Focused on where he wanted to go

SOME newbie white-collar job applicants may have lofty salary expectations, but not Mr Toh Tiong Han.
His job as a mechanical engineer at a small business firm started at around $2,000 a month, much less than what most fresh graduates expect these days.
Mr Toh, 28, landed the job three years ago after graduating in bioengineering from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
It was not that he was setting his sights low, but - confounding the stereotype of young folk being less driven - he was intensely focused on where it might take him.
First, it allowed him to do what he was interested in, mechanical engineering in medical devices such as prosthetic limbs. This involved transforming basic ideas into marketable products, giving him useful experience.
Second, while working, he started a master's degree in mechatronics at NUS to gain a specific qualification.
But it was not an easy path - he faced constant pressure from family and friends to switch to a higher-paying job.
However, Mr Toh recalls: "I knew it was difficult to find something else that I really liked, so I was confident about my decision. I ignored them."
Still, juggling work with part-time studies for two years entailed its share of sleepless nights. He did not factor in time spent on project work and experiments, on top of the three nights a week already spent at school.
"Once, to complete my course work, I didn't sleep for the whole night," he said. "I went to work the next day but did not dare sit down because I would fall asleep."
His hard work paid off when he landed a job at a US multinational corporation - which he declines to name - in February. And he got his master's degree this week.
"The MNC offers me job security and the opportunity to go up the career ladder."

SOME newbie white-collar job applicants may have lofty salary expectations, but not Mr Toh Tiong Han.

His job as a mechanical engineer at a small business firm started at around $2,000 a month, much less than what most fresh graduates expect these days.

Mr Toh, 28, landed the job three years ago after graduating in bioengineering from the National University of Singapore (NUS).

It was not that he was setting his sights low, but - confounding the stereotype of young folk being less driven - he was intensely focused on where it might take him.

First, it allowed him to do what he was interested in, mechanical engineering in medical devices such as prosthetic limbs. This involved transforming basic ideas into marketable products, giving him useful experience.

Second, while working, he started a master's degree in mechatronics at NUS to gain a specific qualification.

But it was not an easy path - he faced constant pressure from family and friends to switch to a higher-paying job.

However, Mr Toh recalls: "I knew it was difficult to find something else that I really liked, so I was confident about my decision. I ignored them."

Still, juggling work with part-time studies for two years entailed its share of sleepless nights. He did not factor in time spent on project work and experiments, on top of the three nights a week already spent at school.

"Once, to complete my course work, I didn't sleep for the whole night," he said. "I went to work the next day but did not dare sit down because I would fall asleep."

His hard work paid off when he landed a job at a US multinational corporation - which he declines to name - in February. And he got his master's degree this week.

"The MNC offers me job security and the opportunity to go up the career ladder."


Money shouldn't be the top priority

HE IS driven and ambitious, but money is not all that Singapore Management University (SMU) graduate Bryan Lee wants.

"Money shouldn't be the biggest priority," he said. "In the short term, an overemphasis on money could lead to a well-paying job, but you may end up sacrificing your family time and personal interests for it."

The 24-year-old, who will be graduating with an accountancy degree later this month, works as a management associate in financial services.

His job involves managing the wealth of high net-worth individuals, and reviewing their portfolios and financial strategies.

Mr Lee's salary is in the $3,000 to $3,500 range, which he describes as "realistic" for what his job involves.

He was offered the full-time position by his boss at the company - a big name in its field which he declined to name - after working part-time for the past three years.

Although he is not new to the company, coming on board full-time has posed several challenges.

"Making the clients have confidence in me is something I have to work on," he said.

"I'm just out of school, and they are a different demographic. They know my boss and colleagues, but I'm a new face."

His university days, however, have primed him to thrive in a competitive workplace.

"People could be in school seven days a week, doing projects and academic work," he said.

However, he has not come across unrealistic salary demands among his peers.

"Even when taking salary into account, we don't take on a job just because it pays well. We have to consider our long-term career goals, such as where we want to be in 10 or 15 years' time," he said.