The words “career” and “job” can mean very different things to different people. For some, it’s just a means to an end. Many just want to earn enough money to afford the lifestyle they want (like umm, having food on the table).
For others, it’s more about pursuing their passion because “if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life”.
But whatever your motivation, you’ll sooner or later find yourself asking: what’s next?
Perhaps you’re a fresh grad struggling to discover your vocation; or an executive gunning for a promotion and salary increment. If you’re currently at the crossroads, here are 5 practical tips that’ll help you take your career to the next stage.
1. Monitor job portals like LinkedIn Jobs, JobStreet and more
Monitoring job listings is a good and simple way to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry you’re interested in.
But if you’re reading up on career progression, chances are, you’re probably already subscribed to all the job portals newsletters and alerts. Good job — that’s step one.
Popular job portals include JobStreet, Jobs DB, LinkedIn Jobs and My Careers Future. For more information on the different recruitment boards, read our article on the 10 Best Job Search Websites & Job Search Apps in Singapore.
Now, for step two: Instead of just keeping an eye out for jobs to apply for, you should also pay extra attention to the job descriptions.
In particular, zoom in on the requirements section and take notes on what kinds of skills are in demand. For example, we’re currently in the digital age and every employer wants to take a “data-driven approach” to their business.
The tech boom is great news for the data analysts worldwide, but even if you’re not an IT professional per se, this could still be something to think about when preparing your CV.
Instead of simply listing your skills and achievements — yawn! — you can also talk about how adaptable you are, and how your existing skills can be applied in other contexts.
2. Use your SkillsFuture credits to take up a course
If you find that you’re not getting call-backs and interviews because you’re lacking certain key skills, don’t despair — it’s normal.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to grow in all the right directions while on the job. I mean, if your job provided you all these opportunities, you probably wouldn’t be looking elsewhere what, right?
There is no shame in taking up new courses in order to keep up and stay relevant. Upskilling is important for everyone, not just older workers who fear retrenchment.
For Singaporeans, there is this thing called SkillsFuture to help equip you with well, skills for the future. All Singaporeans age 25 and above are entitled to $500 worth of SkillsFuture credits to be used on SkillsFuture-approved courses.
That last bit may sound limiting, but I went to check the course listing and it really is quite impressive. Popular course topics include creating and designing websites, 3D printing and modelling, digital marketing and data analysis.
Even if you’re not entirely convinced, there really is no harm trying it out. With $500 free SkillsFuture credits, the money that comes from your pocket is minimal (if any at all).
According to a survey by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), 8 in 10 of the Singaporeans polled said that their SkillsFuture training helped them in their work, with about 146,000 Singaporeans using their credits in 2018.
There’s a lot more to the SkillsFuture initiative; you can read all about it in our SkillsFuture Guide.
3. Check out the WSG Professional Conversion Programme (PCP)
It’s pretty straightforward for people who just want to get promoted or job-hop for a salary increment. However, what about those who are in a sunset industry or one that industry you don’t like?
Switching industries and professions can be intimidating. For one, all your past work experience may suddenly count for nothing — it’s almost like going back to starting line and looking at entry level jobs.
That could mean a huge reduction in salary, which is not ideal, especially if you’re someone who’s gotten comfortable with a mid-tier pay, and has financial commitments like household bills and loans.
Making a mid-career switch will definitely be harder than simply progressing in the same line, but it can be relatively smooth. There are courses and programmes to help you transition into new jobs and sectors.
For example, Workforce Singapore (WSG) has Professional Conversion Programmes that allow you to undergo on-the-job training and attachments so you can be equipped with the right skills for your career move.
To supports these Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs), WSG funds up to 90% of their salaries and course fees. You can find out more on WSG’s official website.
4. Consider regional roles and other new experiences
I’ll let you in on a secret: after your first job, literally nobody cares what school you were from. (Unless you’re some Ivy League graduate then okay, I suppose you’re allowed to brag about it for the rest of this lifetime.)
After ascertaining that you are more or less qualified for the job, hiring managers will look at your portfolio, connections, and yada yada.
Attractive candidates are basically those who have impressive work experience, so if you really want to stand out… Go all out and try new things, meet new people.
For example, if you’ve always been based in Singapore, try taking on a regional role. Many multinational companies have regional headquarters in Singapore, so you’re thinking of pursuing a career in an MNC, your cross-cultural experience could really give you an edge over your competition.
Likewise, if you’ve always handled very specialised tasked in a huge corporation, you may want to try a stint at a smaller SME or start-up where you might need to “bao ga liao“.
5. If you’re completely clueless, consider career counselling and guidance
Lastly, if you don’t know what to do, where to go, and what you want, then perhaps you need a little more guidance.
There are quite a few popular career counselling services in Singapore, but they can be expensive. Gary and Pearl is one of the best known ones, and their career counselling rates start at $180 per session. HR Guru charges from $200 per hour for career coaching.
If — like me — you find this too expensive, you can first check out WSG’s free career matching services. They have career coaching, workshops and networking events so not only can you seek advice from counselling professionals, you can also network and chat with other people like yourself.
What other tips do you have for others hoping to improve their career prospects? Share them with us in the comments below.