By Singapore Teaching Centre, British Council

29 September 2015 - 13:50

A colourful market in Yangon, Myanmar. The year Prethika spent teaching English here inspired her to make a difference in the world by uplifting the less fortunate. 

Less pay, more meaning: Prethika’s unusual career choice

When NUS graduate Prethika Nair was hired as an Executive at an insurance firm, many would consider her lucky. Yet, she had a different long-term career in mind - one with less job security and lower pay. She planned to build savings and experience at her insurance job before furthering her career in the field of International Development.

This year, she gained admission to University of Edinburgh’s Masters’ programme of International Relations. Being a proud winner of the British Council Regional IELTS Prize 2015 has also brought her one step closer to her dream degree. What drives Prethika?

A year in Myanmar

Upon graduating from NUS, she spent a year teaching English at the Singapore International School in Yangon, Myanmar. She lived in a neighbourhood of stark contrasts. Her own apartment was comfortable and equipped with Wi-Fi, but every day, she saw children running along the railroad tracks near her house. When parts of Yangon got flooded during the monsoon season, it slowed Prethika’s commute home. But the children who played along the railroad tracks did not have homes in the monsoons to begin with. Their makeshift shelters would often get completely destroyed by polluted rainwater.  

Prethika did not want to remain a mere spectator to such poverty. She became acquainted with a few NGO employees, who worked hard to give poor families better access to education and medical care. When Prethika saw how small changes to systems could make a big difference over time, she knew that a career in International Development would be very rewarding. 

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How family and friends reacted

Most of her friends and family have been extremely supportive of Prethika’s chosen career path. But there were others who dismissed her career plans as “youthful spontaneity” and felt she was wasting her time trying to “discover herself”. In Prethika’s own words: “Frankly, I didn't bother responding at the time. I would rather prove myself in the course of my work and let that be a way of showing them that I'm serious about what I believe in. Talk means nothing if I can't back it up with action.”

Prethika’s determination was visible in the tough choices she made. For example, she chose to save a large portion of her current income to finance her Masters’ degree. She was also aware that a career in International Development would mean less job security, harder work and lower pay. However, Prethika doesn’t see any of this as a sacrifice: doing work that aligns with her values is a reward in itself.

Words of advice

Wish you could be as clear about your future path as Prethika?  This is her advice regarding career choices: “It’s okay to not know what to do right at this moment. Choose a direction, and take it from there. But whatever direction you choose, even temporarily, give it your very best”. Any field of work is competitive, and only dedication and commitment can bring success.

As part of her Masters’ degree application, Prethika booked the IELTS test with British Council Singapore. With a good IELTS band-score under her belt, she has done everything she could to assure her admission and success during her year abroad. Achieving your own IELTS band-score is as easy as booking a date and showing up.  

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