Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: Money vs Passion

We have experts on career management, human resources and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as careernomers – experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey.

So if you have burning questions, send them to and we will get the panel to answer your questions. This week, Emily Wong, head, organisational development & learning, Alliance Bank and Eric Lau, director of corporate services, Leaderonomics, answer Siva’s question.

Dear Careernomers,

I’m a mechanical engineering graduate who has been looking for a job for the last two years.

Recently, I found two opportunities. The first is an internship that I think is something I’d enjoy spending time at.

The second is a more traditional entry-level job – straightforward and kind of boring. The job would also require me to relocate.

Obviously, this job pays better. And I’m swimming in student loans. That makes the stable, boring job tempting.

But on the other hand, I’m still young and the internship offers something really exciting. What do you think would be the best move for me?


Hi Siva

A friend once said this to me (about public buses): “You wait all day for one, and then two come along at the same time!” Now two attractive opportunities await your picking.

Before we start to explore the possibilities and decide on which option to pick, it would be appropriate for you to consider one key element – your long-term goals.

Have you contemplated what you would like to achieve in the long-term? Zig Ziglar says “If you want to reach a goal, you must ‘see the reaching’ in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.”

Not having a goal in mind will cause us to hesitate in any task once the excitement for the role subsides. Having goals that are clearly laid out will enable you to stay on track – and any derailers that may appear can be resolved swiftly.

As author Neil Gaiman wisely observed, “Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be… was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right.”

“And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.

“I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain.”

Learning from Gaiman, you may want to think over the following questions to help you decide on the role to take:

· What are your long term goals?

· How do you want to achieve your goals from where you are today?

Start to chart your career map today. Revisit these two questions regularly as they will help keep you focused in the decisions you have to make.

Many struggle to find answers to questions like yours. Many more prefer to choose doing the “safe thing” and take on jobs which give financial security over taking that leap of faith to pursue the dream job which will enrich the soul, enlighten the spirit and provide great job satisfaction.

What should one do now when he has two opportunities? Let’s look at the options.

(a) Financial security

You highlighted that you were concerned about your current financial footing – that you were “swimming in student loans”. While this may be the driving factor for you to choose the role that provides you with financial security, you may however want to ponder over the following points: · The financially secure job offers a higher salary – but, what is the difference in the total packages between the two positions?

· Is the difference in amount substantial enough to assist you to lighten your current financial burdens?

· This job requires you to relocate to another state – what are some of the financial expenses associated with this relocation? For example: travelling cost, living cost, to name a few. There are also intrinsic costs like the emotional toll of living away from family, friends and loved ones and re-establishing a new support system.

· The job is stable and straightforward, but boring – would you be able to determine why you think this position is boring? Have you done something similar in the past, or is this an impression you have formed based on experiences of your peers who had taken and experienced a similar route?

Would you be able to discuss with your potential employers the scope of the job and the possible career opportunities so that you can align this job to your personal goals over the long run? If you can, then you may find yourself getting excited over this role instead. You have indicated that the job you are passionate and excited about is the internship position. You also feel that this may be a good opportunity for you to explore and stretch yourself in this direction.

While I would never discourage anyone to “do what they love”, it is best to explore all considerations to mitigate any potential risks. Ask yourself the following questions:

(b) Job satisfaction

· Is this role offering you something which you can passionately pursue and will it help you chart your career? Or are you just enamoured and fascinated with the idea of a unique internship role?

In any job that you take, there will be times when you are confronted with challenges that may lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.

In these situations, passion will help you power through the hurdles; while fascination is a short-term reaction which could cause disillusionment when things get tough.

· Have you done enough research on the role as an intern? Are you clear on the role’s expectations as well as the opportunities this role will afford you? Have you considered if you have the aptitude to deliver on the expectations and are interested to take the route where the opportunities may lead you to?

· Earning potential – internships do not last forever and after a few months of it, you either get a full-time position or move on to other things.

If you are able to turn this internship into a full-time position, it may come with a pay rise which can potentially match or exceed what the other position is offering.

Hence your opportunity cost is limited to a few months (when you are an intern); and this can be quickly realised in the near future if you pursue your role with passion and perform.

· In the event that this role does not grow beyond an internship, what would be your fall back plan?

I hope the above can help you in your considerations to choose the right role. Author Napoleon Hill said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit”.

Learning from him, be open to all the possibilities ahead of you; remember that what defines us is not the choices we make, but what we do in response to the outcome of those choices.

Emily Wong

Dear Siva,

Looking for the right job is always challenging. There are pros and cons to both your options. The internship sounds interesting and promising. In some internship programmes, especially for more technical roles, the focus is on training the intern to prepare them to assume some specific role after the internship period.

I do recommend such programmes as the training received is usually practical and relevant to the specific jobs. This is a plus point when it comes to career development. However, you do need to check out what the internship framework entails. A good framework has a strong learning element to it.

Having said that, a more “traditional entry-level job” as you described earlier is actually not a bad idea. To me, it all depends on the type of company you want to work for.

My recommendation for first-jobbers is to work for a more established organisation, like a multinational corporation or a government-linked company. These organisations typically provide better career development paths and learning opportunities.

As a first-jobber, do not be too concerned about the salary. It should be fine as long as it is within the pay bracket for people with similar qualification. What is more important is the personal learning opportunities and the career development prospects.

In most cases, your earning capacity will accelerate over time due to your valuable skills, knowledge and work experience whether you are still with the same organisation or have moved on to other companies.

Lastly, I’m a little concerned if you’re been looking for a job for the last two years with no success. Don’t be too choosy. Take some risk.

At the end of the day, if you are willing to work hard and have a good attitude, you will succeed in everything you do. I wish you all the best!

Eric Lau

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Leaderonomics or