5 Supposedly Good (and Actually Awful) Career Moves in Singapore


Ryan Ong



Singapore’s job scape has changed more radically in the past decade then between the 70’s – 90’s. The influx of foreign companies, the rise and fall of dot coms, the impact of mass media; suffice it to say that, unless your college counsellor was more cutting edge than a TV media knife set, the career advice you got is outdated. What worked great for dad will leave you shining shoes for a dollar at the Interchange. Here are five old job myths, displaced by working reality:


1. Just Keep Quiet and Work, Your Boss Will Notice You’re Good

This advice worked a long time ago, when it was common for bosses to run the same department till kingdom come. In those days, companies didn’t restructure at the drop of a hat. Bosses would work with the same people, who performed the same tasks, for years on end. Eventually, they’d come to know the slackers from the real deal.

But today’s companies move faster. Entire product lines are altered, canned, or started in the span of days. Sometimes hours. Bosses can change every two or three years, and employees hop between projects like fleas in an SPCA shelter. As a result, bosses often end up with superficial knowledge of their underlings.


Sneaky employee
“…and when I turn around, work gets done! I suspect I may actually have an employee lying around somewhere…”


To climb the corporate ladder, you need to make your achievements known. When you accomplish something, step up and say it. Don’t hesitate to flash a quick smile and say “Oh hey boss, I managed something great this week.”


2. Never Disagree With The Boss

Better advice would be “never argue with the boss.” Don’t get into a rant and start swearing like a sailor on shore leave. But if your boss has things wrong, make it a point to say so.

Today’s workforce is polarized: There’s a division between the people who make the product / service, and the managers who organize them. Very often, bosses don’t have the technical knowledge their underlings do. That’s why they have those underlings; to clue them in.


Guy standing on a ledge
“Let’s put it to a vote. Those who disagree, take a step forward.”


Case in point: I once worked for a language school, teaching TESOL to adults. My boss knew as much about English grammar as the French know about humility. I noticed some drastic errors in his notes, but because I’d been advised not to make waves, I kept my mouth shut.

When other people spotted the mistake, my boss wasn’t blamed. I was. Because I was the expert, and I chose not to point out the error. This led to everyone assuming I was incompetent, or deliberately trying to sabotage my boss.


3. Always Make Time For Every Colleague

This has the potential to be good advice; it just has to be less extreme. By all means, help your colleagues when you can. But if you start spending hours on someone else’s problem, you’re neglecting your own work.

In your performance review, your boss answers maybe three questions about your helpful nature. Every other question is an intense examination of your job. And when your boss is picking targets for a round of lay-offs, getting on your knees and wailing “But I’m helpful!” is like trying to extinguish a house fire by crying.

So get your priorities in order. Sometimes, you have to answer colleagues with a simple no.


Man slumped in chair
“Wake up. Since you were so efficient, we fired the rest of the department; you’re doing ALL their jobs.”


4. Only Worry About Take-Home Pay

Dental plan? Company health benefits? Hah! Don’t worry about those. Just care about your take-home pay. Because you’re young, you’re fit, and you’re barely even mortal, right?

It’s a tempting way to think. After all, health benefits or subsidised insurance are so…unattractive. It’s money you can’t touch. And every year, hundreds of job seekers forego such benefits, in order to feed an extra $200 – $300 into their bank account.


Box of band aids
“Of course we have a company health plan. It’s right in my drawer.”


But stop and think: What’s the medical cost if you faint one evening, and receive a crash course on “Why Diabetes Sucks”?

That extra $200 – $300 will only cover your expenses at best. At worst, it may not even cover your hospital stay. Even basic insurance coverage can pay for a $2000 hospital visit, with money left over. So think beyond your take-home pay. If you have no comprehensive insurance, find a company that has some sort of health plan.

If you want some insurance ideas, you can also follow us on Facebook. We occasionally annoy industry players about it.


5. Stay In The Same Company

Job hopping makes your resume look bad! It’s dangerous to change jobs! You’re giving up your entitlements! Except sometimes, staying in a bad job costs you more.

Maybe the employers don’t prize experience over education. Or maybe they have the business savvy of an attention deficit chimp, and project decisions are practically coin flips. Whatever the case, these companies jam your career worse than the PIE at rush hour.  Signs to look for:


“Just let me dust off the general manager; he’s been down here for some time.”


  • No pay increment after four or more years
  • The turnover rate is so high, you don’t know half the names
  • You learn nothing after more than three years
  • It makes no difference how much (or how little) work you do
  • Your bosses cannot describe a clear route of advancement (ROA)

If any of the above are true, start looking for another job. Or in 10 years, you might find you’re doing the same thing for the same pay.

Image Credits:
USAG-Humphreys, Sarah G…,, cell105_rockinfree, Horasis

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.