An Extraordinary Convocation in the “New Normal”
Congratulations to the Class of 2020 graduates! A warm welcome to our proud and ever-growing and glowing alumni body. Graduating amidst a pandemic is extraordinary but the spirit and determination nonetheless are still as strong as any other cohort. There is understandably a lacking feel of celebration seen in our traditional graduation where parents and friends can mingle. Despite the challenges, SUSS managed to conduct a scaled down physical event for the Class of 2020 that was dignified and memorable.
Never would one expect a convocation ceremony to be so disrupted. We could think of a major disruption (stretching over years) when there is a war or calamity such as World War 2; or minor disruptions like the numerous monsoon floods of yesteryears Singapore (where exams or classes were stopped/postponed temporarily). We got through those and we shall get through this time round. Surely, the worry about jobs during this period is heightened but this difficulty too can be overcome with the same spirit and determination.
We will naturally wonder what will be the “New Normal” for this year. In 2020, traditional convocations around the world have been upended by the pandemic. In the near term at least, convocations as well as many classroom sessions may continue to be done virtually or in some other special ways. Even when in-person events can proceed in time to come, social distancing or other forms of restriction may still be implemented; as safety must be upheld. Some sort of a hybridised version – that is in-person as well as virtually – may well occur and take hold for a long while.
Many experts believe that our community will have to face the fact that Covid-19 will persistently be in our midst. The “New Normal” may be that the virus becomes endemic with a tendency for clusters and sporadic outbreaks. Our government will and has acted prudently with a variety of restrictions for the community, depending on the situation. Our ministers have stated that these restrictions can be lifted in “calibrated and gradual ways” whenever the situation improves. This adjusting format may continue for some time yet.
Alumni and each graduating cohort alike will worry about job security and sustainability during this “New Normal”. This concern is certainly uppermost in their minds. Just to put the matter in perspective, this year some 16,000 young people will graduate from the six local universities. Another 10,000 will complete their private university degrees. An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 Singaporeans will return from universities abroad. In the “New Normal”, new graduates have to remain realistic, as the crisis will likely be around over a long period. There is this so-called “lockdown generation”, which our DPM has also mentioned, where their employability and income will be impacted.
Amidst the job gloom, we would need to stay resilient and keep our spirits up. We can also see on the flip side a little brighter spot evolving in the working world – for instance the future of our work has been brought ever closer. What happened is that we have the biggest remote working experiment and experience in the workplace globally. This shows that flexible work models are becoming more of a reality. Businesses will also need to change to effectively tackle this new normality of continued disruptions. We are not alone. Graduating students across the globe are also facing somewhat similar challenges in their job hunt in these times of uncertainty.
Meanwhile, it was reported that many job-seekers have secured jobs through internships or traineeships. Others took up online courses to learn new skills or knowledge so as to stand out in the job market. Openings can also be found under the SGUnited Traineeship Programmes and those aged 25 and above can make use of the SkillsFuture Credit scheme whilst looking for a job. Our University’s Associate Professor Walter Theseira from the School of Business shared that “graduating in a difficult job environment doesn’t mean people don’t get jobs…- it means differentiation becomes much more important…and taking up traineeships will help them build more relevant skills and experience”.
It is good to note that unlike during the 2008 financial crisis, companies are still recruiting. Some industries and retailers (especially online retailers) are thriving and recruiting graduates.
Concurrently, job-seeking graduates will need to build a strong CV and do more research in their job search. Scanning through recruitment agencies, job boards and putting up a LinkedIn profile may be some good approaches to begin the job search.
My view on the “New Normal” and how it pans out is that it is anybody’s guess. But it is good to also be prepared and be resilient for any adverse eventuality and for a longer haul; while at the same time being optimistic and hopeful for the best turn of events. So go forth and give our best, come what may.
Good luck. Cheer up and never lose hope.
Dennis Tan Wu Chen