Transitioning (T): First of all, thanks Jen for allowing us to interview you online and can you provide us with some background information on yourself?
Jen (J): I am 37 years old. Have been working in the last 10 years. Major part of my experience has been in admin, event marketing and events operations. Tertiary educated.
T: What was your last occupation and you have told me that you were unemployed for 1 year, can you tell us more about this and also your job search experience?
J: My last occupation was as a Project Manager organizing industry events. After that, I tried looking for less stressful and more manageable jobs. It was also in my mind to switch to a different industry. My decision was to look for operational jobs within the hospitals. I applied for those but did not receive any response.
With many new hospitals opening within the last 2 years, demand for manpower is huge. In their ads, they have specified that people with experience in a healthcare setting will have an advantage.
And I thought that applying for admin position – which probably does not need to be so hospital-experience-intensive – would help me, but no.
I think it might be the case that with so many hospitals coming up in just a few years, and they are funded by the state, the funds may not be adequate enough at this point to employ Singaporeans who are more expensive than foreigners.
Of course, this is only my personal observation which may be wrong. But I do see many Filipinos working in hospitals. I also have VERY modest expectations and even then I think they would be higher than what the foreigners are asking for.
I could understand why I was not short-listed since I do not have experience in hospital operations and so I moderated my expectations to include executive-level admin and contract/temp work which maybe did not require such an intimate knowledge of hospital operations and also Business Development positions which I thought my previous marketing experience would help but no response too.
I did get one interview where the interviewer expressed concern that I would not be able to gel with the young team. Whether that was the main reason why I did not get the job, I’m not sure.
Since I did not get any response from the hospitals, I went back to my old industry. No luck there too.
One recruiter whom I spoke to said that I was competing with the new grads who just graduated. I don’t know if she was skilfully indicating that I was too old for the jobs I applied for (LOL). And jobs that I am interested in seem to want mostly diploma holders, maybe the education minister was right in limiting the number of uni grads afterall?
News report indicated that 70% new local uni grads are confident that their starting salary is a minimum $3000 and expect to be promoted within 2 years of starting a new job.
I am baffled that they can have such high expectations and yet recruitment agencies say that their expectations will probably be met by most employers (esp’ly the MNCs) since they have huge demand. REALLY? The demand should spread across the entire spectrum of the population who are seeking similar work, no?
Reports also say that there is a shortage of Singaporean workers in some industries. but when I apply for them, I either don’t get a reply or am rejected. Case in point – my WDA-sponsored Dip in Tourism seems useless. My sister who also posts jobs for her company agrees since in her experience, replies to her job postings are 80% foreigners.
And so with the combination of the above reasons and observations, I seem to be in a no-man’s land. Experience level is good for senior exec level but too old to be an exec, but not enough experience to be of management level. Too educated for lower level jobs even though I am willing to take them.
T: You have told me that you are currently jobless for one year, what did you do in order to survive? Did you also approach the CDC for assistance?
J: I took on a part-time job in a local tourist attraction. I did not approach CDC but I did attend recruitment drives organized by e2i for Marine Life Park (Resorts World Singapore), no luck there.
T: Did you attend any interviews during the past 12 months and why do you think you are unsuccessful so far?
J: I attended 4 interviews in the past 12 months.
Reasons for not being successful may stem from the following factors:-
a) I specify in detail why I have many jobs within a short period (contract from 5 – 17 months). But recruitment managers seem to only see the gaps in between full time jobs. Its not that I don’t want a permanent job. But looking for a permanent job that I can stay in for long needs time so while I put my hours in contract or temp jobs, it seems to send the wrong message out.
b) Perception that a late thirties executive could not perform as efficiently as someone in their twenties?
T: Tell us abit more about what you have learnt from your jobless experience and how it has impacted your family.
J: I have learnt to let go and hard as it is, to enjoy this period of unemployment. Knowing the hours that the average Singaporean works, I won’t have this luxury once I have a job. And so I embark on several personal projects and learnt new software skills and languages. I also have a fresh understanding of being persistent and living in the now.
I am VERY lucky that I don’t have much any family commitment now.
T: What do you think you could have done to shorten the unemployment period?
J: I don’t know! If I knew, I wouldn’t be in the situation that I am in now!
I think I need to be more aggressive in my efforts. I have applied to be a volunteer at a hospital since a hospital admin or operations is my target job. Hopefully through volunteering, I can learn of vacancies earlier and also get the people who supervise my volunteer work to be my references.
I also intend to visit the professional recruiters in their offices so that they can see and talk to me in person and not be limited by what is on a piece of paper!
I will also make and edit a short video and post it on youtube for employers to refer to instead of a paper resume.
T: Do you think that Singapore is now a more difficult place to make a living?
J: It is.
The business world has changed radically in the last 5 – 8 years. Workers now have to be equipped with a multitude of hard and soft skills to be able to navigate their career, not just those that they graduate from school with.
Also, many are working more hours for less money.
T: What do you think the government can do to alleviate the current employment situation?
J: I really can’t comment on this since I don’t know enough. But I would think they will do well to start a dialogue to address the dysfunctional employment, hiring and compensation practices.
The way I see it, there are gaps where needs of local industries are not filled and the efforts to address those needs are not followed up and coordinated resulting in haphazard hiring whereby hiring of locals are ignored in favor of low wages and quick solutions provided by the foreign workers.
Internal economic structuring must be done in tandem with where the country is heading now. Every sector crucial to success must be brought up to speed so we can move together. Speed and economic gains are not the end-all-be-all though.
Case in point: Even state-owned entities like the local tourist attraction that I work at pay SGD 1,400 for an exec but no Singaporean can work for that kind of money for long and so the attraction is either populated by students earning pocket money or Filipinos in full-time positions.
Only management level at AM or higher are occupied by Singaporeans and also certain exec positions if they have been with the company before liberal foreign worker policies came into play. Baffling when I know for a fact that the attraction (excluding 3 under the brand) earns at least 22 million a year. The number of staff and other expenditures could not possibly take up a huge chunk of that amount.
T: Many people have blame foreigners for competing jobs with us, what is your view on this?
J: Yes but it takes two hands to clap. We locals need to be more hungry than foreigners for success and carve out our niches. Singapore has too much of a cookie-cutter mentality.
T: Lastly, whats your advice for those who are still jobless and feeling down?
J: To let go and enjoy this period of unemployment. Do the things you never had the chance to, embark on personal projects and learn new skills.
Research the industry, anticipate changes and developments and see if new skills will make us more relevant and valuable.
It will happen. I sure hope so!
End of interview and thank you!
Editor’s Note: We have assigned Jen a career coach to assist her.