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Monday, 18 August 2014

Embrace Meritocracy; Not Paper Chase

No prizes where the inspiration for this post came about.

Most will focus on CPF (money, money, money); I focus on people.
Let's get the bogeyman out of the way. Embracing meritocracy will not increase happiness. In fact, it may probably increase more stress, angst, and burst the illusions for those who collect paper qualifications like collecting stamps or boy scout badges.

Why no increase in happiness?

When we have 1 vacancy, by shifting from giving it to the person with the most "ABCs" behind that person's name to the person who is most competent for the job, the number of disappointed applicants who didn't get the job remained the same.

Why may create more angst?

Those who have reached their glass-ceiling, what do they do? No, not investing for financial freedom. That comes much later.

It feels much better to "blame" our lack of paper qualifications right?

Instead of focusing on within, we put the focus on without.

Do you have courage to press the "reset" button like one brave blogger recently that did so with his portfolio? The day we stop telling little lies to ourselves is the day we move forward.

But off we go, collecting more "ABCs" behind our names.... Maybe this time I'll finally be recognised!

Can you imagine the angst if they see more examples like PM Lee have shown on the National Day Rally speech?


Someone should tell that ITE woman to stop competing in a man's world!


A Malay poly guy can be CEO in Qatar? Full Colonel some more!? I got MBA why no one pick me?


That Cheena man with NTC can be shipyard manager? Don't bluff me lah! Like that I study so hard for my evening Degree course for what?

What is Meritocracy when working for others?

Those working in SMEs know this already.

With fewer levels of management, and less employees, hired-guns have easier access and visibility from the Business Owner.

Hence, promotion opportunities are based on merit, relationships, and intuition - less on what papers you have.

Land owners and shepherds working in SMEs, feel free to correct me if it's not so.

For the benefit of those working in MNCs or for big daddy, the answer is:

What the Big Boss Man really cares about.

Human relations is EQ and Politics

I briefly hinted on relationships above. 

Meritocracy is not just about the intellectual realm. It's also about how we relate to other people. 

What is EQ?

EQ is office politics. (Or home politics for those living in big households) 

And if you always end up on the losing side in office politics, that means your EQ not that high lah!

OK, I better stop now, before I put my foot deeper into my mouth...


  1. Eh...i think ppl who do the paper chase believe deeply in meritocracy. I think they think they r good just by studying hard and getting qualified for the job.

    If any paper chaser can testify to my thinking is actually what they are thinking, that wld be great. ;)

    1. Coz go by merits mah....not abt relationships (关系) although i think u think good in relationships also a merit.

      Haha...yeah, maybe u hv ur foot in ur mouth.

    2. pf,

      Thanks for sharing your point of view.

      One is a "narrow" definition of meritocracy - you judge a person by their grades and qualifications.

      The other is a holistic view of meritocracy - the whole package.

      Yes, it will be interesting to see what others say ;)

      One land-owner class reader shared his requirements on getting good help recently:

      1) smart, 2) integrity, 3) hardworking

      I don't see academic qualifications anywhere...

      I not so sure collecting more papers mean you are getting smarter. More knowledgeable maybe ;)

      Must cheer pinky's recognition of 行行出状元 - we can be masters in whatever vocation we so chooses.

      Readers who can read between the lines will know I am not advocating not upgrading our skills.

      It's more a recognition that the academic route favours those with certain learning styles.

      Anyway, I am very happy for my younger brothers and sisters who don't quite fit into the academic model.

      Now no more excuse to hide behind the "I no papers" lie. The system against us, etc...

      We are our thoughts.

      Start by treating yourself right.

    3. The paper is to get the interview, 1 foot in door. After getting the job, bosses review per the 3 criteria u mentioned.

      If you look at the recruitment section of Straits Times, and look at the requirements for each job. ..its paper first most of the time.

    4. Ok...not to go into extremes here. Lol

      When i was about to finish my accountancy degree, i spoke to my ex boss and asked for his view about whether i should do a law degree to compliment my knowledge in accountacy, business and finance. He said there is no need to. I could inch towards law in my career if i really wanted to.

      That said, if i wanted to switch field to be a full ledge lawyer, I'll have to do a law degree. I didn't further my studies. Still manage to survived 10 yrs of working life, finding out what ppl do in their jobs (part of what I do). Haha...

    5. pf,

      1. Haven't fully utilised the potential of your accountancy degree already eyeing a law degree - that's paper chase ;)

      2. If you do switch and go back to law school. you are there to learn the skills and knowledge of becoming a lawyer - not to collect the LLB as part of your stamp collection.

      3. You "survived" 10 years without furthering your studies - that's not the complete truth.

      You meant FORMAL academic studies. Cannot be you have not upgraded your skills and knowledge during these 10 years through -

      - observations
      - learning from mistakes
      - learn by doing
      - self study
      - seminars and workshops
      - reflections
      - mentored by good coach/shepherd
      - etc

      It's what we do between 6pm to 9 am that differentiate us from the pack ;)

      Hmm... Accountancy and Law.... You're a wolf in sheep skin.

      You 锦衣卫?

    6. Pls lor...we accountants r very mild ppl who quietly do our work. I just gota release my other persona in the blogosphere.

      I'm not mata...but ok lah...some sort like that. I might just need to study IT security and forensics to complete the loop. Lol

    7. pf,

      Glad we got that out of the way!

      We like to have passionate discussions at the water-cooler. But when people of your class comes near, we start looking at the ceiling, at our zippers, "buat bodoh".

      Once you leave, we continue ;)

    8. I'm a new job now though.

      Now I am 无间道。

      (Rem what i said abt crossing disciplines at work)

  2. Hi SMOL,

    In a society where class status and caste exist, meritocracy is heavenly! It gives people in the wrong status and wrong caste to be able to hold his own fate, other than to do what is deemed suitable for his class and status. The position or job is held according to the one who had the best talent or ability to do the job - that's the ideal of meritocracy.

    What's starts off as good intention might, in the future, be twisted and turned into something that is quite different in the end. The problem with our system of meritocracy (perhaps in all kinds of non-ideal meritocracy) is that those who reached the desired position or job is deemed as someone who is hardworking and smart. That's okay. But that implicitly also implies that those who didn't make it are stupid and/or lazy!

    That's just harsh! Ouch!

    In a race with only a few esteemed winners, this system starts creating a whole group of dissatisfied people, considered by themselves and others as unworthy or stupid or lazy. To fix this situation, they do the only thing they know how to do - work harder, study harder, get more qualifications etc.

    System flaws but individual failures.

    Okay, I also better stop now, before I start a thesis on this topic LOL

    1. LP,

      I remember this post of yours!!! Oh my! It's been 3-4 years?

      I just started blogging and this "bias" post of yours was the inspiration for my later "roar of the heart" posts ;)

      Your post struck a chord and touched me; someone spoke out for people like me.

      Thank you. Namaste

  3. Why Executive MBA? (Where non graduate can get a shot at it)

    Why Doctor of Letter?

    Get it?

    1. CW,

      I think the day will come when people "verify" those who give investment advice will ask: "Can I see your track record?"

      So instead of by-passing qian-bei because you don't have CFA behind your name, you poor thing...

      Once they see your track record, they will go: "Wow! Beat GIC and got fight with Temasek! Come uncle, I buy you drink. Do tell me more!"


  4. SMOL,
    I no landowner class, but I help landowner choose farmers. Initially, I get easily impressed with ABC/XYZ in front, behind.
    After a few chit chat with all kinds of people, I learn 1 thing: Keep an open mind.
    The most qualified farmers may or may not have ABC but just based on resume alone cannot tell. Even after a chit chat, often I come out doubting myself, keep telling myself "Cannot be lah".
    Anyway, the moral of the story is... erh... never mind its not important.

    1. ckw-I99,

      Thanks for sharing your shepherd experiences and reflections.

      Your open mind is all I need.

      Just 5 minutes to chit-chat with people like me. I don't ask for more.

      Sadly, some shepherds don't even give me this 5 minutes.... Filtered me out from the get go...

      Thankfully in my career, I've met shepherds like you. Once I got in, I'm off to the races!

  5. Very engaging comments! Agree with LP Meritocracy is a lesser evil until a better alternative.

    Meritocracy does not mean equality or justice though. Inevitable there will be cultural assets which allowed some to start further in the starting line and some relationships that open doors.

    Just make sure it never become a closed system with wise men at the top, be in govt or private sector

    1. sillyinvestor,

      I am really lucky to have confident and self-assured readers who are not afraid to share their opinions and views.

      Yet do not take themselves too seriously, can take a poke or two, and can hit back as good as we receive ;)

      Land-owners and shepherds know if we go on a dungeon raid, we don't go as a party of 5 mages or 5 paladins. It's possible, but it will be more fun to have DIVERSITY ;)

      Using The Romance of the Three Kingdoms as an analogy, you don't win "river mountain" with just fighters in your team.

      We need someone good in strategy, someone good in diplomacy, someone good in subterfuge, someone good in logistics, etc ;)

  6. Hi SMOL,

    I strolled down the industrial park in Eunos after lunch just now. Alone.

    Many pairs of curious eyes were staring at me as I shuffled along the dusty roads under the mid-day sun.

    A transient traveller, a curious passerby, living in a different dimension.

    My destination was the training centre some 500m away where I'm 'upgrading' my professional knowledge to making an easy living.

    Those curious eyes'? Their destination is to find a living among the grease and grime, bartering their time and technical skills for the hope of a more secured tomorrow.

    Many 'pillars' of success? How?

    Meritocracy? Who defines the rules? What determines what knowledge is worth more?

  7. The concept of meritocracy is an ideal.

    There is always political/economic interest in how meritocracy is defined.

    So how to embrace something that is fuzzy? :)

    1. Endrene,

      Agree that Meritocracy is not utopia.

      It's evolutionary and work in progress.

      From the Magna Carta of Robin Hood's England to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of the French Revolution, most nations and societies have turned away from feudal, aristocratic, and religious privileges to republics and democracies.

      Some societies today are still practicing the monarchy system, while some are waging war to recreate religious states.

      You are right. It's precisely for political and economic interests that I embrace Meritocracy ;)

      Fuzzy is good. That means we can move across several social classes in one generation.

      If too black and white, I will be forever condemned to be worker ant if I were to be born in a worker ant family....

  8. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/mobile/singapore/better-career-prospects/1330998.html

    This is a really good thing.

    But at the same thing, I hope non graduates recognize the intrinsic value of a degree. Its not just to be better paid, etc. It is a training of the mind. Not saying that other avenues of training is not useful.

    I was a diploma holder. I grudgingly went to get a degree becoz i thot ppl pay for paper. Later on, i realized that there is really significant difference in the thought process between grad and non grad.

    Of coz, also doesn't mean that all graduates are fantastic.

    Anyhow, whatever paper is what one makes of it. Otherwise its just a piece of paper.

    1. pf,

      There are professions where the starting pay is the same (or rather zero and pure commission based) whether you are a Phd or O' levels - insurance and property sales, remisiers, etc.

      That's the extreme on one side.

      The other opposite end is where the starting pay VARIES depending on paper qualifications, whether we serve NS or not (euphemism for women getting lower pay), etc.

      I don't see the rationale for different starting pay for doing the SAME work!?

      Baby steps.

      Let's start with equal opportunity for performance first ;)

    2. I know exactly what you mean. :)

      I was told to cover my colleague who was going for reservist on my first job. He was a grad but i am not. :)


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