How to Thrive With Bleak Job Outlooks in 2012


Ryan Ong



Welcome to Ways to Ruin Your Day, 2012 edition. In case you haven’t noticed, Singapore’s jobs outlook for the rest of the year is as sunny as a Monsoon. Employers have a lot of leverage right now, and the only raises you’re likely to see are in your anxiety levels. Still, promotions and job security won’t be an issue for everyone. In this article, I talked to some recruiting experts about surviving and thriving in these times:


Why is the Outlook Bad for 2012?

I’d start a list, but you’d still be reading it next August. Euro crisis, slowdown in China’s economy, America’s debt issues, take your pick.

HR consultant Angeline Seah told me:

Just 20% of the companies we surveyed (About 300 local companies-ed.) were interested in raising headcount. And more than half the employees we surveyed said they were worried about their job security.

And that means…?

For the unemployed, the implications are obvious. But if also affects people who already have jobs. In many offices, the sentiment is: ‘I’m lucky to even have this job. I better not make waves. Forget about a raise, or finding something better.’ 

The combination of this mentality, plus the state of the job market, means a lot of workers are content to stay in bad situations. Even when it might be reasonable to negotiate a raise, or find better employment.”


Man underneath a car and fixing it
“Any more favours boss? Or can I get back to accounting now?”


So what can they do? How about…

  • Ask for a Raise That Applies Later
  • Look for Vocational Training
  • Be Vocal
  • Show Business Acumen


1. Ask for a Raise That Applies Later

So times are bad for the company. That doesn’t exclude the possibility of raise; it just excludes the possibility of a raise right now.

Singapore’s inflation rate averages 4% per year. Every year your pay doesn’t match that, you’re effectively being paid less, even if your salary doesn’t actually shrink.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t haul myself out of bed on Monday morning out of sheer love. Workers deserve to be adequately compensated. And a raise is more than a privilege.Angeline tells me a raise is…

“…just a way to cope with inflation. It’s about fairness. If you’ve worked for a company for years without a raise, and you’re not getting the same level of compensation as when you started, how is that fair?”

But we can’t ask for a raise in times like these?

You probably won’t be successfulbut raise the issue anyway. Almost without fail, your employer’s response will be ‘We’ll see how things are later.’

Then you say ‘That’s fine, I just wanted to raise the issue. Let’s resume this discussion in November then. Or something like that.’ It’s not a waste of time. You’re preparing them. And between then and now, you have ample time to start documenting your contributions.”


Cop with MP5
I love police work. But before I rescue these hostages, could we talk about my raise?


For more on negotiating a raise, check out our other article. Or you can follow us on Facebook, and we’ll periodically update you on new tactics.


2. Look for Vocational Training

Vocational training is the most underrated form of self-upgrading. I spoke to Alfred Guinto, who works for a local recruitment agency:

I feel that when times are bad, people with vocational training are better off than Degree or Diploma holders. Jobs with immediate practical value are usually in demand somewhere.

Maybe not the most high paying or glamorous job. But with vocational training, you can at least find a survival job. I think that, even if you already have your Diploma, but you have some time and money, you should consider a part-time vocational course. 

Maybe it’s strange that you learn cooking or hair-styling part time. But in a difficult situation, you can find a survival job so  quickly. Some courses are also useful for saving money.”


Instant noodles
Protip: Culinary arts courses are the easiest to pass, given the right supplies.


3. Be Vocal

In tough times, the loudest mouth is the one that profits. Which pisses me off, but it’s a fact.

Few bosses listen to a quiet guy with a clipboard and statistics. When the economy is bad, bosses come under pressure. And easing that pressure is any confident loud-mouth, the one yelling: “Don’t worry, trust me, I can fix this; damn I’m so competent.”

When things go wrong, vocal employees are quickly forgiven. When things go right, they’re credited with success. Doesn’t matter if said employees are complete morons; persistence and confidence matter the most (which explains some political leaders).


Alone in a meeting room
In conclusion, there can only be one candidate better than me. And he doesn’t exist if you’re atheist.


Angeline says:

You can stand out with just a bit of confidence. Don’t be afraid to present for the department, or to take speaking roles in meetings. If you can appear confident in troubling times, you’ll emerge as a natural leader.

This is the best time to speak up, when everyone is scared to take responsibility or be seen.

Yeah, be like the ape who thumps his chest the loudest. But seriously, if it could get you a raise or promotion, go be loud.


4. Show Business Acumen

Apparently, this doesn’t involve breaking into your CEO’s office and setting up meetings as his proxy.

(PS: To the people I called, sorry about that. I am not the actual CEO, nor did he ever claim you have the intelligence of tree stumps for refusing my proposals.)


Street art
Street art? Nah, my company provides cleaning supplies. I’m drumming up business.


Business acumen refers to initiative, and the ability to attract clients even without being a salesperson. Alfred says:

You have your own network and contacts. You can use them to stand out.

There is a story of one of our former clients; we got him a temp job with data entry. A week later, he went to the boss with a big order from a new corporate client. And he found it on his own initiative, he was not a salesman. He just saw the opportunity and went for it. After that they hired him full time, and in a better position.

I would say, learn your company’s product. Enough that you can spot opportunities or tie-ins. That’s a great way to show initiative.

Don’t forget: Finding a single opportunity can give you an aura of worth. You’ll need that for a raise.

Image Credits:
grahamhills, comedy_nose, Stephane Tougard, CLF, Engin Erdogan, gniliep

How are you coping with the bleak job outlook? Comment and let us know!

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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.