It's my life!

Person A: “I’m applying for jobs in banks.” Me: “Eh, why not research?”

During class last week, I overheard a group of my classmates talking about their job application process. I was not surprised when I heard that they were sending their CVs to banks and well-known consulting firms. Here, it’s very common for engineering majors to graduate and work in a financial institution.

As they continued talking loudly to one another, I can’t help but listen and think, “Why are they choosing to go to banks? Unlike me, they have such excellent academic records. They can easily comprehend and use these difficult bioengineering concepts, and they have the potential to contribute so much to the medical field. Since they find the course interesting (proven by their good results), why are they not going into research?”

I am not saying that working in banks or consulting firms is bad, wrong, or unwise. Choosing jobs is a matter of personal preference with no absolute right or wrong. But, their conversation made me remember snippets of information mentioned by a few of my professors, in which two in particular stood out.

I met Professor X, who was teaching an introductory course on conducting proper research. In one of his lectures, he mentioned that he mentored many undergraduates in the university. He noticed that those most enthusiastic for postgraduate studies are surprisingly not the most brilliant students of the class. On the contrary, the most keen were just mediocre or above average students. Very few first-class honours scholars chose research. I thought that very odd, thus I stored this information in my memory.

Next, recently, I bumped into Professor Y, who taught me last semester. He was one of my most memorable lecturers as I enjoyed his rare attitude towards education. In one of our group meetings, Prof. Y told us that in pursuing postgrad studies, good results will land you a scholarship but the most important ingredients needed by that student were passion and curiosity. He told us a story of one of his students who scored average scores in all of his subjects save one. The student later went on to pursue his Ph.D. overseas, specialising in that one subject he did well in.

Why am I saying such things about the crème de la Crop students who are choosing to work in unrelated fields outside engineering? Please note, this is not meant to be a harsh criticism of anyone or anything. Oh, it’s probably a criticism of myself. Maybe?

I’ve always thought that if you are able to show good results in something, it meant that, at least for a while or when you are working in that particular something, you expressed so much interest in it that you were motivated to do your very best and thus, the good results. I believe in the power of passion, you see.

But, from those professors and obviously, my classmates, I think I might be wrong. Are good results just that? Just results? Maybe they do not carry any other implications. All right, a few might really be passionate about the subject, but maybe we shouldn’t generalised. Maybe this, maybe that. I just find this situation just a little bit sad.

To state the obvious, tomorrow is the start of October. To those in the north, October will be the transitional month when leaves start transforming to reddish-gold, a time for mushroom-picking, and Halloween. To those here in NUS, October is where stress levels is reaching the peak. It’s the time for oral presentations, project deadlines, and mid-term exams. And, for graduating students, especially those keen on jobs in financial firms or MNCs, they’ll be stressed by deadlines on job applications.

What about me? For now, I’ll postpone thinking of jobs and just cope with getting through October. With three events, project deadlines, it’s going to be a very eventful and long October. Well, well, well. Here we go again then.

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