5 lessons a typical MBA won’t teach you

An MBA is a great way to upgrade your knowledge and expand your network, however there are five lessons that mugging for an MBA won’t teach you about working in Singapore.

1. How to deal with unions

You may be momentarily bewildered when approached with this subject. Yes they do exist in Singapore, collectively bargaining for workers even at PME level.

Absence of multiple legal strikes and protests is often mistaken as ineffectiveness of unions, but look deeper at events preceding important labour legislative changes and you’ll realize a pattern of behind-the-scenes tripartism in which the labour movement has already persuaded the government and employers to agree to pro-worker demands.

One thing to keep in mind when dealing with Singapore unions is that they believe in a win-win situation for both workers and company, so that in the long run, the company can sustainably provide better jobs and better pay for workers.

2. Empathy for the common worker

In the rat race for the top, performance is often upheld as the key to justifying the pay raises and promotions for the MBA graduate. But as we ourselves hope for justice and mercy from the top, we should pay it forward, or rather downwards to the lowest paid worker. After all, ensuring your subordinates perform well is also an attestment to your leadership potential.

3. Being a team player in a selfish environment

Singapore workplaces can be merciless at times when we are pitted against each other with limited higher positions to fill or top grades to achieve when benchmarked against other capable colleagues.

Learn what your team values more and contribute accordingly, but not forgetting to ensure your superior is aware of your team contributions.

4. Singapore doesn’t simply follow global trends

Taking the example of the much-hyped announcement of Progressive Wage Model for low wage workers, it’s a very uniquely Singaporean response to the global way of implementing minimum wage, a popular model that was simply not good enough for Singapore.

The driver of Progressive Wage Model, i.e. the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)’s leader Lim Swee Say, found unacceptable flaws in the minimum wage model and insisted on fixing them with progressive ladders of wages, career, productivity and skills, while tolerating much heckling by detractors to whom the minimum wage in its purest form is the holy grail of unions.

5. In tough times, employers prefer degree holders over MBAs

This is a tough lesson MBAs learnt during the last financial crisis and the years of sluggish growth and declining productivity that followed.

Productivity to some companies meant paying less for a worker to do more, which meant every headcount had to be worth its hiring cost.

In this scenario, the MBA holder has to work even harder to prove every dollar spent on his enhanced salary compared to a degree holder. Do not be dismayed if you find your MBA is seen as a liability instead of an asset, you are worth more than just a paper qualification.

Highlight special attributes such as relevant experience and skills that come together in a package with you, and do not be afraid to go the extra mile to prove why you have what it takes to be a potential star in your applied position.

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