Wow! A blast from the past, posted this back in 2008 ... somehow, I find the current batch (2013-2014) of graduates to be much better than those I interviewed in 2006-2008/
The headline may sound like an old man bitching about how tough it was during his younger days, I hope its not. Over the last few years I have had to hire at least 10-15 new graduates every year, and then get the unit managers to train them up. In highlighting their shortcomings, I have to generalise but I am sure that's pretty much the same conclusion throughout the country in all industries.
1) Rich parents - Parents who are rich, please note, generally your children will be assholes if you do nothing right when they were young. That's because the over mollycoddling, pandering to their whims and fancies, have shaped their character - which is pathetic. I have a few rich kids who have OK degrees, but decided to quit after a couple of months because they wanted to do something else. When asked further, they said they wanted to go further their studies. Geez, that is only an option if your parents are well off. After the years of investment into the child, there is seemingly no inclination of the need to be independent or self sufficient. They can have the option because the parents allow them to. What a wonderful bunch of kids.
Some even have the audacity to go for a long holiday after their graduation. You try to follow your Western fellow graduates... well for one, most of them work for at least a year to save up before they embark on their travels (I don't think we do)... and when they study, they themselves take up student loans which they will pay back when they work (which we don't).
2) Character - Linking onto the above, the same spoilt brats generally have poor character. When I say character, I meant ability to assume responsibility, respect for corporate culture, ability to apply themselves well, work at something, ability to learn and willingness to learn, and general people skills.
3) English - Now we go to quality of graduates. Most, whether they are local or foreign graduates, cannot speak coherent English. I am appalled that the Chinese schools are now clamouring for Science and Maths to be taught in Chinese for the first 6 years of schooling. Why? English is not a glorification of western culture, it is an essential tool for business and global communications. I am not dissing Chinese, Malay or Tamil language, but if you think you can compete in an increasingly globalised world with just your mother tongue, that is misplaced arrogance of culture. Study English together with whatever other languages you want, not at the expense of English. It is also not enough to just have a working knowledge of English, you need to master it. Education gives a person choices and options, and English broadens that scope even more. Can your child go and work in the US or European firms, if he/she wanted to? If they had the tools, they would be sought after if they were good.
4) Communication skills - Linked to the mastering of English, it is not enough to learn how to do power point presentations or run up figures in excel spreadsheets. A person can greatly add value when they can present them well. Oratory skills are mightily lacking in Malaysian young graduates. The art of persuasion, the ability to project professionalism, and eventually the ability to lead. Just imagine Obama without his oratory skills. I always exhort my friends with kids to forget about the ballet classes, the extra tuition classes... make sure you enroll them in the drama and speech making skills classes, there are a few around.
5) Intellectually not strong - When I come across even those who scored fantastic results or graduated from top foreign universities, I find some of them unable to hold an intellectual argument. If presented with a common question such as why are we now in this global economic crisis. Most I will hear are one or two points: easy credit, excess leveraging... and nothing else. A decent answer would have to include examining the crux factors, there are at least 5, and then ascribing proper blame proportionately. You need to examine a complex issue from a few angles. Our education system is such that there is only one answer per question in the exam papers. Hence after giving one answer, they think they have answered the whole question.
6) Bias/Street Smarts - Some will say that local graduates are unfairly discriminated. I don't buy that. I tend to not look at degrees as that only tells me you can read and write. What most employers are looking for is that one quality - I call it street-smartness or ability to think on his feet. Can you be taught that? I don't know. It has to do will self assurance and inherent self confidence. These people are problem solvers, they are doers, they take the initiative, they will speak up at the right time, they get the job done by hook or crook. They rise above the crowd because they won't be the first to say "cannot do". They are achievers when they put their minds to it. They can be persuasive and they apply themselves diligently to master any new tasks. You have that, the degree is just a visa for you to travel further in your career.
We have too many followers, not enough street smart people. I don't think you can teach that at MBAs. But one thing for sure, you may be able to cultivate "street smartness" when they are young. Always encourage and allow your kids to join the Scouts, Drama Clubs, Leos or Interact clubs. To me, these are breeding grounds for future corporate animals. The interaction, social politics, club politics, camaraderie, application to one's objectives are all critical to encourage one to develop and establish his own identity and personality, and in many ways help them make sense of how the world operates. Most of the street smarts I know who now do well in corporate world, also did remarkably well in those movements and clubs when they were younger.
Parents nowadays have fewer children, so they can spend more resources on them. This apply to not just the rich. Don't molly-coddle. Some over protective parents do not allow their kids to join any society or clubs even. They get ferried to and from school and then to and from tuition. When home, they do some homework and play computer games or do internet chats the whole time. Time to rethink our influence in our young.
p/s photo: Choi Jeong Won