To sign on or not to sign on?

By February 26, 2018Current

TL;DR – A career like no other.

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I might be a little too old to be asking myself this question but this is one of the topics that surfaces every now and then at the basketball court where I often play ball with a group of young men in their late teens to early twenties Some of them are already serving their national service while the rest are still in school waiting for their time to come. Only a few of us like myself have completed our service so we are like the bigger boys that the rest will come to for NS-related advice.

National service is something that not only bonds boys during that five days a week in camp but also a topic that boys just can’t stop talking about even when they book out. It’s strange how they can spend five days in camp but camp stories will never bore them. Well, it’s really no surprise as I’ve been through the same thing.

One of the younger boys in the group is considering if he should make it a career. In common tongue, he was considering if he should “sign on”. He likes what he is doing now and in fact he is very proud of where he is. Being part of the Singapore Civil Defence Force, he would always share with us some of his experiences as a fire fighter and even give us tips on how to prevent fire. I am really proud of him considering that when I first met him a few years ago, he was just a boy with no goals in life. All he wanted was to have fun.

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While we were all voicing out our opinions on whether should he sign on with the SCDF, one of them brought out a point that nearly threw me off my chair. He is in his 20s and has probably completed his own national service.

“While signing on gives you a stable life, I feel that you might get pressure from your future girlfriend and her family. Promotion is kind of slow in the force and you will probably be earning less than her. You will probably reach an income ceiling of maybe $4 to 5,000 in your 30s when you want to settle down. Would a girl be attracted to a guy who is only earning that little?”

Is it me or is this whole argument way too familiar?

I am sure he didn’t say it to diss any SCDF personnel and probably sharing it in confidentiality as a form of advice but I simply cannot wrap my head around it.

  1. What makes him think that ladies are so practical and will only date guys who earn more than them? In reality, given the fact that ladies need not serve NS, it is not uncommon that they get a head start in their career and in tun earn more than their male counterparts of the same age.
  2. How can a monthly income of $4,000 to $5,000 be considered low? And with his slapping statement, does it mean that all SAF regulars are single without family because they are “poor”? No doubt one might not become as rich as Jack Ma for being in the armed forces but how many careers can actually bring you there?
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I have a whole lot of comebacks that include job satisfaction, career progression, case studies of happy people in the force, great family support and more but I really didn’t know how or where should I start without getting all fired up.

In fact, I’ve friends who after completing their bond, managed to secure pretty good jobs in the private sector. I guess opportunities are everywhere if you open your eyes. And if you do save your pay and your retirement payout, it could also be a good way to earn a lump sum that can be used as capital for your very own business.

Moreover, both the SAF and and Home Team, to my knowledge, are always very supportive when it comes to furthering studies. Many individuals have also taken the opportunity to further their studies while having a career with them. Time off and study leave is something which one might not get in the private sector.

I really have no clue where this young man got his ideas from but I really hope that he is the only one with that mindset.

Of course, some of you might ask me,

“Since you so pro signing on, are you like some army general?”

Truth is, signing on did cross my mind when I was younger but I did not, due to physical issues and how I can’t really stand regimentation, but that’s another story altogether


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Smith Leong

Author Smith Leong

Social Media Trainer @ NTUC | Youth Mentor | Labour Champion | Photographer | Content Creator |

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