derek toh malaysian fresh graduate

Malaysian Fresh Graduates Have Attitude Problems?

Here’s an interesting article that’s been going around social media recently about why many Malaysian fresh graduates remain unemployed. It seems, we can all basically sum it up to them having attitude problems. In fact, the article breaks this down into several key reasons:

  • Unrealistic salary expectations – RM3.5k to RM6.5k
  • Poor communications skills
  • Dreaming too big (it seems, if you are from a “small” university you should work with a small company)

Understandably, employers who agree with this are furiously sharing this article on social media, along with expressing their own frustrations with their experience of hiring Malaysian fresh graduates.

But many of the fresh graduates that I have interviewed or hired did not actually show such “bad attitudes”, therefore I am a bit confused. As a startup, our salaries are fairly modest. Yet we’ve hired many quality Malaysian fresh graduates. They are matured and capable. Their communication skills are good, their attitude is decent, and they certainly could work in any multi-national company, yet they are working in a small startup (are they dreaming too small?).

Many fresh graduates I have interviewed or hired did not such show “bad attitudes”, therefore I am a bit confused.

I would like to comment on some of these reasons, in defense of these so-called fresh graduates with bad attitude.

Unrealistic Salary Expectations

Again, I’ve personally not encountered too many fresh graduates with unrealistic salary expectations. So why did our fresh graduates join us for such “realistic” salaries? It’s because there were other things at our company that they were interested in, apart from salary.

  • At WOBB, the team feels as if they’re part of an important mission to grow a small start-up into something much bigger.
  • They are allowed to experience different parts of the company, and we’ve rotated people across teams to help them with their self-development, and also discovering their strengths.
  • We have a culture of thanking and supporting each other, so everyone feels appreciated, fulfilled, and there’s an incredible level of trust across the team.
  • The media writes about us every now and then, so they feel proud to be associated with our brand.

Therefore, salary just becomes ONE of the many factors that they consider when they join us.

malaysian fresh graduates

Team bonding over Flycycle at WOBB

When an employer has little to offer, or fails to be clear about what else the company has to offer, then of course it becomes all about salary.

Imagine getting interviewed by a company where you don’t genuinely feel proud to be in, or feel that they don’t enable employee development, wouldn’t you ask for more money?

Poor Communication Skills

This is something that has been discussed for some time. And I am assuming it’s pointing to those with lack of English proficiency.

These Malaysian fresh graduates basically went through the education system, successfully graduated with a degree, but somehow the majority of them came out with “poor communication skills”. And this is their fault? The fact that a large group of Malaysian fresh graduates have poor communication skills would indicate that it’s a problem with education.

These Malaysian fresh graduates basically went through the education system, successfully graduated with a degree, but somehow the majority of them came out with “poor communication skills”.

And this is their fault?

I bet many Malaysian fresh graduates wished they had better communication. Wish they knew how to interview to land that job that they really want. So to blame a 22 year old person for something they had little control of is quite unfair.

Unfortunately, fresh graduates have to work harder to improve their communication skills since formal education did not succeed in helping them in this area. But it’s the education sector that needs to own this problem and step up. A lot.

Dreaming Too Big

So if I am a fresh graduate with an accounting degree from a “small” university, I shouldn’t apply to the Big 4 audit firms? Why not? What if it’s because my family couldn’t afford to send me to an expensive university but I work damn hard to get to where I am? And if I do want to work in a small company, am I supposed to just not be fussy and pick any one?

I did not like that statement. Simply because it implied that those that did not graduate from a branded university, shouldn’t aim high and shouldn’t have a choice. I didn’t graduate from a so-called “big” university either. I didn’t do my A-levels, and I was a foreigner in the UK that needed a work permit. Yet, I ended up working in Ernst & Young in the UK.

So yeah, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to join a big corporate company even if you don’t have a “big” degree, because you never know. More and more companies are ignoring university degrees and relying on their own assessments, because, hey, they don’t fully trust university grades anyway.

And if you don’t join a “big” name (you shouldn’t have to, it’s really up to you), then even if it’s a small company, you should want to choose a good one. There are about half a million SMEs in Malaysia, a fresh graduate should be given the opportunity to evaluate which one is the right one for them. That’s what we are trying to do at WOBB. And if you’re an employer, offer more transparency about what it’s like to work in your company. You’ll be surprised, you will get many more good job applications than if you didn’t!

But what if they can’t land their dream job, shouldn’t they be more realistic?

Fresh graduates should have dreams. They should try to reach as high or as far as they can. Now, if for some reason, they applied to their preferred employers and did not land a job there, then sure, you should be realistic and join another company first.

But here’s where it’s also important. Pick a company that you know you can gain relevant experience and ultimately give you another shot at that preferred employer that you want to work in. And work really hard at this job. Contribute as much as you can. Be a performer. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because this was not your first choice, you shouldn’t want to work hard. Because your progress and reputation in your current company matters.

And after several years of experience, try applying to that dream job again. Don’t give up.

Also, perhaps one day you will find ourself not needing to join that dream company because you are already fulfilled where you are. And that’s great too.

Putting the blame on a 22 year old person who has more or less just followed the system, is not going to help make things better.


Of course there are fresh graduates with bad attitudes or unrealistic expectations. Just like there are employers who treat employees badly, and offer them nothing to look forward to besides a monthly paycheck.

Putting the blame on a 22 year old person who has more or less just followed the system, is not going to help make things better. Employers need to learn to be a better place to work so it’s not just about salary. And the education sector needs to do it’s part in improving the communication and employability of our Malaysian fresh graduates.