When one door closes, another opens. Through welcoming all job opportunities, four individuals not only found work during this time, but also greater purposes and enriching perspectives.
The disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have threatened the jobs and livelihoods of Singaporeans. Retrenchments have spiked, while the number of job vacancies available in Singapore fell to its lowest since September 2010.
Despite the negative economic and labour market outlook, there is a silver lining in the resilience of local Singaporeans. Many have ventured into unfamiliar sectors for employment opportunities and, in the midst of them, found meaning in their new workplaces.
Four individuals from different backgrounds – Michael, Jerome, Sheryl and Muhlissa – each gained insightful perspectives from their respective job deployments. Their job opportunities were brought about by partnership collaborations e2i had with the Public Service Division (PSD), Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Woodlands Health Campus (WHC) – in support of the larger SGUnited Jobs Initiative*. They received opportunities to lead, new perspectives on other sectors, and invaluable life experiences from interacting with and serving the community.
1. Making a lasting impact on others’ lives
In-person viewings became impossible during Circuit Breaker, slowing down business for property agent Michael Francis, 53. To continue earning for his family and elderly parents, he began looking for a temporary job.
Despite the health risks, Michael took up the two month-long Operations Support Associate (OSA) role listed on NTUC’s Job Security Council (JSC) Jobs Alert Telegram channel. He was deployed at Singapore EXPO’s Community Care Facility (CCF) to help care for those who had tested positive.
Michael applied not only for an income, but also to give back to the community during this tough time.
“I was afraid in the beginning, and anyone who takes up this job would be faced with a dilemma. Even my friends dissuaded me because of the health risks involved. But eventually I asked myself – if healthcare professionals can do it then why can’t I? Most importantly, I felt it was a higher calling for me to take on this job, and that is where I drew my confidence and courage to go for it.” Michael shared.
Wanting to make the most of his deployment period, Michael went beyond his responsibilities of handling admissions, taking vital signs, and collecting blood or swab samples. Together with Woodlands Health Campus Chief Nurse ‘Sister Pua Lay Hoon’, Michael initiated hour-long morning exercise workouts to boost residents’ morales, energise them and speed up their recovery. By treating residents like brothers instead of patients, he hoped the residents would become more open and recover faster.
(Lay Hoon) taught me that it is not about how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” – Michael Francis
2. New outlook on life and community
Jerome Lim, 22, was forced to find temporary employment to fund his education when COVID-19 halted his tutoring job temporarily. He too applied for the position of an OSA. Like Michael, he was stationed at the CCF at Singapore EXPO to provide medical care to COVID-19 positive individuals with mild symptoms.
This was Jerome’s first exposure to working in healthcare, in addition to being the youngest and least experienced. He picked up basic patient care skills from the nurses, doctors and other OSAs from all walks of life. Through interacting with the residents, Jerome also learnt to see employment as a privilege that not everyone gets.
I’m still very young and the idea of retrenchment doesn’t really hit me. But many of them were worried about their jobs because most of them came a long way to Singapore to work.” – Jerome Lim
Jerome’s interaction with some residents gave him a new appreciation for their key role in building today’s Singapore. His respect for their drive to continue working to earn a livelihood for their families back home also grew.
3. Sharpening transferrable skills for future jobs
Sheryl Sng, 33, worked as a GrabFood rider for two months after getting retrenched from a telecommunications company. Things turned around when she chanced upon a job listing as a Digital Ambassador by SG Digital Office. Despite the role being temporary, Sheryl saw value in it to boost her skill set while earning a salary. She was also confident that her skills from the telco sector were transferrable and would meet the job’s requirements.
Sheryl’s role involved her educating seniors on how to use their digital devices, such as Zoom, SingPass, PayNow, and QR Codes. Having to understand the concerns of many sceptical seniors has strengthened Sheryl’s social-emotional skills of patience and empathy. Regardless of the resistance she faced, Sheryl found meaning in educating seniors, especially on how to decipher fake news.
“We have to earn their trust slowly, build a friendship with them. In time to come, they will be more open to what we are advising them to do,” said Sheryl.
Sheryl hopes that she would eventually be able to return to a full-time permanent job in the telco sector once the economy recovers. But for now, she remains open to customer service roles in other industries.
I find meaning in the services line where I’m able to help people of all ages. What I am learning now as a DA at SG Digital Office will also be useful for me to impart to others in my future job opportunities.” – Sheryl Sng
4. Discovering a new career interest
Muhlissa Binti Haji Samsiji, 24, was originally working part-time as a retail assistant to pay for her diploma in culinary studies. She applied for the OSA position through the e2i JSC Telegram channel when Circuit Breaker ceased business.
Over the three months as an OSA, Muhlissa slowly developed a deep interest and passion for the healthcare industry. She has since changed career aspirations and is looking at joining the healthcare sector full-time.
Her efforts of care did not go unnoticed. Muhlissa was deeply touched when the residents expressed their gratitude to them with letters: “Many of them, being separated from their families during (Hari Raya) formed close bonds with us – their ‘new family’ in the care facilities.”
“I am very thankful for this job. It has opened my eyes to a sector I was previously so unfamiliar with. The experience has taught me a lot about healthcare work and made me discover that I was good at taking care of people.” – Muhlissa Binti Haji Samsidi
When One Door Closes, Another Opens
While the pandemic has temporarily halted productivity in many sectors, it has also created new opportunities in other sectors. Healthcare and social services now need more manpower to manage the effects of COVID-19 on the community at large.
Amidst the uncertainty in the job market, it is advisable to keep an open mind towards temporary employment opportunities. Taking on a frontline position can be meaningful in multiple ways. Besides providing temporary income relief, skills learnt during the stint can bolster one’s job security by opening up more career options post COVID-19.
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*SGUnited programmes have ceased.