Be Wiser When You First Start Your Career – In Dire Industry, it is More Difficult to Find Success!

It was decades back, and I needed to decide on which university courses to enroll. My parents are uneducated and my elder siblings are diploma grads back then. They cannot help much in my decision.


My childhood ambition is to be lawyer. Unfortunately, coming from poverty-stricken family and living in a less than desirable estate with hokkien or mandarin speaking environment, my “England is not powderful” enough for me to be a lawyer. This is despite my photographic memory and good analytical and debating abilities.
I then look to my second choice as an architect. I did my research and find out that I probably need 8-10 years in university and apprenticeship, before I can earn enough. “My mum will be so old by then”, I thought!


It was in the nineties and Singapore had so many developments ahead and engineers were highly sought after.  The newspapers headlined on the good prospects of being an Engineer by our government.
Wow… I exclaimed!
Being a teenager with limited experience in life, I heeded our government’s advice! Looking back, I think it was not a very a good piece of advice!
Just go and ask all those who are still working as Engineer today? How many Engineering Head can you have, heading in a pool of engineers?
Government’s objective is always with respect to the country. It is impossible for them to cater to your individual career future. Back in 90s to mid 2000s, they probably need many Electronic, Mechanical and Civil Engineers, but after that… hmmm….
Ok, things do change….


Consider if most of my university friends who graduated in Engineering, who are still working as Engineers in electronics, mechanical and manufacturing (marine, aerospace, industrial) or civil and construction industry;
Do you think majority of them will have an edge in their career? Or will they somewhat stuck if in their mid-career stage?
Do you think they will have better salaries and benefits, compared to those in banking and finance and real estate or digital sectors?
Even if you are very capable and hardworking, if you are in a dire industry that render your companies in losses or little profits for many years, your career will see less success and populated by more frustrations comparatively. And even if you find success, the remuneration will be considerably lesser than the better earning industries.
For example, manufacturing, F&B and also hotels are sectors that highly competitive with lower margin. Hence, it will be very difficult for companies in these sectors to pay you too well.
You can be a CEO or COO in your less profitable sector with never-ending workload and stresses, but your pay can be much than the Tom, Dick and Harry mid-level executives in better paying and highly profitable sectors.
I know of many examples that even if your result during school days is below average and certainly not as smart or hardworking than some of your friends in Engineering, you will still find yourself doing much better than your peers who are in the Engineering or Manufacturing sectors.
If you amassed a lot of technical skills over the years in Manufacturing sectors such as Construction, Aerospace, Marine & Offshore, your expertise will in fact limit you only to within the industries.  Or else, it is likely that you will see pay cut moving to other sectors.
On the contrary, if you are working in banking, real estates, or big software companies, then you can see vast opportunities and it is easier to transit across sectors. Or at least within the sectors, companies will be profitable with better packages.
Of course, there will be exceptions. I am generally making reference to the majority of cases!
Otherwise, you can also be in mainly supporting functions such as in Finance, HR, Legal and IT etc, then you can easily move across industries.


Singapore is a finance hub. Without doubt and by looking at STI components alone, you can see that we are in a country mainly driven by finance and banking and/or real estates. These sectors during good and bad times are still profitable.
However, take a look at the manufacturing sectors, especially those cyclical ones, how many are already out of businesses.

Singapore is inviting all the tech companies into Singapore. There will be bright future.
Hmmm… but maybe in two to three decades time, it will not be so good anymore. Who knows?

Therefore, make sure you can anticipate earlier than your peers if your industry is going sunset all the way. And even in these good industries now, try not to be over-technical and over niche in your job.

This is because later on, it can be more difficult to transit to other industries, when your industries becoming overly dire without much hope ahead.
Don’t always think our Government is right and just obey their advice! Their interests may not be aligned with yours.
It will be wise to seek advice from people you respect who has more experience in life and career, and can see further.
And, that someone must really have genuine interest for your future, or at least someone who is less selfish. And, if you received something good, try to also be grateful and give back.
While I was taught to be a cheerful giver, I have experienced countless people who only remember me when they are in trouble. They are normally only thankful when I help them to solve their problems.
When their troubles are tide over and life is good again, they will never catch up with you or even say “hi”. They will only catch up when they need something from you, and when you are in need of help, they will bestow you with one sentence “take care” and fullstop!
Please don’t be that kind of person who only ask and ask and take and take, and without giving at your end.
Asking people for help is so easy. But when we ourselves need to help others… how many will go through the trouble of doing that?

Therefore, let us help one another and learn to be mutual and win-win!


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6 thoughts on “Be Wiser When You First Start Your Career – In Dire Industry, it is More Difficult to Find Success!

  1. Being an engineer since 90s, I concur with what you wrote in your article. Along the way, I am glad that I developed interest in finance planning and investment. Now my engineering job is just to provide a basic pay until I could not work on it anyway. My passive income from my investment will then kick in. I think all engineers should develop a dual track of income before their industries start to decline.

  2. Rolf,

    I remember big daddy coming to my secondary school to sell the "benefits" of joining the SAF Boys School…

    That's until during NS, I saw how my SAF Boy School signed-on sergeants being "let-go" one by one in their late 20s… Contacts no renewed…

    Now that we need thinking soldiers who can operate computers and operate complex machineries (minimum poly grads?), "bo tak chek" soldiers are "obsolete"…

    Years later, met one sergeant who is working as storeman (not even storekeeper), and another as despatch rider…

    That's why I say everything is a speculation. Even crossing the road!

    1. Oh yes…SAF school boys. I almost become one of them in the Air Force, but make a U-turn after filling up the form.

      It is sad plight for the examples you mention.

      Then again, also cannot all blame others, as we need to take our own initiatives.

      Now… I am blaming myself…. 🙁

  3. Morning Brolf.. hahaha…. this article so apt..

    ever seen an expat engineering manager , with no engineering degree? *wink*

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