Back in June of 2019, I was at a crossroads in my life.
At 23, I had just ended my first job, an 11-month contract role working in a university and was looking for what to do next.
That meant lots of writing cover letters and editing my resume, sending out job applications, and sitting down for interviews.
Every aspect of the process stressed me out a lot, as it felt like there was just so much about getting a job that I didn’t know.
For people who are looking for jobs in the current Covid-19 economic climate, the task likely feels far more daunting than it did for me.
And as I am a mere 24-year-old noob who has only worked two jobs, and who has far more questions than answers for how to secure a job, I decided to defer to an expert.
I shared my many questions with Loh Pei Zhen, a coach with NTUC’s U PME Centre, which is a one-stop advisory centre for PMEs.
Loh has been helping professionals advance their careers and upskill for more than six years now, so she has a little more experience that I do.
Here’s what she shared with me:
On seeking out opportunities:
What qualities are employers looking for in potential employees? What can jobseekers do to develop these qualities?
Employers tend to focus on four quadrants when looking for the right candidate, namely: Technical Skills, Soft Skills, X-Factor and Internal Considerations.
Jobseekers need to be able to demonstrate knowledge of their soft skills through work examples as this can be difficult to score.
I feel that it is important for jobseekers to be open-minded and have a positive attitude whenever they go for job interviews.
What are some things that young PMEs can do to best prepare for job opportunities?
It is important for them to start building their networks even when they are still in school through their internships, part time work, ad-hoc projects, schoolmates, and lecturers, etc.
Connections are very important and they should start to build this up from a young age. You never know how a person that you crossed paths with could land you your next job.
In your experience working with Singaporean professionals, are jobseekers today really not "hungry" enough for jobs, or are they holding employers to higher standards? What's the balance between the two?
I feel that it really depends on the current situation that the jobseeker is in. They may feel that they have some savings that may tide them over a period of time and therefore are more particular when they decide which job to take on.
On the other hand, jobseekers who are the sole-breadwinner or have many commitments may take on any role that is offered to them.
I have come across jobseekers who were offered a role but they rejected as they feel the salary offered is not up to their expectation. I have also seen jobseekers who said they would take on any role, even with a pay cut as long as the employer is willing to give them an opportunity.
Where can jobseekers look to find opportunities?
During our career coaching sessions with clients, we always call it a “spider-web” approach. Jobseekers should look everywhere and through all resources available. The usual platform for jobseekers would be online job portals.
They can also look for jobs through LinkedIn and ensure that their LinkedIn profile is updated as employers or headhunters may tap on LinkedIn to search for candidates as well.
Not forgetting the power of networking, jobseekers should reach out through their connections such as ex-colleagues, ex-bosses, suppliers, vendors, alumni, affiliations, memberships etc.
In your experience, what job sectors are most readily hiring currently?
In my view, with the current pandemic, just to name a few of these sectors who are still actively hiring: healthcare, education, and infocomm technology.
On the interview process:
What advice do you give to the people you coach, when they're preparing for an interview?
Research the company, know the interviewer (if it is made known to you), prepare answers according to the job description, and most important of all, be prepared and practise as many times as you can.
Treat every interview as a learning experience and improve from every interview.
What's the most common thing that jobseekers forget when preparing for an interview?
Jobseekers may not focus on matching what they say to the keywords that can be found in the job description (JD).
It is very important to align your answers to the JD as that is what the employer is looking for, someone who is the right fit for the role.
What is the biggest misconception that jobseekers have about the interview process? Why does that misconception exist, and what's the reality?
Sometimes, we hear our clients telling us they feel that the interview session went on very well, but they were not offered the role in the end and they may feel that it is due to their age.
I guess the jobseekers, especially the more mature PMEs, always have this concern in their mind that employers prefer younger candidates.
However, it could be the internal considerations that the company has, that makes them decide on another candidate instead and may not purely be because of their age.
What kinds of questions should jobseekers ask their potential employers, in order to understand if the role is suitable for them?
Some of these questions may include:
- How is the day-to-day job like for this role?
- How will success be judged in this role?
- What are the key things you are looking for in this role?
- What are the major challenges for this role?
What are some red flags that might appear in a job interview that jobseekers should be aware of?
Before every interview, jobseekers should reach the location early to have a look around the work environment. Sometimes, the environment can tell you something about the company.
Jobseekers should also be cautious if the employer is unable to share much about the role, such as the career progression or job functions in detail.
They should also take note if the employer is distracted during the entire interview session.
Resources and advice for jobseekers:
How do resources such as U PME Centre support jobseekers?
U PME Centre provides NTUC Union Members with a full suite of career services consisting of 1:1 personalised career coaching, career preparatory workshops, career development programmes, personal management workshops, as well as executive job placement services.
You will get to speak to a career coach, who is able to provide guidance and advice based on your situation which could be different from someone else and is more targeted.
What is your biggest piece of advice for people looking for jobs right now?
Jobseekers always tell us that they do not have a job. Actually, I feel that they have a job. Their job is to look for a job! Current job market may not be the best and there may be many competitors out there.
However, it is important to remain positive and open in your career options. Shine in your resume and impress during interview sessions and you should be able to get yourself a job soon.
Support and Benefits for NTUC Union Members
NTUC career coaches like Loh provide services like one-on-one virtual coaching and conduct webinars for NTUC union members, in order to help PME jobseekers improve their resumes and stand out during interview sessions, which are crucial in the job search process.
NTUC’s U Future Leaders Exchange (UFLX) also provides additional support to PMEs. The programme features a variety of mostly free webinars ranging from career advice, useful skills to have, workplace norms, and mental health wellness.
Union members who require dispute management services at their workplace can access a complimentary legal clinic as well as workplace advisory and mediation services via NTUC’s Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM).
NTUC also offers a variety of assistance programmes to low-income union members and their families, children and youths, and the elderly.
You can sign up as an NTUC Union Member and enjoy workplace protection, career placement and progression support.
Members can enjoy dining discounts at food and beverage outlets like NTUC Foodfare & Kopitiam, as well as promotions with online retailers like TADA Fresh Market and even energy service providers like PacificLight Energy and Sunseap Energy. Find out more details here.
This sponsored article brought to you by NTUC reminded our writer to update her LinkedIn profile.
Top photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.