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Why do some graduates better adjust to work place and perform better?

How many of you were given a user manual how to be successful at work?

What are the things that you should do and things you should not do at work?

This is something that was on my mind some time ago.

This is especially so for the graduates fresh out of university and going into the working world.

The transition from being a full time student to a full time employee can be quite a shift.

However, I noticed that some of the graduates were able to carry themselves better than the others.

Specifically, what I meant was, some of the graduates know what to do in the work place that:

  1. makes themselves more productive
  2. looks more assured and that they are in control of their time
  3. able to tackle the uncertainty of scope of work slightly beyond them
  4. say generally the right stuff
  5. not do the things that make them look bad
  6. look generally more satisfied with where they are

It is as if they were given a user manual on what to do and what not to do.

I was certain I didn’t receive this form of training when I graduate 13 years ago. I made mistakes here and there. However, I felt I generally do most of the right things.

On the other hand, I seen co-workers that became more of a “price-taker”. Another term that my ex colleague used was a “square wheel”.


  1. generally look pissed off when you give them more work
  2. always find a reason to leave work on time and early
  3. shoots you the death stare if you ask them to do work that will eat into their personal time
  4. the majority of the work you can task them, requires detail instructions, else things would fall apart because they cannot expand their competency well

This might not be right but here are some of the traits that I observed made the former better.

They have a good idea where they are going

Some graduates are more savvy in that they have a more polished view about their career trajectory.

Contrast this to others who depend very much on luck where their career would veer towards.

The former understands to a certain extend what they want to build up at this stage of their career.

For those that are unsure, they are in tuned with this anxiety that they are not aware of the path ahead, and actively sought to find that out.

The latter will succeed, if they follow a good boss who could mold them. If not, a lot of time they become the corporate lemmings that do what the managers ask.

They are organized planners in a natural manner

When I went reservist 2 years ago, I encountered an Ah Beng kind of ex-regular who got out and work in a bank.

What surprised me was that he told us he has a habit of going into office 1 hour before regular office hour. He prefers to get every thing ready, clear his emails, take time to prepare his coffee for the start of the work day.

That took me by surprise because I was biased against his culture and didn’t realize for some folks, they could have this form of morning ritual.

Some people that I encountered are just better planners.

Their advantage is that they tend to be in control of their schedule better. They look more assured and that they have their shit together.

We are there to serve our bosses, and often we are at their beck and call, as some job nature is just as volatile as commodities prices.  However, even in this culture, these planners have a way to create structured in chaos.

The bosses do see that is this is a good test of their competency. These become the folks who is not just the bottom feeding worker but someone rough yet have the potential to play at a higher ceiling.

They find meaning in Working

When you ask most of your friends, they will say that, if they had $1 million, they would not do the job they are currently doing.

They will shake leg at home.

The compensation becomes very important for most people. We are saddled with the endowment effect. If you pay me $X I will work this much.

Why should I give you more? (unless it is during recession and I need to keep my job)

There are the good performers who finds that they can get satisfaction in different ways:

  1. The software engineer that gets the reward out of solving difficult problems
  2. The customer facing engineer that likes to communicate with people
  3. The associate who believes acquiring skills is more lucrative than the actual compensation package

Due to these factors, you have to push them less hard than if they do not have these factors.

They are generally more satisfied at work as well.

As they are motivated more by these things, their definition of work and leisure might be more blurred. They may not equate work time and their own time that clearly.


There may be more factors that separates the more savvy graduate worker than the less savvy ones.

Having a good career is important. You can only have this much capital at the start of your working life to invest.

However, being a good performer, strategically moving up in your industry is a lower risk way of building up your wealth.

What we do during our career, is something, most of us thought it should come naturally to us. And as such we do not pick up a book to read up to not fall into common pitfalls or to make some right steps.

Our ego tells us we are actually better as a worker in our field than we are. That could be a dangerous thing.

It will just make us crash down harder.

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Tuesday 14th of February 2017

Hi there,

I have been a avid reader of your blog and was inspired to build a permanent portfolio after reading it.

Been building a steady flow of Nikko STI ETF via RSP from POSB Am looking to accumulate some bonds to create a 70-30% stock/bond split

However ran into the following doubt/challenge Understand that bond and stock has not been moving inversely for the last few years, hence first question would be is it still wise to buy into bond etf given that they have not been moving inversely ?

Question 2 would be Under current rising interest rate environment, do you think it is wise to buy into bond etf ?


Tuesday 14th of February 2017

hi Cedric, there will come a time when 3 of the 4 asset classes move in tandem. we seen it in the past.. in the 2006 and 7, that stocks go up, commodities go up, bonds also go up. so what is the aim of you creating a permanent portfolio? why do you want them to be less correlated? it is to reduce the volatility of the overall portfolio.

each asset class over time needs to have a positive expected return. if you cannot get a positive expected return, then its not an asset class that you should put your money into. permanent portfolio is popular because its volatility due to the low correlation is lower than normal. it makes you able to stomach the portfolio and not do stupid things.

for your second question, maybe you could read this article i written 4 years ago (which shows you how long we have talked about rising interest rate)


Sunday 12th of February 2017

There's the danger that if you become good at what you do and bail colleagues out every time, you become stuck at that level and never move up the food chain.


Monday 13th of February 2017

hi Kevin, very true, and it depends on different environment. at a certain point it is good, but at some point your ego will take over and say screw this, I don't have to take this. it takes 2 hands to clap and a lot of companies take advantage of graduates need to impress and just press things into them.

My Asia Private Bank

Sunday 12th of February 2017

That's why people should choose jobs that they are passionate about. Then they will do well.

This is the famous speech by Steve Job to a group of university graduates:


Monday 13th of February 2017

i don't think so. not many people get into a job of precision engineering and stated that it is their dream and passion to do precision engineering. its a very common fallacy. not many can work in the areas that they love.

a bigger problem is that those who work in things they love, get disillusioned when the business of what they love severely taints their interest in these areas


Sunday 12th of February 2017

Good read. Makes me reflect on myself and how some of what you said is true of me and my peers.

At the end of the day, once you start work, your academic results can only bring you so far. The rest depends on your ATTITUDE.

Will keep that in mind when I work :)

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