Singaporeans often complain that jobs that they’re qualified to perform are eventually handed to FTs, thereby reinforcing the belief that FTs are preferred over locals. I disagree.
Sure, they may have been instances where biases have led to hiring decisions going in favour of an FT over a Singaporean, but the entrepreneurs, headhunters and HR professionals I know often lament that they simply can’t find the right local talent for the job, and that they’re forced to look beyond our shores. They say that contrary to what people think, it’s not like there are a bunch of potential Singaporean candidates who come knocking on the door that they can pick and choose from. The best lot often get headhunted or are picky with the jobs they apply for. Take for example: Tina, a girl who does HR in a multinational company. She lamented that it’s not just about finding someone who can do the job, but finding a candidate who can do it well. The jobseeker, she says, should have additional attributes and qualities aside from their academic qualifications. For example, someone who has undertaken leadership studies may be at an advantage for a supervisory or manager role, while someone who is multilingual (in English and Chinese or Bahasa Indonesia) may find themselves more suitable for jobs that require zipping around the region.
Barriers to entry in most businesses are getting lower. China will sell you anything. People will work anywhere. This is a different society today and if we keep up being myopic, not being able to see past our shores, we will be drowned out by a tsunami of competition. So how can Singaporeans differentiate themselves in this environment where even a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough to land you that coveted job interview?
Here are a few top tips to consider:
1) Leaders are made, not born
Stop harping about your papers. A degree these days merely gets you considered for a job but employers are also looking for additional skills and qualities in a candidate. A leadership course is useful for those seeking to move into a supervisory or manager role. There are many institutions in Singapore offering leadership programmes, from short courses to full MBAs — you’d be spoilt for choice!
2) Learn a new language?
Many people overlook the potential of being multilingual. With Asia becoming the new focus of the local economy and with investment dollars flowing into the region like never before, it’s become increasingly imperative that we can speak an Asian language whilst being proficient in English. Forget French or Spanish! Try Mandarin or Bahasa Indonesia instead. If you already speak one of these languages, get better at it!
3) Don’t have the gift of the gab?
You can be the smartest and most hardworking executive at your level, but the other candidate may snag the job simply by speaking better than you do. It does take some level of skill to speak purposefully and confidently in an impromptu situation and to market yourself effectively to an employer. Toastmasters clubs are a good starting point to acquire those skills. Or you can start by getting off your iPhone in social setting, and start actually talking to people.
4) Moderate your asking price
Don’t indicate a salary too low as you can come across as being desperate for a job. On the other hand, don’t overprice yourself as employers would be unlikely to pick you for the post — not because you aren’t good, but because they can’t afford you! Even if you do get hired, the boss’ expectations regarding your performance would be scarily lofty. That wouldn’t set you up for success at all. So go for the middle range (there are salary reports you can find online) and bump it up a notch to buffer for negotiations. If you perform well, there’s no reason for your employer not to increase your salary in due course.
So listen up. Stop complaining that FTs are taking jobs away and start making yourself more marketable to employers by improving your skill sets. I’m sure if more jobseekers offer the value-add that distinguishes them from other candidates, more employers and headhunters can rely on the local talent pool to fill positions at various levels.