Considering the current state of the economy, you would think that anyone with a job would hang on to it for dear life. Yet the spotlight continues to be shone on a few professions which continue to suffer from high attrition rates despite the fact that they pay decently and enjoy oodles more prestige than the profession of the road sweeper your parents used to warn you about when you were younger.
So why do young hopefuls who take up these jobs quit after a few years? Let’s find out.
Right now, the legal profession is facing a glut of fresh grads all vying for limited training contract spots. But five years down the road, most of these rookies will have moved on and left the legal world behind.
Despite some of Singapore’s highest starting salaries, high job security and the fact that having a kid in law school is a bragging point for many parents, lawyers just keep quitting. The legal profession has shockingly high attrition rates—according to the Law Society, 3 out of 4 local lawyers will leave practice within 10 years of commencing.
It seems to boil down to two very simple points. The first is that lawyering very often offers awful work-life balance. If you thought the 12-hour days teachers worked were bad, try comparing that to the 16-hour days many associates at large firms work virtually every day.
During crunch time, working till 2 or 3am is not even cause for complaint at big firms, and even at smaller firms, most young associates stay in the office till anywhere from 8pm to 10pm. Those who do leave at 6pm, while few and far between, often get penalised because the profession is still very conservative and bosses by and large expect a lot of face time whether or not there is work to be done.
The second reason many lawyers quit practice is because law as a course of study is one of the “default” choices of high scorers in the A levels. They enrol in the course for the prestige, for the promise of big money and simply because they can, rather than because they have any particular interest in the law.
These people soon find that doing a job you’re not that interested in is very difficult when it asks so much of you—stressful matters, anxious clients and long, exhausting hours. If it were just a cushy 9-5 job, fewer people would drop out. But the nature of practice is such that it demands that you engage or leave, and many end up doing the latter, five figure salary notwithstanding.
Some teachers enter the profession because they feel genuinely invested in the future of the youths of Singapore and want to help all these poor, tuition-laden kids. Some enrol in NIE because teaching is supposedly an iron rice bowl, the pay’s not bad and you get school holidays.
Unfortunately, teachers from both camps end up burning out. A recent news report shed light on the plight of teachers who leave the profession because of the stress, long hours, lack of work-life balance and, most notably, the piles and piles of admin work that eats up all their time and prevents them from concentrating on actually delivering lessons.
It is clear we are asking too much of Singapore teachers. Anyone who’s got a teacher in their lives knows that most continue to work at home, doing admin, marking scripts and planning lessons till late into the night when they should be spending time with their own friends and family.
Then there’s the lure of private tuition. Ex-MOE teachers can command impressive tuition rates of over $70 an hour for one single kid. Teachers find themselves asking why they bother to work so hard when they could be earning many times their salaries and working far fewer hours if they became private tutors.
Real estate agents
For some reason, our local newspapers really like to shine the spotlight on real estate agents who’ve made it big.
There was that girl who made her first million last year, and a few years back there was another lady who was averaging a million a year.
Most of the real estate agents on my Facebook page drive around in nice cars, wear Ferragamo heels and holiday in Paris.
But all of this belies the fact that herds of real estate agents give up their licences each year.
Despite high real estate prices which lead to fat commissions, real estate is not an easy industry to break into, especially given the fact that the real estate industry has been in the doldrums ever since the property cooling measures were put in places years ago.
Add to that the fact that many Singaporean property owners and buyers now prefer to bypass agents altogether thanks to the internet, and it’s easy to see why agents are fighting for an ever-shrinking pie.
In addition, this is not a job where you can just plonk yourself in front of a computer terminal and expect to get paid for surfing Facebook all day. Without a good mentor, starting out as a rookie agent can be very daunting. Agents who don’t perform don’t earn, and many leave after a few unsuccessful months.
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