In July, pictures of a girl in her graduation gown squatting down by the roadside and next to dustbins, holding a sign “Hire Me Leh” went viral. It has since received over 514 likes and 2,477 shares on her Facebook (at time of writing).
Elizabeth Boon’s unconventional graduation photoshoot took our Facebook feeds by storm, and reopened the topic of the difficulties graduates face in their job search.
Months have passed, and we recently caught up with Elizabeth to find out more about the girl in the photo, and what has happened since.
Capturing A Glimpse Of Reality
To Elizabeth, who majored in Communications and New Media in National University of Singapore (NUS), there wasn’t actually any “larger” motivations behind the shoot – she just wanted a graduation photoshoot that wasn’t like the typical ones, in which people tend to throw their hats midair, and pose around their alma mater in their robes.
She explains that those pictures only seem to capture the very moment a person graduates, but not the aftermath of a graduation.
That of which is the hunt for a job, the rejections that come, and waking up after with nothing but the realisation of their current employment status (or lack of it).
“I wanted something realistic, not the rosy picture that people seem to like painting for graduates. At the same time, I wanted to approach the topic of unemployment in a light-hearted manner. All I really wanted to do was make fun of my plight while making it relatable to others,” she says.
The Millennial Culture
Elizabeth explains that a large number of comments online talked about how her generation (usually called the “strawberry generation”) is too spoilt and demanding, and expect a high-flying job right after graduation.
But she asserts that it isn’t true at all.
“I just think that we’ve all worked very hard in school, with increasing pressure to excel in every aspect of our academic journey. And now that we’ve graduated, we just want to be able to utilise everything that we’ve learnt so far and to be rewarded fairly for it,” she says.
She mentions that it’s not really easy to get hired now, as many job opportunities specify a requirement for several years of work experience, and that’s a prerequisite fresh graduates aren’t able to meet.
“I think people need to stop pushing all the blame onto us – sometimes we’re not the ones who are picky with the companies, the companies are the ones refusing to give fresh graduates a chance.”
Choosing The Freelance Life
Elizabeth doesn’t have a full-time job at the moment.
She’s freelancing and it’s something she had gladly chosen to do.
“I’ve turned down all the job offers because I’m happy with what I’m doing now. Hosting and acting have been my passion for the longest time, and I don’t think there’s a better time to chase my dreams than right now, in my 20s,” she says.
She informs that she doesn’t have any current plans to get a full-time job as well, and that people have been severely misled by a recent Straits Times article.
“I made it clear to the writer that I wasn’t looking to be employed, but was represented in the article as an individual that has ‘settled’ for freelancing because I haven’t been unable to get full-time job.”
However, like all things, freelancing also has its downside. The main problem is the unstable income that comes with the career choice.
“I knew this going into freelancing so I can’t say it isn’t what I expected. I’m just glad that there aren’t any financial responsibilities on me at the moment – my parents have been very gracious and understanding with my career choices,” she says.
Not Everyone Was A Fan
Despite many applauding her efforts to showcase the reality of a graduate, Elizabeth met with plenty of negative responses as well.
She’s even considered doing another series of photoshoots themed “Date Me Leh”, similar to her pervious one, but changed her mind eventually.
“I scrapped the idea as soon as I came up with it. I think I’d receive too much flak for that one – it’s not like I’m actually going to be looking for a boyfriend through this photoshoot, but I think a lot of people out there won’t be able to understand that it’s all for the humour,” she says.
Some have also called her a slut, amongst other derogatory terms for her earlier shoot, and she was therefore afraid of what kind of horrible comments would be made if she went ahead with her new idea.
Although, she still admits the idea isn’t completely off the table, saying: “But who knows, if I ever work up the courage, I might just do it.”
Feature image credit: Alexander Ian Loh