what the figures may not show is that only 1 in 5 graduates will be able to land a full-time job in the first place.

The point here is that a salary guide telling you how much you should be earning upon graduation is meaningless if you can’t find a full-time job in the first place. Salary guides are only useful for those who are able to find full-time employment. They can even be counterproductive if all it does is increase your expectations and make you ask for an unrealistic salary.

If we include in the statistics of all the graduates who are looking for jobs but can’t find one, or who are only able to land part-time jobs, then the average salary for fresh graduates will be significantly lower.

# 2 The Course You Are From. The Sector You Are Entering

Local universities offer an abundance of courses for undergraduates to choose from. Each of these courses leads to their own respective career paths and sectors. Thinking that every degree in a university offers you the same career opportunity is wishful thinking.

Here are some statistics based on an NTU graduate survey conducted in November 2017.

Double Degree in Bachelor of Business (Hons) and Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) (Computer Science): 100% employment rate, 95% full-time permanent employment rate, Gross monthly salary (median) – $5,000

Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons): 89% employment rate, 54% full-time permanent employment rate, Gross monthly salary (median) – $2,800

From the figures above, you can see that though both courses are offered from the same university, they offer different career employment opportunities for their graduates. One course has most of its graduates landing full-time permanent employment at a salary of about $5,000 per month. The other sees a full-time permanent employment rate of just 54%, with a median gross salary of $2,800.

Set realistic expectations based on the kind of sectors that you intend to enter.

# 3 Salary Guides Don’t Consider Your Qualification, Experience & Network

Simply thinking that you are as “qualified” as your peers isn’t logical.

Most of us know of schoolmates who are better qualified than us not just from an academic point of view, but also in terms of CCA achievement, internship experience or just having a more extensive network than ourselves. Let’s face it: we all know of at least one person from our school who got a job at a prestigious company just because one of his parents work there, or knew the hiring manager.

And if you don’t even know such a person, welcome to the real working world.

Here’s a simple litmus test to ask yourself: Can you think of at least one employer who will be interested to hire you once you graduate?

If your answer is “no” (which is what many of you may find yourself saying), then it’s fair to expect that you will have a harder time compared to your peers in finding an ideal job.

But there is nothing wrong with that. You are young and it makes sense that you will spend your first few years trying to figure out what you want to do in the long-run. Everyone starts from somewhere and being a fresh graduate means employers would be more willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. Getting experience in the sector that you are interested to join should be your main objective, as opposed to what your starting salary is going to be.

This isn’t to say that you won’t be able to land a good job.

Internship experiences, an extensive network, and CCA achievements are just some of the metrics that many hiring managers will be looking at, besides your grades. If you are still in school with a couple of years left before you graduate, work on these.

The Problem With Graduates Who Expect The “Average Starting Salary”

Many graduates spend too much time trying to find out what is the “average starting salary”. Instead of doing that, what you should focus your attention on is to chart out for yourself the routes that you need to take as a job seeker in order to enjoy a rich and fulfilling career.

The graduate who knows what he or she aspires to do is finding ways via internships, networking and self-education to work towards that role. Such a graduate isn’t interested in knowing what the average salary is going to be for the year. They already know what to do, how to get that, and what their value to their company is going to be.

If there is an offer on the table that allows you to do just that, rather than feel short-changed by the lower than median salary, focus on building your skillset and capabilities as a high-value employee.

Once you have a proven track record of excellence, a pay raise is a matter of time, otherwise, you’ll have your pick of other jobs out there.

Read Also: Average Salary Guide In Singapore: What You Need To Know Before Comparing Your Salary To Others

Looking For A Job?

If you are a Singaporean who is looking for a job but is unable to find one, Workforce Singapore can help connect you to the job you are looking for. To get started, you can make an appointment with Workforce Singapore here. Someone from the organisation will give you a call to arrange to meet up and to link you up with the right companies and schemes that you are suitable for.

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