Passion-driven journeys: Gen Zs on finding career fulfilment on their own terms
Two inspiring Gen Zs share how they found success and job fulfilment without following the traditional academic route.
Growing up in Singapore, pursuing a university degree is the norm for most young individuals and unfortunately, any deviation from this route might subject one to parental pressures.
It’s not any different for 21-year-old Karen Goh. Yet, she’s chosen to walk the path less trodden and venture into the workforce upon attaining her diploma.
After graduating from Temasek Polytechnic’s Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management in February last year, Karen began a full-time job at Universal Studios Singapore (USS) as a VIP tour guide. She landed the role after excelling in her six-month internship working as a guide in the VIP Tours and Events Operations department.
In her day-to-day operations, she escorts visitors around the theme park, ensuring they visit at least eight attractions along with meet-and-greet sessions. Each tour – with up to 12 pax – runs for five hours and is personalised by the guides based on the guests’ preferences.
“We explain to them what we have and get to know our guests a little bit more, what they like to play, whether or not they like rides, or like taking photos,” shares Karen.
Karen developed a deep attachment to her role during her internship and expressed her desire to continue working at USS. She was even open to a part-time position.
“My coworkers were all team players so we worked very well together and that made me look forward to work. I told my boss that if there is a chance, I would want to stay,” shares Karen.
But before accepting the full-time offer, she had to convince her parents of her decision to halt her studies.
“My parents are the typical Singaporean parents,” she shares, adding that they hoped for her to enter university first before the workforce.
Like Karen, 25-year-old Law Chian Thye also faced disapproval from his parents when he shared his choice of entering the workforce after completing National Service.
“My parents are very traditional parents – the kind of parents that say you have to study in university,” he shares. But he remained steadfast in his decision despite their objections, as he feels that it’s never too late to get a degree.
He reasoned: “University is a stepping stone towards an internship, with you hoping that you can convert to a full-time role with that company. The end-goal is the same: getting a job.”
While he submitted university applications, he never got around to checking the results as he was already set on focusing on his career.
“If you’re given an opportunity to explore, I think it can become (something) much more powerful than what university can provide.”
Currently an associate producer at events services company Sight, Chian Thye’s job entails handling the entire process of an event from digesting the client brief to crafting a solution for execution.
“It’s not only about taking instructions. (You have to) understand it well, disseminate it, as well as counter propose in an agency’s perspective of what you view is suitable or appropriate,” shares Chian Thye, who has a Diploma in Integrated Events Management at Republic Polytechnic.
Chian Thye shares that he has picked up several skills like stakeholder management and logistics coordination – competencies that transcend classroom teaching.
“The best way of learning is constantly grinding and polishing the skills that have been acquired in this field,” he says, adding that he was and still is very lucky to have a very good mentor in Anna Patterson.
Ms Patterson used to be the vice president and managing director of George P. Johnson, where Chian Thye interned, and is presently the founder of Sight. When Chian Thye completed his National Service, Ms Patterson reached out to him with a job offer.
For Karen, she has now risen to become a Team Lead-in-training and is one of the youngest staff at USS to do so.
In terms of difference in job scope, Karen shares that unlike guides who are usually on the ground, Team Leads are tasked to ensure that everything runs smoothly operationally.
“Any hiccups, any problems that our guides face, we’ll be there to help them.”
While it’s been less than two years since she joined Resorts World Sentosa, which USS is part of, Karen feels accomplished by how much she’s been able to achieve thus far.
She learnt to overcome her stage fright and can now confidently run programmes for groups of up to 180 people as well as speak in front of large crowds. She has also learnt to be more confident in herself, especially when she has to instruct others.
She feels she’s gotten much better at handling her fellow team members, thanks to the training she received.
“I didn’t feel very confident giving people instructions when I was the one receiving it…What I have to do, what I have to show people, what I have to tell people, is different now,” says Karen, though she adds that there are still times when she’d need to consult her seniors when she wasn’t sure of how to go about performing certain duties and learn by observing them.
Her parents, once hesitant, are now supportive of her decision having seen the immense passion she has for the job.
Looking ahead, Karen hopes to be a Team Lead who creates a work environment that guides can look forward to. And with regards to school, she confesses that she just wants to continue enjoying her work.
“…my initial plan was to take a gap year to gain some experience and then enjoy a little bit more after internship.
“But because I have the chance to progress upwards, I was thinking, since I can enjoy and work my way upwards, maybe I can just stay here for now.”
Similarly for Chian Thye, taking a degree isn’t something that should be time stamped. He hints at pursuing higher education in the future, albeit “nothing is certain”.
“When I decided to take the unconventional route, I just wanted to be independent and self-sufficient. That is also something that was being uttered to me from my childhood until I grew up because of my family background,” says Chian Thye, who self-funded his polytechnic education upon learning about his family’s financial constraints.
To all other Gen Zs looking to carve their own paths towards success, he affirms: “Title is just title, age is age. Age should not restrict one’s capabilities.”
And as for those who are still in limbo, you have to make a call for yourself, he says.
“If you want to study in university because your peers are doing the same or because your parents hope for you to do so, then I’d advise you to not do so. You’re just FOMO.
“I think the grass at the other end will always look greener. But it’s more of being satisfied with what you’re able to achieve.”