'What a lot of people need right now is assurance': S'pore career coach on meeting dejected jobseekers

Soft truths to keep Singapore from stalling.

Mothership | December 05, 2020, 05:47 PM

PERSPECTIVE: "What a lot of people need right now is assurance."

This is what a 39-year-old Yogeswary Nithiah Nandan, a senior career coach at the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), said about the job-hunting journey.

She has been working in e2i for six years, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Singapore’s shores, the number of people seeking career advice drastically grew.

Here, Yogeswary writes about her work as a career coach, and the challenges she faces during one of the most severe economic downturns in recent history.

By Yogeswary Nithiah Nandan

As a coach I provide career advice for my clients.

I help them to assess their strengths, weaknesses and potential gaps for the career of their choice. I work with each client to decrease their barriers to employment.

Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all service, we need to tailor it to each person’s needs. It depends on the individual and how receptive they are and their current mindset.

Job-matching is done for job ready clients. When a client is job ready, the referral and job matching could be relatively faster.

It requires searching sometimes beyond our database of jobs.

At each coaching session, it is a coach’s duty to set the expectations of clients right.

Job search depends on the person’s expectations

On average, it takes about three to six months for a jobseeker to get placed into a new job.

The time taken to find employment could be shortened if the client has a well written resume, can improve their interview skills, and manage their expectations on the job or sector they want to go into.

For example (given the current Covid-19 situation), if a client insists to be a chef in a hotel, or still want to be employed in the aviation industry, their time taken to employment may be delayed as these sectors have taken the biggest hits.

There are people who want to put their job search on hold until the aviation industry picks up.

Such clients want their ideal job and are not open to other roles, but those desired positions may not be currently available.

We do experience clients who want an administrative job near their house, yet there are no offices in their neighbourhood.

I once had a client who wanted a kitchen helper role near their house, yet there were no F&B outlets in their vicinity.

Thus, the time taken to help a jobseeker find employment may also depend on their expectations and readiness in considering other available and realistic options.

Many may not be job-ready after years in the same industry

During this period, there has been a steady uptick in the number of people that we assist.

There are those who have been out of job for a long time, or many who have just been retrenched.

At a time like this with a pandemic-hit job market, naturally they would feel lost, dejected, not knowing where to begin, or feel like they would have to start a job search process all over again.

In addition, many are either breadwinners, or have dependent family members. All these contribute to increased anxieties for salary needs.

However, as needful as they are for another job, they may not yet be job-ready.

Many face employability gaps after staying in the same company or sector for many years – such as not knowing how to go about their job search journey effectively.

They may also face emotional and mindset issues, like being stuck in a cycle of blaming so that it deters them from taking forward steps. If these issues are left unchecked, it will show up in their job interviews, which will affect their chances of getting employed.

In such cases, follow-up sessions of career guidance are required, and we must help these clients be aware of any blind spots they might have and tune their perspectives so that they can be willing to make small changes.

Patience and a listening ear are key.

On salary expectations, we have had clients who want a certain salary without factoring in the current job market situation.

For example, if a client tells me that he needs a S$2,800 monthly salary and won’t accept any job offers lower than that, I would give him a scenario where an employer offered S$2,500, and if he didn’t take it, he would have lost S$2,500 a month (the opportunity of earning).

Temporary jobs can be important during the process

Recently I’ve had a client in her mid-forties who was working at a maid agency. As business began to slow down rapidly, she was asked to leave and explore other opportunities.

Being a single parent and sole breadwinner with five dependents, she needed a stable job with progression opportunities. Her resilience and positive attitude caught my attention.

Throughout our career guidance journey together, she remained practical, cooperative and receptive, considering the pros and cons of each option carefully.

During that time, she chose to remain hopeful and accepted being placed in a temporary job, acknowledging that it would provide some experience and income for her family.

Eventually, we did help her to get successfully hired under the Place and Train programme, and I admire her resilience for not giving up!

Emotional support is important as well

During the Circuit Breaker period, it was increased stress for many people. People had to stay at home, and the unemployed faced greater anxiety.

There were those who had been working in the aviation sector for 15-30 years, who faced a sudden loss of their jobs.

At that time, apart from providing employment assistance, we also had to give emotional support to clients, to help get them back on track.

When clients can see things more positively, they’ve already taken the first step.

Negativity influences one’s outlook and attitude – and might affect for instance, how one would perform in a job interview.

What a lot of people need right now is assurance.

Top image via Tim Gouw/Unsplash