Graduating in an unprecedented time


BY CHEW YIN XI

Transiting from a student to a working adult is an exciting and pivotal moment in most people’s young adulthood, but COVID-19 has created new uncertainties for our graduating cohort this year. Not only were their final semester conducted in virtual classes, but graduation ceremonies that are usually held to mark the end of this significant milestone have also been cancelled. Instead of celebrating with their peers, many are worrying about securing a job in the current economic climate.


This brings to mind a survey conducted by Salt & Light in May 2020, which aimed to find out how Circuit Breaker has impacted Christians emotionally and spiritually. Among the 1,600 respondents, young adults aged 18-25 fared the worst in terms of emotional health and ranked the lowest in terms of spiritual state during this period. With the unpredictability of how our nation’s economy will look like post-COVID, it is not surprising that our young adults are more negatively affected than most. In a season when their beliefs and job security are shaken, how are some of our COR members responding?


I chatted with three young adults, Dionysius Ang (24), Timothy Chan (26), Nathanael Tong (25) from Mustard Seed Service and Sunday Worship Service, to get a glimpse of how their journey has been as a graduate during this COVID-19 pandemic.


What are you studying now? When do you graduate?

Timothy: I studied Material Science Engineering in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and graduated in June this year.

Nathanael: I just graduated from Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and I studied Psychology.

Dionysius: I am currently studying in Aerospace Engineering in NTU and I will graduate in June next year.

What were your plans after graduation and how has COVID-19 affected these plans?

Nathanael: My initial plan after graduation was to take a month off to go on a holiday while applying for work so ideally, I have hoped to start work in June. But when the COVID-19 situation escalated, I started to focus on my job search as travelling was impossible. As I plan to do Masters next year, I wanted to look for jobs that would aid me in getting into the Masters programme. Not surprisingly, a lot of research institutions were not hiring because of COVID-19 so I had friends that helped me reach out to their contacts in NTU and National University of Singapore (NUS) to ask if any research positions were open, but I also didn’t hear back from them. I then returned to my previous internship company as they happened to be hiring, so this is my first week with them.

I’m really fortunate to be employed right now because I have friends that graduated at the same time as me and they are struggling because they don’t even get interview opportunities.

Timothy: I attempted to start my job search early in February to March this year. However, because of my GPA (Grade Point Average), companies did not get back to me. I started looking out for more jobs including going to NTU’s career fair when the COVID-19 situation developed, but also did not get any job opportunities from there. I am still looking out for a role in the Process Engineering industry, but in the meantime, I am also taking up courses in Data Sciences and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, I am involved in an AI competition now! At least that allows me to pivot into the IT sector, if I don’t get a job in the next six months.

Dionysius: For me, my original internship was cut short as I was supposed to be with them from January to August this year. I wanted to be with them for a longer period as that is the company I would like to join in the future. Unfortunately, this internship was cut short and they let me go in April due to the COVID-19 situation. My friend then introduced me to an Urban Farming company, which was looking for an engineering intern, and I decided to go for it because the job market will definitely be more competitive in this period and yes, I managed to get the job! I feel fortunate to have a second internship and I am now officially a Farm Engineer; I harvest plants in my role.

What were some of your thoughts and feelings when you first realised that COVID-19 could affect your job prospects?

Dionysius: I was scared because my industry is in jeopardy due to the COVID-19 situation, as there is no need for an Aerospace Engineer if no one was flying! So yes, there was insecurity and fear. I also felt betrayed by the company that I was first interning with because they terminated me even though we had signed a contract. I also felt that they turned their back on me at a time when I needed the experience most. But after I started on my second internship, I thought that maybe it isn’t that bad after all, as I get to experience something that I would never have tried.


Timothy: I felt slightly depressed as my job prospects were not great to begin with. But it was also a relief that COVID-19 could become an excuse for me to not be able to get a job immediately after graduation, rather than just being unemployable.


I also did feel some inadequacy because my close friends around me have also secured jobs due to their high GPA. I am thankful that my dad shared with me that he came out of the financial crash in previous years and he assured me to not worry so much, which helped to alleviate the fears that I had. My friends who are already in the industry are also looking out for job opportunities for me, so I am well supported.


Nathanael: I felt quite anxious at first, as it’s common for anyone that is fresh out of university and looking for a job. It’s that anxiety of going into the real world. I was also anxious because I really wanted to do my Masters and I was quite set on getting a research job, as that would increase my chances significantly since I don’t have an Honours Thesis or research experience on my resume. So, it was disappointing to not be able to find a research job and I did feel like I was settling for something less than my ideal. On top of that, there is this lingering thought that I managed to secure a job so quickly at my previous internship company because the boss is my dad’s friend. If I think about it positively, I can attribute it to my good performance working with them previously, yet I also feel like there is an expectation for me to live up to. At the end of the day, I am still thankful for this job opportunity and work with people I enjoy working with.


How has your faith helped you through this season?

Nathanael: I feel quite thankful as I reflect on my journey looking for jobs, ever since I got out of the army. All the major jobs I was in and opportunities to volunteer were given to me because of people I knew and they introduced me to people who were willing to give me a chance. A lot of these chances came from people in church and people who are strong in their faith. I am thankful that God has placed me in very good companies with good people to work with and I really appreciate all these opportunities.


Dionysius: I was reading a C.S. Lewis book, “The Screwtape Letters”. This quote got me through the time that I felt really upset with my first internship company: “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” This quote encouraged me as I know that God wants me to not focus on the physical things that happened to me, but rather, focus on Him and Him alone.


Timothy: There is a certain sense of calm for me this season. When I start to overthink, there is always this voice that tells me not to worry and I will be OK. So, at this point, even though I am learning as many things as I can, I am willing to surrender everything to God. He might eventually divert me to another path, I have no idea, but I am willing to submit to God’s will for me.


Any encouragement for your peers who are in the same life stage as you?

Timothy: The social support and network has helped me to stay afloat and get through this season. So, stay connected with your friends!


Dionysius: Instead of focusing on how bad your situation is, focus on how good God is.


Nathanael: Even if it seems that you can’t get what you want, when God closes one door, He will open another. So, just trust and go with it.


I have been personally encouraged by the sharing from Timothy, Nathanael and Dionysius. Indeed, it reminds me that when we find it hard to trust God in this season, we have to continue to fix our eyes on Him as He is the one thing that will not be shaken. As Roman 5:3-4 points out, it is through suffering that produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Let us continue to stay close to God and His word and trust that our future is in His hands.


** The interview was conducted in June 2020.


Yin Xi (SPS) believes that family is a cause worth fighting for. This led her to a career in Focus on The Family Singapore, working with youths to champion family for their generation. Her idea of winding down is a good cup of coffee on a rainy day.


Other links:

https://saltandlight.sg/faith/how-christians-have-fared-during-the-circuit-breaker-check-in-survey-findings-part-1/

https://thir.st/blog/dear-2020-graduate-i-know-the-job-hunt-is-hard/

https://thir.st/blog/the-struggle-after-graduation-is-real/

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