Job hunting is a daunting process for many graduating students because most of us had went through the conventional route to obtain a degree. The major decisions we had made during the 16 years of Singapore’s education are probably limited to the choosing of secondary school, junior college/polytechnic and the courses to pursue in universities.
We are so used to judging our success with a common yardstick, i.e. GPA. A high GPA means you are a successful student. Holding an appointment within a CCA means you have leadership. Therefore, having good grades with an excellent CCA track record would land you a good job. To an undergraduate, a good job may simply mean a high paying job in a big international organisation.
Once we step out of the university, the standards which we are so used to judging ourselves no longer apply. No one cares about your GPA after you have graduated. The only yardstick to reflect most of our achievement is now relegated to the comparison of salary.
Step 1: Identify career goals
Unless you believe that only job titles and salary are indicative of your career success, there are no common yardsticks which we can benchmark ourselves against our peers. In fact, I believe the competition does not exist between you and your colleagues but it is within yourself. How do you constantly improve and outdo yourself? And what are the indicators which we ought to use to grade ourselves?
The answer will differ according to individuals.
You will probably have an answer once you have a clearer picture of what you want to achieve in 20-30 years’ time. It took me a year to get a better idea of what I want to pursue in my career. So set aside a year before you graduate to think about your career.
- Find your interest. Start reading widely. Talk to your friends. I realized that I am reading more as compared to my times in university. Reading exposes you to unfamiliar topics and thoughts. Investment papers, personal finance, biographies, science magazines, philosophy etc.
- Seek a mentor. A good way would be to look around your organisation or those around you. Are there anyone who are 20 years your senior whom you would like to emulate?
- Be accountable to your family. As much as we would like to pursue our interest, we need to be responsible for our family finances as well. Would your career choice impact your family’s financial well-being?
Step 2: Identify skillsets to develop
Once you start to have an inkling of what you want to achieve in your career, the decisions which you make will be slightly more straight-forward. First, identify the competencies you need to achieve what you set out to do. Then find a company which will offer you the opportunities to develop them.
- All jobs will enable you to develop competencies. Are they relevant? Are you consciously identifying, learning then applying them?
- Take a look at the Harvard Competency Dictionary for a list of the competencies.
- Self-directed learning. Start working on these competencies now. Time is too short for us to be good at everything, but it will be even shorter if you don’t act on it now. Take ownership of your learning and growth.
Step 3: Which company?
Hopefully, the above questions are answered before you graduate. Rather than casting your net aimlessly, your job search will be more directed. Have you ever wondered about the reasons why people advise that you ought to stay at least 3 years in the job, besides the risk of being labelled as a job hopper? It is because these competencies need at least 3 years to be developed. So the crucial question to ask when you approach a company is whether it can offer you an environment to learn for at least the next 3 years? That will also determine when it is time to move on.
- Determine the breadth of exposure and depth of the company’s expertise. What is the background of the management team? Is the company able to expose you to a variety of assignments or will you be doing the same work day in day out? Is the company competent in the work it does? If you want to learn, then obviously go for the best you can find.
- Coaching culture within the team. Does the management team place emphasis on training of junior staff? Is there a methodological approach in development and training for the next 3 years?
- Ethics and ethos. Does the company engage in work which you aren’t comfortable with? How far are you willing to stretch yourself in this aspect?
- Salary should not necessarily be the top priority at this point in time. Nonetheless, it can be a contributing factor to job satisfaction as well. Does the salary commensurate with your job scope? If the salary is too little, you feel overworked and frustrated. Remember Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory? Challenging work gives positive satisfaction while salary is a hygiene factor which does not generate positive satisfaction, but its absence would cause dissatisfaction.
Other issues to look at once you have settled down in your job
Once you have secured a job, you can focus on the other pertinent issues.
- Insurance. Look into insuring yourself. Then insure your parents for their medical needs. Go for coverage that is sufficient and not excessive.
- Investment. Start reading up on where the money which you are saving can be parked, rather than in a POSB Saving Account. Do think about making quick bucks from the stock market. Even if you manage to do so, you are not going to be always so lucky. More importantly, look beyond the ROI of your financial investment. Continue to invest in yourself through courses and training, it will be one of your best investment
- Part-time job. Find a part time job that can offer you experience relevant to your aspirations. Or even better still, start a ‘part time’ enterprise! Do not look for a part time job that merely trade your time for money.
These are the wisdom that I had gathered from talking to friends and mentors about job search. I hope these points will get you thinking and guide you in your next steps. To those who are graduating, your first job only comes once in a lifetime. Steward this opportunity well. To those who are already in the workforce, it’s never too late to go back to the drawing board and make the switch.
Tan Ming Hui graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2011 from Mechanical Engineering. He is now a Management Associate at PSA.
What was your job hunting experience like? Share it with us today.