Back in 1967, an act was passed in Singapore making it mandatory for all men aged 18 and above to enlist into National Service (NS) for two years. It then led to the rise of the conscription program that Singaporeans are oh so familiar with. The tough part comes about when one has completed his National Service, grabs his pink IC, slaps it on his forehead, while he exclaims the phrase he has waited 17520 hours for; “ORD LO.” The soldier can now exchange his green uniform for a suit to become a proper civilian.
So what happens after? For the past two years after being either a man, a specialist or an officer in the force, he has changed as a person. Having to adapt to the regimentation of the army, the skills he has learnt have little or nothing to do with the transition into a civilian. Now he finds himself stranded at a crossroad. The article below shows commonly faced problems by an NSF. We also will discuss measures that to help him transit into a full-fledged civilian!
Do I have it in me to study?
Everyone will be in different areas of his or her lives with varying highest degrees of qualification. Most of whom will indeed choose to re-join the path they were once in before enlisting. This choice would be to head back to studying be it an NUS degree, NITEC or even re-sitting for O’levels. The need to continue education, for most of the population, is often misunderstood. Most feel the necessity to adhere to the paper chase society in which we live. Else, they risk not being able to find a job due to the steep competition out there. The real purpose of education and deepening of one’s knowledge has dissipated, and a vast bulk of the population do it because of “Bopian” (a lack of choice).
The idea of going back to studying, after two years of not hitting the books, punching the calculators or burning the midnight oil can be a tad bit worrying for some. However, the ideal way to overcome this fear is to go back to the roots and understand the real purpose of studying. And that real purpose would be to ultimately widen your pool of knowledge in that field of study. Eventually, the information learned without a doubt be put to good use when you step foot into the working world. The fear of not being able to do it should be tossed out of the window at this point. Think about it; you’ve survived the many field camps, “tekan” sessions and extra duties. Flipping through your textbook for your benefit is a piece of cake in comparison.
Where did all my money go?
Serving your time as an NSF does have its perks; the allowance, NSF meal discounts at certain stores, medical benefits, free cookhouse food, savings on transport costs (for stay-in personnel) and the list goes on. When you ORD, all these will go away. Moreover, the biggest issue that will haunt you in your sleep would be your loss of income, albeit little, it has gotten you by for the past two years. It wouldn’t be wise to rely on pocket money from your parents having stepped into adulthood.
There are a couple of ways to counter this, and both involve you getting out and sourcing for a job. A part-time job on weekends and on nights after school does offer decent money to get you by your daily expenses. Many job agencies have helped bridge gaps to streamline the job finding process. The challenge here would be to find employment in the industry you wish to enter after your studies come to an end. Be it event helpers, social media executives, research respondents or photographers, there is something for everyone, and all you need to do is to source well. These jobs will offer you some form of relevant experience when you become a fresh graduate to give you that little edge amidst the competition when entering the job hunt for your first full-time job.
The next option to counter this problem, the author’s personal favourite, is to go straight out and work at a full-time job while concurrently studying part-time. Singapore University of Social Sciences among many other institutes of education offer these part-time programs specially catered for working professionals. This option is becoming increasingly popular among new ORD personnel.
Think about it this way, your peer who has chosen to study full-time will only have a degree after four years. On the other hand, after the same duration, you will find yourself with an equal degree, four years’ worth of working experience and a huge chunk of savings in your bank compared to your counterpart. The experience earned would then grant you the possibility of being promoted to a manager or a senior executive after the completion of your studies. Not to mention your salary would be considerably higher. The only downside of this option is the fatigue and the lack of social life. But think about it, if you don’t work hard when you’re in your twenties, when do you want to work hard?
I can’t get a job!
The market for jobs right now is scarce, the majority of employers are looking for people with experience that new ORD personnel simply don’t have. There are some hidden gems out there who will recognise your talent and hire you eventually but let me remind you, this is a long and tedious process. It will nevertheless be very fruitful if you find yourself with the perfect job.
The trick to this is to put yourself out there and get on to as many job search websites as you can. But, before doing this, you might want to fine-tune your resume after years of not touching it. Multiple sites and articles offer valuable insights and key pointers on how a resume should look. Employers are people too; they are on the lookout for someone who is outstanding and not just another application in a pile. So, make yours stand out with a personalised cover letter crafted specifically for your employer. Doing this will increase the likelihood of the organisation spending more time reviewing your application. Finally, the most important thing to do is to start early. The preparation can be done 4-6 months before your operationally ready date (ORD), and the ideal situation would be for you to attend interviews and secure a job offer even before you ORD.
Am I going to start putting on weight?
The regimentation of being in the military did have its perks. You would be in the fittest point of your life because of the mandatory training sessions conducted regularly. The monetary incentives for IPPT also help motivate the soldier to go for the gold and more importantly the $300. So, isn’t it entirely reasonable for one to lose this drive and potentially gain a lot of weight after his National Service commitment? Well, not necessarily.
It will be a lot harder now. No one will take disciplinary actions on you if you miss a training session and you won’t ever have to worry about burning your weekends serving confinement or extra duties in camp. However, your body cannot live on all that junk food and beers forever. Treating your body as a temple will give you so many more benefits in the future than you could ever possibly imagine.
If that’s not enough drive for you, then just think about your 10-year liability as an NSman and all that IPPT RTs that you’d have to go through. When you’re that age, time is money, and keeping fit earns you money: $500 to be exact (for Gold). Many would wonder if that cash incentive is enough motivation to go through weeks of arduous training to build up to the test. Instead of looking at it that way, think about it the way an NS-man once told me:
“How many organisations out there are willing to pay you money to stay fit, look good and prove it in 15 minutes. That is virtually all it takes; 15 minutes for $500.”
Is my ORD trip all that necessary?
Two years is a long time, and many would feel the need to take a vacation after their NS completion which is perfectly reasonable. But is it necessary? Some, who are more well off than others, could go on a month-long Europe trip and it wouldn’t even scratch their bank accounts. Others, on the other hand, would have to scrimp and save from their measly NS allowance just to be able to pay for that ORD trip. The hard-earned savings would then all disappear after a couple of days or weeks of travelling. To address this, one must be aware that there are first of all two schools of thought.
1) I need to travel and party real hard before I go back into the real world.
2) I’d rather save that couple of thousands for my future.
There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should be spending all that money on travelling, but we implore you to think which is dearer to you; the future or your memories made. To those who simply cannot decide between the two, why not a combination of both? A week-long trip around neighbouring countries in South-East Asia would be an affordable and great way to unwind before the transition into the civilian world.
The world is my oyster!
There must be so many different emotions flooding your mind right now, from the euphoria of finally being free of the fear of what lies ahead. Whatever the case, the strenuous two years are over. Make the best choices now and reap the fruits of your labour later. With that, we wish you all the best for your Civilian Conversion Course.
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Last updated on July 1st, 2019.