Parents' Guide

Education, Scholarships, Parenting Tips

Does having a bond to serve mean guaranteed employment?

Ailian Gan, Daniel Wong and Kwa Chin Lum, co-authors of “Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision“, fill you in on the details so that you’ll have a clearer understanding of how a bond will affect your child's life.

If you work hard and are talented, which presumably you are if you can get a scholarship, landing a job is unlikely to be your biggest problem.

Finding a job that you find exciting and fulfilling is probably going to be a bigger problem, but a fortunate one.

That job may be a government job, or it may not be. Even if you choose a government job, you’ll probably be pushing yourself to get promotions and greater opportunities, rather than worrying about staying employed.

In short, guaranteed employment is a small consolation for the freedom you’re giving up by taking a scholarship.

One personal anecdote I'd like to offer on risk aversion: Most people, it would seem, become more risk-averse with age. I've had the bizarre experience of watching myself become more risk-loving as I get older. From Civil Service to investment bank to small tech startup!

I once shared my observations about my growing tolerance for risk with a stranger, and he said something I'll never forget: “Maybe it’s not that you were ever risk-averse. Maybe you grew up in a system that constantly rewarded risk aversion, so you learned to become very good at it. But now that you've repeatedly chosen environments of a different kind, you're no longer rewarded for conforming. Maybe your natural risk levels are just being revealed over time.”

Guaranteed employment might seem appealing now, but allow for the possibility that your appetite for risk may change as your confidence grows.

There are multiple perspectives to consider.

During the second half of your time in university, most of your friends (those who aren't scholars) will be scrambling to find an internship or a job.
As a scholar, you won't have to go through all of this stress. Your friends will say things to you like “You're so lucky!” and “I wish I were you.”

You'll feel fortunate that you can sit back, relax, and not need to worry about writing your CV or going for job interviews.

On the other hand, you may also wonder what it'd be like if you had more freedom of choice. These thoughts can cause you to experience a different kind of stress.

You may wonder what it’s like to work in management consulting for McKinsey, or in investment banking for Goldman Sachs, or in technology for Facebook.

You may find yourself envious of all the opportunities that are open to your friends, because they don’t have guaranteed employment after they graduate.

The grass is always greener on the other side, huh?

Please don't misunderstand; getting a scholarship really is a blessing, and you’ll feel a temporary sense of relief that you don’t have to go through the job application process.

Bear in mind, though, that you’ll probably have to apply for a job some time later on in life. After all, most people land jobs by applying for them, not by going through the scholarship process.

As a scholar, you'll have a sense of security and stability when it comes to your career. But, at a deeper level, you need to ask yourself if security and stability are the primary things you want out of your career.

I encourage you to think seriously about what kind of contribution you'd like to make through the work you do, and how you want to be of service to other people and to society.

As a working adult, you're going to spend more than half of your waking hours at your job. If you're content to settle for a job simply because it provides you with a sense of stability, you're shortchanging yourself of a truly great career.

Once again, I'll reiterate that for some people taking a scholarship might just be the path that allows you to build that fantastic career, but it's not for everyone.

Chin Lum:
I don’t think that finding a job should be of great concern to you if you’re someone who’s able to get a scholarship.

If you’re a scholar who does well in university, you’ll be tempted by many enticing possibilities. These might be in monetary terms (or stock options, in certain cases), while others might be in terms of the nature of the work or the access to cutting-edge technologies and ideas.

When faced with these kinds of offers, the bond will probably appear to you more as an obstacle that's keeping you away from these opportunities, rather than a wonderful guarantee of employment.

When I became aware of such opportunities, I found it useful to ask myself why I had wanted a job in the government and taken up the scholarship in the first place. Reminding myself of these motivations helped me to put things in perspective.

If the future job that’s linked to your scholarship is one that you think you would like to do, then guaranteed employment is pretty great, regardless of the other options available.

This is especially because you won't have to worry about submitting résumés and going for job interviews like most of your other friends will be doing around graduation time.

Last Updated on 29 August 2020

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29 August 2020 10:24 am

Below is a message we received from a former scholar. You forgot to mention this: As a government scholar, I feel it is important that I echo my thoughts on this. I attended the Integrated Programme at HCI, and proceeded on an SAF scholarship to read PPE at the University of Oxford. I then completed an MPhil in Economics at the University of Cambridge. TLDR: Government scholarships in Singapore do a good job at identifying administrators; but administrators are not leaders, and should never be mistaken for leaders. Scholars in Singapore are chosen at a very young age. I would… Read more »

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