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Leave That Degree At The Door On The Way In

Qin EnQin En


Recently, a friend of mine and one whose views I take a fair bit of interest in, Jeraldine, blogged about the pros and cons of studying at a private university in Singapore. Then, another fellow blogger, Alex Liang, shared his views in response to one of his readers & Jeraldine, sharing that “issuing degrees through external programmes is a really easy way to make money”. Interesting debate going on there, and I strongly encourage everyone to read both opinions.

I thought I share my $0.02 worth, from the perspective of someone who chose to put his university studies on indefinite hold, has and is seeking out young talent, and have had the front row seat to how 2,000+ employers hire.


Despite the differing views between that of Jeraldine & Alex, I generally find myself nodding as I read both opinions. Here are 2 things I particularly agree with:

Jeraldine – “Moving forward, as the number of graduates increase and a degree becomes a norm here, I would think that Singaporeans should look beyond their degree and focus on differentiating themselves from the competition when they graduate.”

Till this day, I cannot fathom the obsession with degrees, classes of honors and GPAs, and yet, LinkedIn profiles are bare (or non-existent) and there is little demonstration of the meaningful and intentional pursuit of one’s interests and options. While degrees and university education remain important in most of our lives (not everyone should put indefinite holds on their university education…in fact, no one should drop out, UNLESS there is a compelling reason), it is important to start with the end in mind. This is a concept I learnt from my co-founder and our CEO, Oswald. I am frequently reminded not to start from Point A and figure out how to get to Point B, but instead, start from Point B and work backwards to figure out how to get to there from Point A. Building your career should be no different. Start with the end in mind, and work backwards.

Of course, there is the perennial question of I don’t know what my end goal is, and truth to be told, most of us don’t. Even I don’t know what my specific end goal is in 10 years. The idea would be to stop giving excuses, stop telling yourself stories, stop rationalising on why you cannot find a goal to work towards, and start exploring (not wander!). Not knowing what your end goal is sounds perfectly OK to me (perhaps that’s because I am one of them), but to continuously seek out opportunities and ask yourself what is your ikigai would be incredibly useful.



Till this day, I don’t know what my life ikigai is and I am still figuring it out. But I know what my ikigai is for this chapter of my life, and that is to build a career discovery & development platform for other young people to figure out their ikigai. I wasn’t born to do this, and I certainly didn’t come into this world knowing that I was to build Glints together with a extremely talented and motivated team. I kept searching, I kept putting myself out there, I kept making mistakes.

And this is the journey I hope more people out there will take. Not necessarily starting your own business, but starting with the end in mind, even if that end might change further down the road. The degree and university education is but one of the tools to get you to the first job. Start thinking about building a personal brand. Think about telling stories that reflect who you are. Think about What’s in it for my employer to hire me? These are value propositions you have to articulate, on top of your paper qualifications.

Which leads me to the second piece on this topic by Alex.

Alex – “I use the term GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) to describe the situation. That means you can’t polish a turd

While Alex used the term GIGO to describe the input/output quality of private university students (which I think is unfair to label them all as such), I agree with the concept of GIGO for any job seeker who adopts a “I deserve a job because I have a piece of paper”, self-righteous attitude. Garbage In, Garbage Out. You give me (or any employer) garbage attitude, you are more or less guaranteed to get a garbage response (variations of No, We regret to inform you you have not been shortlisted, or simply no response…which is a pretty garbage experience altogether).

So it really doesn’t matter if you are a diploma grad, a degree grad or an A-level grad (that’s the 3 of us). Step into our company’s doors as a turd and you will walk out remaining a turd. Pretty much guarantee that will be the same across most, if not all, of the employers you meet.


Looking back on the hires we have made, I can’t help but keep on returning to the same conclusion. I don’t really care about the grades, and I don’t even care about the education background of the hires I make. I am more keen to find out about the person as an individual through our interview process. I only asked one of our all-star hires on the team if she had a university degree 2 months into the job. Didn’t matter — she got the job done well, above and beyond what is expected. That’s what matters to us.

As we grow our team, we continue to look for people with the “fundamental naughtiness and healthy disrespect for rules”. If that sounds like you and you believe in the power of grit and “whatever it takes”, come join us on this roller-coaster ride. And please, leave the paper at the door. I want to know you, as a person.


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