PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call to provide equal career opportunities to non-graduates is timely ("Better job prospects for non-grads"; Aug 18), especially if we want to walk the talk and be a society that thrives on meritocracy.

But before we (once again) look to the Government to point the way forward, employees (both graduates and non-graduates) must also do their part. Training and personal development have always been seen as the responsibility of employers, but this can no longer be the case, given the challenges that businesses face.

Just like co-payment of medical bills and health insurance premiums, we have to make training a joint responsibility.

There will always be a limit to a company's training budget, so employees must increasingly get used to paying for their own development, or risk relegating themselves to the "treadmill" - running but not getting anywhere with personal growth.

Career success - and success in life - does not go only to graduates. And success does not come looking for you - you have to find it.

That piece of paper - whether it is a degree or a diploma - is just a passport to your first job.

To succeed in our careers, we need to continually focus on strengthening four key areas: the technical knowledge or skills required for us to perform our jobs, soft skills like leadership and communication, emotional quotient, and adversity quotient, or how quickly and strongly we bounce back from setbacks.

Other essential qualities include being well-networked (both inside and outside your company), being well-read, having a sufficient level of knowledge in technology, and having a sense of humour and the ability to accept ourselves for who we are, warts and all.

There are many routes to success, but success should be defined by oneself and not others. Unfortunately, society has its own determinants of success; an often-cited definition in Singapore is the five Cs.

What is important, however, is that we should also find our own. We have to enjoy what we do - and we may be pleasantly surprised that success (as defined by ourselves) will somehow follow.