I was considered a job hopper when a friend who viewed my resume told me that most of the jobs that I took up seldom lasted more than two years especially for the last decade.
I remembered serving out a one-year contract back in 2007 when I taught English to Chinese students but didn’t renewed as my family wasn’t happy that I was away for too long in China.
My personal job hopping history
My shortest stint with any company was with DBS Bank working as a financial advisor in 2006. My basic pay was $3000 then and I only worked for a month after completing the 2-month financial advisor course with the bank.
The pressure of a million-dollar unit trust monthly target created alot of stress and I left knowing that even if I have stayed on longer, the inevitable would come one day.
Many other colleagues left soon after me and the whole class of 20 trained financial advisors took off after less than 6 months of joining the local bank.
I also resigned from CDC as a career consultant after working for a year in 2007 as things didn’t worked out the way I felt that it should be.
I felt that I was merely registering jobless PMETs into the PES system than actively helping them. Been too outspoken also did not helped me one bit as the civil service system operated on a top-down management style.
Prior to that, I was a solid worker working in Mindef for 11 years and served as a insurance agent with AIA for 5 years there after before my career took an uncertain nosedive after that.
I was already in my early 40s by then and going nowhere…
I guess I was searching for a more meaningful job as money, though still important, is not the paramount driving force anymore.
I later took up a $7/hour temp job serving as an asst social worker with a family service centre in Woodlands. after waiting out a horrendous 18-month unemployment period in 2001/02.
That period literally changed my life as it helped me to re-evaluate my life goals and essentially not to waste my life as it is short.
Armed with two diplomas from psychology and counselling, I started transitioning in 2008 and remained with the organisation full time till now.
I guess if you found your niche and do something meaningful, chances are you will stay on even if the financial returns are miserable.
Many of my readers will know that I do not have a proper salary for four years but depend on some part-time work and donations to survive.
Why people job hop
Interestingly, I was happy and ploughed on despite the insecurity as I knew that I was doing something that impacted people’s lives. To me, that was my driving force…
I guess people have to know what make them tick – is it money, the work scope or your supportive colleagues?
I managed to stay on in Mindef for 11 years despite the monotonous job scope and lousy pay as I have a solid group of colleagues who worked cohensively and we are more like a family unit than mere colleagues.
We lunched and holidayed together and even met up regularly when some of us left the company.
When I went out to work later on, I realised that most companies work selfishly and I missed the close relationship I had with my ex-colleagues at Mindef.
When they are younger, sufficient salary and corporate ladder climbing are important options for them especially if they have a family to take care of.
But all this diminishes as one ages and they may look for something more enriching and rewarding to the soul.
Who are the job hoppers?
According to moneysmart.sg, job hoppers are people who rotate jobs frequently, about once every 18 months.
It further adds that most job hoppers are between 22 – 32, although some continue well into their 40′s. If you have five or six jobs on your resume, none of which last longer than two years, you’re in this category.
Fortunately, many jobless PMETs I saw during these four years are not job hoppers and less than 10% belonged to this category.
Most of them are also in their 40s and tend to hold on to their jobs for many years before they were retrenched.
Most who job hopped however are in their twenties and they probably switched jobs because they still aren’t sure what they want for themselves.
We are so limited in our career counselling options here that I reckon less than 10% of our new graduates have seen a career coach to evaulate his career options or even attempt a career profiling test to find out what careers are suitable for them base on their personality.
I hope that our universities will be able to provide such counselling service to our young graduates before they are being unleashed to the work force.
Many are simply clueless as to what they want for themselves besides working to get a salary.
Most lack the passion in their career and find little meaning in what they do besides trying to gain the next promotion or make more money.
Knowing what they want and what they are good at will hopefully resolve the serious job hopping culture so prevalent among our Generation Y graduates nowadays.
Of course, alot of job hoppers do so because they could get a pay increase. Some also job hop every one to two years when they are being head hunted especially if they have very specialised niche skills.
Disadvantages of job hopping
Nevetheless, job hopping not only negatively affects the careers of young graduates but seriously hampers the operations of many companies here.
I have known of employers who discard resumes of job hoppers as they do not want to waste time retraining someone who has a history of leaving companies after working for one or two years.
Besides having to waste money advertising for positions again, the company has to spent precious man hours training the person to be operational.
For the job hopper, he has to re-adapt all over again with a different new company culture, colleagues and even work scope.
That is probably why most job hoppers will quit within the first two months of a new job as its a period of personal adjustment and often the hardest phase for the new worker.
Young graduate who got the sack twice
There are also the odd few that got the sack so consistently that I wondered if their morale would take a deep stab.
There is this young graduate who saw me recently and she is into her third job in 9 months!
Fresh, petite and well-spoken, she told me that she was terminated twice and her last job lasted less than 2 months.
Due to her schizophrenia condition, she could not concentrate on her work properly and often make mistakes. Her medication also does not help as it hampers her movement and cognitive ability.
Fortunately, she manages to land another job recently and I am keeping my fingers crossed that she will last longer than the two months with her previous job.
I have told her to take on something less stressful but again is there any job in Singapore right now that is not strenous?
Sometimes, I wondered if work stress has created mental victims out of us and more ought to be studied in this area.
I know of some PMETs who are so burned out by work stress that they developed psychomatic disorders ranging from depression to inability to sleep at night.
I have saw some already this year and they are hanging on a thin thread of resigning suddenly when they snapped again. Most of them are from the Generation Y group who has a low threshold for work stress.
Study on work stress
The NUS sociology department conducted a study on work stress and data were collected from a survey of professionals in Singapore conducted in 1989-1990. The sample consisted of 2570 men and women from six different professions and para-professions, namely general practitioners, lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses and life insurance personnel.
Results showed that performance pressure and work-family conflicts were perceived to be the most stressful aspects of work.
Unfortunately, most local SMEs and even big MNCs do not have career counsellors available to meet the emotional needs of their burned-out executives.
If professional counsellors are readily available, it will go a long way in helping to salvage the careers of some executives tottering on the edge of resignation.
Many jobless PMETs I met have also told me that working alongside our 1.8 million foreign workers have brought about much stress as there are the inherent cultural and work style differences.
For example, many Filipino workers who work in the company tend to speak Tagalong at work further distancing themselves from the other staff - creating alot of disharmony at the work place in the process.
I have also met a local company who sacked the entire team of Filipino workers as they group up angrily to speak to the management when they are dissatisfied with some work issue.
Local workers who are usually the minority worker in our own companies nowadays do not last long as they face up to ostracism and other work discrimination from foreign workers - in their own turf!
SMEs facing alot of job hoppers
After trying out their hand at work in the local companies, many PMETs have finally taken to cab driving as its not only a zero-politics environment but you determine how hard you want to work without anyone snapping at you.
Slave-like work conditions here have also contribute chiefly to the reasons why many PMETs job hop.
Local SMEs are probably one of the worse culprits of work stress and many fresh graduates have avoided working for one if they could.
Our local bosses are not only stingy but tend to suck every ounce of blood out of the workers.
Ever wonder why our local SMEs always have problem with job hoppers and filling up vacant positions?
Unless they improve on their man-management style and work conditions, our local SMEs will always have problem retaining staff for the long term.
SMEs have always complained that our young graduates job hop alot but they have to ask themselves why they do so in the first place.
I have also recently read that 70% of our executives here do not have a pay raise even though they are being promoted!
This is ridiculous and shows how deplorable work conditions have being all along.
As our Employment Act currently does not cover executives who earn above $2000/month, many employers have exploited this loophole and subject our PMETs to abject work conditions.
Most PMETs could not stay on longer even if they try to as its the worse form of discrimination if you are being exploited by your own people.
When I met PMETs who job hop or got the sack many years ago, I tend to view them with sacracism and always wondered if they have screwed up again.
But not now, I realised that the work conditions in our country have worsened alot and our Employment Act ought to be improved soon so that our PMETs can receive better protection at the work places.
Written by: Gilbert Goh