The fast-changing nature of work has prompted many Singaporeans to upgrade their skills to stay relevant. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of young Singaporeans who have recently done so to give their careers a boost, or even pursue new paths in life.
In this instalment, Ms Ether Kum, 32, describes how her desire to better support her clients as a counsellor led her to pursue two part-time master’s degrees in quick succession. While she acknowledges her current Organisational Psychology course is no walk in the park, she believes it will help her understand the challenges working adults face and improve her effectiveness in her role.
I enjoy learning, and in deciding my next steps in education, my premise is that it should improve my effectiveness in my profession — counselling.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) in 2014, and was a youth worker at a home for abused girls from mid-2014 to end-2015.
There, I saw how important it was to be equipped with the right skills to understand and support individuals.
I learned the importance of counselling and left with the intention of furthering my studies in the field.
I have worked in various counselling roles over the years.
From 2016 to 2021, I was with SIM’s student development team, supporting students through training and counselling.
This role taught me about how youths think and helped me relate better to them in the counselling room.
In August 2021, I took up a similar role at the Singapore Institute of Technology, which I held until May 2023.
I started on a new job at a non-profit community service organisation in June.
Aside from counselling, I also work as a part-time admissions coach helping students prepare for entrance tests.
My first post-graduate degree was a part-time Master of Counselling at the Singapore University of Social Sciences’ (SUSS), which I completed in March 2021.
It was a deeply enriching programme and pursuing it had been a goal of mine since my job at the girls’ home.
I am now taking my second master’s degree in Organisational Psychology — also at SUSS.
It started in January and takes between two and four years to complete, depending on how you spread the modules out.
Organisational psychology resonated with me as I have seen how personal challenges impacted my clients at work.
I believe that the course can help me understand the challenges working adults face.
Each module comes with its own project, supervised by an industry professional. You could be developing a training programme for an SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) one semester, and working with another on candidate selections the next.
The programme is designed to equip candidates with the skills and experience to succeed as an organisational psychologist.
Case in point — the duration and mode of assignments are always unique, with timelines we would have to meet in the real world.
You learn to make efficient decisions, work faster, and be precise in your tasks. Where else do you get to develop these skills, in a safe environment?
It’s certainly not a walk in the park.
I feel drained after a long day of work, but I still must attend classes and submit assignments on time.
I try to manage my time as best as possible, like waking up earlier to get my assignments done.
I’m grateful that my family and friends have been very understanding of my schedule and my sometimes-random sighs over deadlines. This underscores the importance of a supportive system and like-minded persons who share the same values.
My mum taught me to take things in my stride and just give my best in any situation, the best being what you can do in that moment.
I sometimes ask myself why I signed up for another post-graduate degree. I’d be lying if I said I’m thriving, but I appreciate that it enables me to reflect on my preferences, nurture competencies, and revisit key fundamentals.
At my Master of Counselling graduation ceremony in October 2022, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing’s words stuck with me. I had then already applied for my second master’s but was doubtful.
He said that we don’t just graduate from an academic milestone, we graduate towards the next one.
Learning is a journey with infinite milestones. Age or commitments should not define your pursuits.
One thing that I have discovered about learning is that it is a fresh breath of air, and an eye-opening experience (if you decide to open your eyes, that is)!
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Ms Ether Kum, 32, is a counsellor and part-time admissions coach. She is also a fitness instructor and freelance food photographer.
If you have an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.