Job “experience” is overrated – stop selling it


We have to start making our jobs more interesting – and the one way to make it very interesting, is to go out into the world and get some overseas experience.

In the opening of Budget 2017, Heng Swee Keat briefly mentioned a “Global Innovation Alliance”, a program for Singaporeans to gain overseas experience, build networks and collaborate with counterparts in other cities.

Not much is said about this, except that one of its components will build on the NUS Overseas College (NOC) program. For those uninitiated, the NOC involves having students spend one year in a foreign city, before coming back to Singapore to complete their final year. Students are required to find employers whom will mentor them throughout their stint and throughout their year pick up skills, talents, networks and resources. Many have returned to kick off interesting startups or be hired into exciting jobs.

All this does not mean “experience” though. Experience is overrated.

Let’s put it this way: a company would rather hire someone with only 1 year’s of experience, then someone who has been doing the same thing spread over 15 years.

Doing the same thing over and over, or doing unimportant things, or always being told to do things does not equal experience – it just means you’re a robot and it doesn’t really matter if you’ve got a hundred years of this type of experience, you’re of very little value.

Getting a paper qualification also doesn’t equal to value. It may point you to the basic amount of training required, but you need to also acquire some time sharpening those skills.

No – the 21st century is not going to reward plain vanilla workers substantially. There will certainly be these jobs, they’ll probably pay alright…but if you want to get ahead in your career, if you want to set yourself up to be recession-proof, disruption-proof, robot-proof – you’re going to need a lot of stuff to pepper up your resume.

Spending a few years abroad to cut your teeth in whatever field you have chosen will bump you up a few levels, whatever the career stage you’re at. You’d want to have done things like take part in negotiations, business development, problem solving and you’ll want to have met as many people as you can, widening your network of genuine friends and business contacts.

You’ll also want to learn how to deal with people. You’ll learn how to read people across different cultures, nationalities and norms, learn how to get along with them and understand how to work in an environment that is not Singaporean at all.

That – is true experience. That is not merely just living life on autopilot for a few years and claiming to have “experience” in your resume.

So, I’m not sure what the Global Innovation Alliance that Heng Swee Keat mentioned in the Budget is going to be. It may be installed as a school program, it may be an organization of its own, it may be some sort of universal education program…we don’t know until they raise it in the debates the coming weeks.

However, what I do know…is that you do not have to wait for this government initiative to take shape. Think about how you want to shape your career. Put all the options in front of you and work hard at it. Find a job overseas, enroll yourself as a volunteer or as an intern in another country. Take up a course in another country and see where it takes you. Blast your resumes around the world and try to land a job.

This is the sort of tenacity that companies want to see, this is the stuff that corporations will pay good money for.



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