SPONSORED DECLARATION: This article was sponsored by Gov.sg they’ve created jobsgohere.gov.sg, a website that highlights the various job opportunities in growth sectors during COVID-19.
I was so captivated and enamoured that it made me want to make animated films. Ever since then, I’ve always held on to this dream that I must become an animator and fulfil my destiny.
My passion was so great that I consumed anything and everything animation. I learnt about animation history, I watched all the classics, I practiced drawing and writing. Naturally, I went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in animation, then a Masters of Art, majoring in Animation (I considered PhD also, but decided not to).
At some point, I told myself: This was my calling, beyond the petty realms of money and earthly comforts. I would be an animator even if it meant being broke. At least I would be happy.
In my 2nd year of studying animation, I even declared that “If I could earn $3,000 a month doing animation, I would happily do that for the rest of my life.”
Hohoho, young me, how naive you were.
Some harsh things I had yet to realise:
- I was not prepared for the grind of the animation life.
- No one would sponsor the kind of animated art films I wanted to make.
- I could still find meaning doing other sorts of things.
- $3,000 a month was not enough for the kind of life I wanted.
Anyway, here’s my career journey in a nutshell:
- I worked as a web designer for a year (because that’s all I could get at the time)
- I became a designer.
- Then a videographer.
- Then a content lead.
- I then joined a medical device company as a marketing creative;
- Later becoming a marketing manager.
- Then I quit to do Woke Salaryman full-time
I’ve loved animation for 16 years. I have a postgraduate degree in it. Yet I’ve never worked a day in an animation studio.
Does that seems sad? Like I’ve turned my back on my first love?
Let me assure you that it has worked out alright. You have to read on to see why and how.
WHAT A DEGREE IS GOOD FOR:
Let’s get this out of the way first. This article is not saying degrees are worthless. Far from it.
Of course there are real benefits to degrees. Many places still tier roles and salaries by qualifications. At a basic level, it is a somewhat reliable indication of training/skill.
And let’s be completely honest; I didn’t learn many concepts/skills in my Masters degree coursework that I applied to my marketing roles, but you can be damn sure I leveraged my Masters as much as I could when I was negotiating my salary!
Anyway, I can totally relate to this need to be defined by your degree.
As a fresh graduate, it felt like all I had was my degree. So, it was a sort of wishful thinking that the degree was a powerful piece of paper that will open doors and pave paths. After all, you took on a bunch of debt and spent a bunch of time getting it, so…it must be special.
But in 2021 (and for a while now), this is no longer the truth.
Decades ago, degrees were seen as something special, a distinguishing aspect.
But as Singapore became wealthier, we also got higher and higher qualifications, degrees have lost the ability to help their holders stand out from the crowd – this is not unique to Singapore, but to many developed nations such as South Korea, the UK, US and Australia.
In light of this, we need to pursue a different strategy that is less reliant on our degrees.
YOUR QUALIFICATIONS ARE NOT YOUR IDENTITY
A recent study found that over half (53%) of Singaporean graduates work in jobs unrelated to their degrees – turns out, not doing what you learnt in school isn’t as big of a deal as we often make it out to be.
Instead, what we are better off doing is embracing the fact that life is full of changes, and the best strategy is to be flexible and adaptable.
I set myself up to be an animator for life since I was 14, and I’ve not been a professional animator for a single day.
Why? Because animation is labour intensive. It’s much more difficult to earn a good living as an animator in Singapore because you’re competing with animators from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, China etc. and animators there, especially those from lower tier cities, who can survive with a lower salary.
Because I’ve had a big uni debt since I graduated, I had to put my passion aside for a bit. I kept gravitating towards higher paying jobs, sometimes leveraging my animation skills, but often learning new ones on the job.
At one point I felt guilty for “selling out” my purpose, training and identity of being an animator, but in hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
“Selling out” allowed me to chased skillsets outside my degree.
It allowed me to solve problems that the world valued more, which resulted in me being able to charge more for my time. In turn, this allowed me to save more, pay off my student debt, and eventually build up an emergency fund.
This cushion allowed me to take the risk of doing The Woke Salaryman full-time, and now I draw comics for you wonderful people for a living full-time and I can’t believe my luck.
In retrospect, I think that’s quite worth it.
T-SHAPED SKILLS ARE THE WAY TO GO
We’ve said it and gotten quite a lot of heat for it before, but being a pure specialist is overrated.
Unless you’re top 10% in what you do, you probably won’t be very successful. Even if you’re in the 10%, you’ll be putting all your eggs in one basket and at the mercy of change.
Our suggestion? To be a T-shaped person. Some who is both a specialist, and a generalist.
If you’re a generalist, work in specialising in something. On the flip side, if you’re a specialist, pick up complementary skillsets.
Combine your deep knowledge of a single, primary field with general/sufficient knowledge of other secondary skills.
For example: I’ve learnt enough about erectile dysfunction and kidney stones to help me perform my job well at the med-tech firm. I’m still learning personal finance, psychology and economics as part of the content creation for Woke Salaryman.
If I were not open to learning about things in these new fields, I would have far less opportunities. I might even have thought there were no opportunities for me.
By being a T-shaped person, you get both the best of being both a specialist and a generalist. You take advantage of what you learnt in school and you are still open to changing to solve problems that the world needs solved.
It also helps if your secondary skills are related to your primary skill.
For example, animation training had already taught me about shot composition and storyboarding; so when I started teaching myself videography, I didn’t have to relearn these concepts.
It’s kinda like skipping modules you’ve already taken when you go on exchange in university.
DON’T LET YOUR PAST DEFINE YOUR FUTURE
If I had told myself that I could only be an animator because my uni education was in animation, I would never have picked up all these other skills and experiences.
I would not have learnt videography or social media marketing. Neither would I have gotten that job at the medical firm that helped me to pay off my uni debt. Nor would I have been interested in personal finance – and I’d never have started Woke Salaryman.
Similarly, if you limit yourself to what you’ve learnt in school, you’ll be turning a blind eye to the opportunities that are emerging in growth industries locally, regionally and internationally.
The sooner you realise that you are not defined by your degree, the sooner you’d be able to adopt a growth mindset.
Stay woke, Salaryman.
A MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSOR
Graduating during a recession is tough, but not all hope is lost. Especially so if you remain flexible, adaptable and with a growth mindset.
While it’s true that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many industries into disarray, many growth industries have also emerged in areas such as professional services, logistics and biopharmaceutical manufacturing.
Find out more at these opportunities at jobsgohere.gov.sg.