fbpx

We got a career expert to answer 20 questions posed by worried graduates

A recent graduate or just starting working? We feel you. We really do. Graduating or starting your career at the start of a recession is rough. I mean, really rough. You have every right to feel anxious. 

That said, all hope is not lost. Singapore has faced challenges before and thrived – when we were a far poorer nation (or even before we were a nation).

How did those who came before us do it? Pure grit, sacrifice, learning the right skills, and of course, asking the right questions. 

In that spirit, The National Youth Council, Lim Hui Shan from FastJobs and ourselves got together to answer some of the most common questions posed to us by millennials and Gen Z on Instagram. 

Here we go:

Do you think it’s okay to ask for a pay raise now?

It is not impossible, but you have to be certain that

 

  • your company is one of those who are bucking the trend and doing exceptionally well during Covid-19 and
  • you can make a good case for your pay raise – be it a significant increase in your role as compared to the rest of the team; a promotion; or because you know you are significantly underpaid compared to your peers. Use GlassDoor and Salary.sg to check that out.

 

Bear in mind that scope can be sensitive: everyone has had to make adjustments to tackle the uncertainties of the pandemic, and there will definitely be changes in your work scope due to that.

 

If you’re thinking of asking for a pay raise, try sounding out your boss informally first, to “test the waters”, so to speak.

 

Related reading: Deadly wage slave thoughts and how to overcome them

I want to change my career, but I don’t have time to learn new skills – tied up in the office on weekends and OT too.

Depending on the type of skills that you are looking to learn, there are several online courses that you can spend your SkillsFuture credits on, or self-learn for free, even. 

Instead of attending a physical class, you will be able to complete the courses and gain new skills at your own pace.

Coursera has a curated list of courses that you can explore if you’re looking to change sectors.

Related reading: Before you change careers in your 30s, read this

Is WFH the new norm for Singaporeans?

 


For many sectors, Singaporeans are getting more used to working from home. 

 

In NYC’s recent survey on youths on changes to the workplace, Flexible work arrangements (75%), Higher adoption of digital work comms (61%) and Change in office arrangement (e.g. no fixed desks) (50%) were the top three that they thought they would adapt best to. 

 

The thing I miss most is the social interaction and collaborative discussions that work better in person than over video calls, so it’s likely that the eventual norm will be more a mix of work from home and from office. 

 

There are many roles which cannot be done remotely though!

Workers in operational or customer-facing roles will still have to work from the office.

It’s hard to find internships right now. How?

 

If it’s a school requirement, check in with your school on what can be done to meet your course requirements. Otherwise, there are a few options that will help you build your experience for the future.

You can freelance, or find a temporary job that can help you build your experience working in new environments. These can help you build soft skills and gain exposure, even if it might not be directly related to your major.

 

You can also opt to build on your skills or expand your skill set by taking up courses (be it YouTube, or simply reading online publications) in digital marketing, coding, etc.

Keep applying and looking for internships, while you constantly improve upon your current skills.

I really want to take courses at 24, but no SkillsFuture credit to claim, how?

What course do you want to take and why? There are plenty of free resources available online if you know what you want to learn – Coursera, edX, YouTube, mentors from mentorship programmes, etc.

Check out NYC’s page: Gradgowhere.sg, under the category of “Career Skills” there’s a list of free course platforms you can use. 

 

You don’t always have to rely on Skillsfuture credits to gain new skills. 

Became an Office Lady after 4 years of being a stewardess. What are the must-have office skills?

Really depends on what role! Basic skills are Microsoft Office skills – word processing, Excel, presentation skills, ability to research, ability to google and generally be resourceful enough to figure out how to deal with new situations, stakeholder management, communication, project management, email etiquette….

This list from Coursera also covers workplace skills you can learn! 

Related reading: I was an air stewardess for 15 months and saved $58,000

Is it a good idea to start a business right now? What is it really like?

It’s a lot of hard work and no “working hours”. 

Funding and sales are going to take up most of your attention, but you’re going to have to handle this amidst all the other little details. But, you’re your own boss, so you call the shots, and your efforts decide how well your business is going to be!

TWS: It’s definitely a risk in this climate, but business owners have the potential to make more money as compared to the average salaryman simply because of this risk. 

I don’t wanna learn tech skills, what can I upgrade to, considering AI will take over my job in the future?

What do you consider “tech skills” that you don’t want to learn? Technology is in almost every industry and being technology literate at least is really going to be critical. 

 

Perhaps if you are a successful artist, some kind of creative role where your work will be judged on some artistic merit that might resist the onslaught of AI for a bit. 

 

I would suggest exploring design thinking, user experience, where you’re learning to redefine problems to find innovative solutions.

Had a job offer before COVID-19 from the company. But the company has been silent since then. What should I do?

Check in with the employer what is happening – if it’s because the business is not in a good state and they’re waiting for things to go back to pre-Covid-19, let them know that you would like to continue looking out for alternative opportunities too.

 

Start applying for new jobs, traineeships, do part time work, volunteer, while you search.

Currently studying part time, should I drive Grab or continue a job that’s completely unrelated to studies.

Are you working to earn money or to gain experience?

I believe there are a lot of soft skills and practical experiences to be gained in most jobs – how to work as a team, dealing with customers, dealing with stakeholders, etc and nowadays we don’t stay in 1 industry or 1 role forever. 

 

A wide diversity of experiences is going to help you to accumulate enough life experiences to be more adaptable and resilient.

TWS: That said, if you’re in your 20s and 30s, being a private car hire is not a long term replacement for a career. Our suggestion if you have no other option to earn money is this:  Create an emergency fund ->  Spend some time for the luxury learn new skills -> Slowly pivot away from being a private car hire driver. 

Graduating uni soon and my grades aren’t great even though I try hard. Advice to be more hireable?

Take on more extracurricular or work opportunities, add to the cv, take on work that will demonstrate to future employers that you will be a great addition to any team. 

Find ways to show that you learn quickly, are adaptable and resourceful, especially with real world examples of how you’ve dealt with tough situations – that can really show a potential employer your abilities beyond grades.

 If you’d like to speak to someone, look for Workforce Singapore’s career coaches or attend free courses on increasing hireability.

TWS: There are always two tracks to getting hired.

One is the one where most of us take in the beginning. Your grades matter, what school you come from matters, your last salary matters.  You generally follow the industry norm. This is when the employee doesn’t know enough about your skills or capabilities – so they have to gauge this through other means.

The other way is by demonstrating your value far exceeds your qualifications: i.e I have experience in content creation and can help you save on marketing costs by $25,000 every month through organic reach. If your grades are not fantastic, this is the track you need to aim towards. 

Will jumping around different industries affect my hireability?

It depends. 

Experience does count towards hireability, so gaining enough industry experience will help you be able to advance and be more sought after by employers in the same industry. 

However, certain functional roles where industry might not matter as much, say marketing, tech, product development, it can be a good way to gain more diversity in experience.

TWS: If you’re wondering whether changing jobs often will affect hireability, the answer is yes. But only if you do it for a longer period of time, i.e 5 years. The reason for this is because employers may doubt your commitment. For that reason, we recommend at least having one job that you stay at for at least 1.5 years.

Would you say employers care more about soft skills vs hard skills?

Depends on the industry/role. 

Hard skills are easier to teach than soft skills, but some hard skills require formal education and training. Eg. for a developer, if you’re a genius, employers might take a discount on the soft skills they expect you to have.

Researcher/Scientist, hard skills is going to be pretty much a prerequisite.

However, most of the differentiators between you and someone similarly qualified is going to be soft skills – people management, communication, problem solving, resourcefulness etc. which separate the regular staff from the rockstars.

Advice when you feel incompetent at work – can’t finish work on time, burnout.

Why do you feel incompetent?

Is the difficulty of work beyond your current skills/experience?

Is the workload too heavy?

Seek support from those in office as a start – is there a supervisor, colleague who is able to advise or guide you? Will communicating your current challenges allow someone in the position to to help guide you through your issues? 

Sometimes, you might be struggling but the people who are able to help you may not be aware. Communicating clearly will help you find the right people who may be able to help.

Consider getting stress support if your office provides, or call mental health support.

Make time in your routine to get in regular exercise to help you manage your stress levels. It’s free.

I want to pursue a degree but money is pretty tight for my family. How?

A few options – if your grades are decent, consider applying for a scholarship to help cover the costs of your degree.

If that is not an option, consider working for a while first to save up and gain some working experience before pursuing your degree. There is no shame in working before getting a degree. 

TWS: Seedly has a nice resource link for scholarships here. Or you can check out BrightSparks, a scholarship portal. 

I’m only 32 but I’m seeing my friends getting retrenched already, how can I ensure that my rice bowl is solid?

 

Unfortunately, retrenchments are more common today, and it’s typically not a reflection of one’s ability, but really, decisions necessitated by poor business/economic situations.

Instead of trying to “ensure a solid rice bowl”, think about building your own career to be resilient –  Skill sets that are transferable, constantly learning and upskilling, keeping curious and updated about new technologies, developments across industries, to ensure you’re adaptable.

It’s not about finding a job in which you’re never going to get retrenched, but more that if anything happens you’re going to be in a good position to find something else.

There should be no stigma in getting retrenched right now, tbh.

That said, take every opportunity to do something meaningful. Even if you cannot find work, learn a new skill or volunteer for a good cause, so that there is no “gap” in your resume.

TWS: Few jobs are ‘solid rice bowl jobs’ at the moment. No reasonable HR in 2025 will penalise you for getting retrenched during 2020.

Of course, you can also diversify into other sources of income, i.e a second job, a side business etc.

Related reading: Financial lessons from Singapore’s food supply

Want to go into advertising, but don’t know anything about the industry and have no networks. What’s the best way to get in touch with a professional in this field?

Create that network! 

If you have a LinkedIn account, consider reaching out to advertising professionals via the social media platform. 

Send them a short message indicating your purpose and expand your network that way. In the meantime, look to expand your skill set in the advertising realm. 

Alternatively try going for virtual mentorships – the mentors are already ready to give advice, so it might be less scary than approaching blind. 

Do you think digitalisation of work will result in more employers outsourcing jobs to foreigners since it’s more cost-efficient for them? If yes, how?

Especially as companies are looking to manage their costs during an economic downturn, more employers may be looking to outsource work to freelancers, both locally and overseas. 

Digitalisation just makes some of this outsourcing more efficient. See if you can consider in your own role what your strengths are compared to a freelancer on the open market – eg. knowing the business really well, knowing the preferences and habits of people you’re working with. 

It’s not always going to be about the lowest cost, so think about what the non-price advantages you have over others.

TWS: In the same way some jobs here will go to foreigners in cheap countries, some jobs in more developed countries could come to Singaporean’s… if they have the right skills. Our pay here still isn’t as high as say, Europe’s.

Boss is texting me even at 9pm at night about work ever since we started WFH. How can I get my personal time back?

If the request is not urgent, consider waiting till the morning to reply, but do be diligent about getting what needs to be done.

TWS: I think during COVID-19 everything might seem permanently burning at work and everything is urgent.

Of course most bosses will love it if you reply promptly all the time but the reality is that people can only be pushed so hard before they break. I’d say talk to your boss about it – if they treasure you as an employee,they’ll make a conscious effort to step back. 

If they don’t, well, I guess that’s how you kinda know a company isn’t 100% aligned with your values.

Just started a new job during CB period so I’ve NEVER seen my colleagues F2F. How can I get closer to my colleagues?

Actively reach out via your comms channels (in-house chat, Slack etc), initiate activities like 1-on-1 zoom lunches, now that you can go out, suggest doing lunches in small groups together.

TWS: Sometimes perceived ‘daoness’ or ‘aloofness’ is just two parties being shy to ask each other out. Just be the first one to take action – shows initiative also.

Answers by NYC, FastJobs and TWS

Interested to do your bit for the community, check out NYC’s available grants.

Want to know what other youths are doing for the community? Click here to follow the Youth Action Challenge journey.

close-alt close collapse comment ellipsis expand gallery heart lock menu next pinned previous reply search share star