With the recent lifting of measures, the job market is changing once again. What can you do to prepare for it?
Singapore is gradually moving into the COVID-19 endemic stage. In April 2022, the government recently announced an easing of various COVID-19 measures. This includes the resumption of nightlife, lifting of mass gathering restrictions, and a push for companies to fully return to the office. These changes have led to some roles becoming obsolete, and other roles being reinstated with certain industries opening up.
Following this news is a group of employees and jobseekers making the shift from COVID-19 roles back to full-time work. However, will their jobs still be there? Have these job roles evolved with the times? And most of all, have these workers rethought their entire career over these last two years and are now considering a different path?
While we may be transitioning back to pre-COVID times, the way we work and our life priorities have also been changed forever. An IPS study done in April 2022 revealed that living with the pandemic has given us new perspectives on what we want in our lives and careers.
The study found that most workers still prefer flexible work arrangements, with some even considering leaving their companies if flexi-work is not an option. Half of the respondents also shared that the pandemic has changed their work aspirations and are considering a career switch.
A job transition can be exciting but also come with lots of questions and doubts. We brought some of jobseekers’ most asked questions to our career coaches James Tan, Jurcannie Yeong, and Yogeswary. The coaches shared their expertise on the matter and tips for all jobseekers anxious about this crossroad phase in their careers.
Evaluating your current life priorities and choosing a direction
Q: After two years of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve lost interest and zeal in my current line of work. What should I do?
Jurcannie: Career pathways and development need not be linear. It’s like rock climbing where your trajectory may change and you adjust along the way. But in the end, you’ll still have to reach the peak of the wall. Similarly, just because you’re in this role now doesn’t mean you need to be stuck in the same job or career pathway for the rest of your life.
How can you move out of your comfort zone and break this repetitive cycle? Go back to the basics. The first step is always self-discovery. So, if you’re stuck, rediscover what motivates you and what you want out of a career. Being aware of your skills can also open up new career possibilities you may not have realised were there before.
James: If you’re considering a career switch, identify which industries you’re interested in and ask yourself why you’re drawn to them. Industry switches are possible, but there are some technical industries with higher barriers to entry.
We get some clients who want to pursue industries that they are just not suited for, so they keep failing whenever they try. Our job is to help them expand their horizons to explore what that role can give them. Is there something else outside of a paid role that can bring them fulfilment? For example, someone who doesn’t understand data no matter how hard they try can explore a tech-lite role instead. That’s something you have to be realistic about.
Q: Although more full-time work is now available, I enjoy working a side gig or a job with more flexibility (e.g. Grab). Is it wise to stay or should I move back into a more “stable” job?
Jurcannie: It really depends. Again, ask yourself, “What do I value the most right now?” Is earning money your top priority, or maybe it’s having the flexibility to work and take care of your family? There is no right answer as there is no fixed idea of what success looks like; it varies from person to person. If you find purpose in working ad-hoc jobs and they pay the bills, why not continue?
James: COVID-19 has dramatically changed the workspace forever. After two years of working from home being the norm, businesses have evolved; there are so many jobs that you can do online from a remote setting. More people are shifting from prioritising job security to income security. Really, some people don’t need a secure job. All they need is to secure a regular income by having multiple projects in the pipeline. We’re seeing this shift into a more needs-based industry.
So, a full-time job may not always be the answer. If I’m a person who doesn’t want to work in a team to earn a salary but am good at what I do, then perhaps I can be my own boss – just that I have to work harder on my income security.
Yogeswary: There were also people who were earning very well from their COVID-19 jobs. Imagine, swabbers could earn $3.8K a month! But that was due to the job’s high risk and need at the time. There is no demand for such a position anymore. So, you need to shift your mindset to not just look at where you are now, but whether this can sustain you for years to come.
Readying yourself for today’s industry standards
Q: I couldn’t work in my industry for two years due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, I lack recent work experience in this industry. How can I make myself more employable now that I wish to return?
James: If you’re moving from a temporary job to full-time work, make sure to upgrade your skills or maybe explore a career conversion programme – especially if you’re a fresh grad. Look for opportunities to network in the industry you want to enter.
Jurcannie: For fresh grads with limited working experience, find transferrable skills from your temporary job, such as customer servicing. If you’re not new to the workforce, leverage on your past experience as well. Look at your skills in totality. If you’re a fresh grad, don’t discount the skills accumulated from CCA or NS, such as teamwork and organisation. These are things you can include in your CV if relevant.
Yogeswary: We do see people including hobbies in their resumes. You may include hobbies that could be useful to the job. For example, if the company centres around canoeing and you are a canoeist, show them that you’re a culture fit! But if it’s irrelevant to the role, it’s best to leave it out. Thus, it is important to do your research on the company.
Q: How has the industry changed? What kind of job can I expect if I’m re-entering the industry after a two-year break?
James: More senior workers like managers and directors will still hold their rank. But, if you were a fresh grad pre-pandemic and you’re applying for your first job in the industry, you’ll still be considered a fresh grad. It’s unrealistic that recruiters will offer you a higher pay or position for working experience outside of that field, especially if your industry is quite technical such as engineering. Try for lower-level jobs first and slowly make your way up in that sector.
Preparing to sell yourself as the ideal candidate
Q: It’s my first interview in a long time. How do I answer difficult (and sensitive) questions from the interviewer? (E.g. Why did you change jobs five times in two years?)
Jurcannie: What’s crucial is to connect your thoughts and concisely relay them to the interviewer in a convincing way. Be attentive to the interviewer’s tone, delivery and energy. Expect the unexpected.
For example, for a sales position, the interviewer might pass you a pen and ask you to sell it to them. A salesperson would be able to do that. Some people also don’t realise that energy and attitude can be sensed, especially when it’s face to face. You wouldn’t want to sound arrogant or ignorant when responding to their questions.
Yogeswary: I had one candidate whose interviewer kept probing him about why he left his previous jobs after such a short time. Turns out that this interviewer just wanted to see how the candidate handled the pressure, as the position he was applying for could get quite stressful. The candidate began to derail the conversation and even started perspiring. This is why preparing for your interview by practising is so important, so that you can remain composed during the real interview.
Jurcannie: I always tell my clients that they should at least master responding to the basic questions about their pitch, strength and weaknesses. People even fumble at, “What are your weaknesses?” What’s essential is that your weakness needs to be coupled with a solution.
For example, when I am very stressed, I tend to forget things. So, I always make sure that I write down my tasks so that I don’t miss anything. But don’t go telling interviewers weaknesses directly related to the job. You can’t be an accountant if your weakness is that you’re not good with numbers, right? This would bring unnecessary concerns to the hiring personnel.
James: For the difficult questions, you need to find out their reason for asking certain questions. For instance, “Why do you keep changing jobs?” Their underlying concern might actually be – “Will you stay with our company?” If they ask, “Why did you leave your previous job?”, perhaps they want to see if you had a conflict with management or if the reason was valid.
One way to go about this is to ask yourself a question and answer it. When they ask you a difficult question, if you can understand the underlying issue, you could ask the interviewer to clarify themselves. Read between the lines. For instance, “From your question, I understand that you are concerned about [area]. If your concern is [area], I can…” Being able to identify and address their concerns will give them greater confidence in you as a candidate.
Meet with a Career Coach from NTUC’s e2i
e2i’s career coaches are dedicated to supporting you at the crossroads of your career journey, whether you are making a career switch or embarking on a new job. Career coaches will help you understand yourself and the current labour market, plan your next career steps, and gain the confidence to achieve your goals.
Book an appointment with a career coach here or scan the QR code above. Sessions are complimentary for all Singaporeans and PRs. Available in person, via Zoom or over the phone. For tips on how to prepare for your career coaching session, click here.