5 reason why Singaporeans can’t get jobs (and 3 ways stay employed)

Future Leaders Summit

job fair

Even with such a tight employment market, there are still some 3% of Singaporeans who are unable to get a job! Here are some reasons why:

1.) You were studying for the sake of studying


Your attitude towards education is pretty important. If you took the cheapest, fastest paper just because you “wanted that paper”, then you’ve pretty much wasted your time and money. You didn’t learn anything and you’re quite likely to tell your future employer that “Studying was a waste of time and there was nothing new to teach me”. If so, you were better off not pursuing the paper and just went to sharpen your other skills instead.

Also, if you just followed the herd to study the latest, fanciest course without considering if you even have a love of it or if it fits in with your future plans… your future employers also can smell the weak attitude in you.

2.) You think too highly of yourself


So you’ve got a Double First Class and you think your better than everyone else? You talk down to your future employers, you think you’re deserving of your own office, overseas trips, big salary and assistant. You think that there are jobs that are beneath you; jobs that are too simple and lowly for your doing.

You think that small local firms will have to pay you a lot more just because you’re stepping out of a high salaried job to risk a stint with them. This actually happened by the way. 

3.) You’re a robot with no EQ

Employers complain about the lack of soft skills in Singaporeans such as leadership influences, social graces and an overall ability to be nice, to work with people, build bonds and create for an altogether harmonious working environment. But no… we’re known to be cold, logical and write emails like as if the world owes us a means to get things done. Is such an approach effective? Well, if your behaving like a prick leads to things not getting done, perhaps it is not.

And how did one NUS student react when being told that she had to go for EQ building classes? “We already have so much to study and yet the school is making us go for these modules, like as if we have so much time in our hands,” she complained. Well done.

4.) Your degree isn’t really a big deal


Not too long ago in Singapore’s history, a degree was a very, very big deal. It was the hall mark of intelligence, social superiority and even wealth. Today, (almost) everyone is a university graduate, or is on the way to becoming one.

In fact, employees have to be skilled in multiple disciplines and should find opportunities to apply these new skills even outside of work. “The old career expectation is no longer relevant. You can’t depend on your qualifications and expect your career journey (to be) catered to until your retirement,” said Adrian Tan, director of Career Ladder, a career consulting firm.

5.) You don’t really want the job

In Singapore, we have a full employment. We have the luxury of choosing what fits us best. Sometimes, we turn down jobs for minute reasons such as location. I live in Bedok, the company is in Jurong…forget it. Yes, we’re spoilt like that. We don’t want to work for small companies because they’re not “branded” enough for us. We don’t want to work for a company because they want me to start at 8am instead of 9am like the others.

Which is all well and good, but remember that the very reason why we have the luxury of choice is because there is an abundance of jobs in Singapore. The casino? The F1? The many construction projects? The foreign investment? It is the result of these that we can pick and chose our employers.
But let’s say that you did get employed and now – *jeng jeng jeng* – a downturn is hitting us. Even the most economically clueless amongst us will know that retrenchments have been increasing and the next job to be lost may well be *gasp* yours. Or mine.


So what 3 things can you do?


1.) Prepare yourself mentally for retrenchment

Even if you’re not going to be, keeping yourself on your toes is good for your career. You keep your toes on your job whilst keeping an eye out for any other opportunities that may present itself. Then you equip yourself with protection – like joining a trade union for instance. If push comes to shove, at least you’ll have negotiators on hand to fight for compensation.

2.) Get cozy with NTUC’s PME Centre

The PME arm of NTUC is pretty useful in four areas: Protection (of your career interests), Progression (of your career), Placement (for jobs) and Privileges (networking sessions, legal clinics and so on).

Singapore has progressed far ahead in our labour landscape. Our employment needs have evolved considerably and become more complex. Through this arm of the NTUC, you’ll have opportunities to educate yourself in employment rights, partake in career progression activities such as networking and partnerships and in a worst case scenario, have protection benefits through their tripartite mechanisms.

3.) Stay ahead of your industry and sharpen your skills

All in all, you want to keep yourself relevant. You want to be a professional in the area of work that you do and be an indispensable figure in your company. For that, your colleagues need to like to work with you, you need to get things done effectively and you’ll need to be able to grow the organisation.



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