Apr 20, 2009

Learn from the Regrets of the Flatulence Analyst

Any job should do ...
Flexibility will impress future employers, Gan tells youth who raise discrimination concerns
Monday • April 20, 2009
By Esther Ng

AS A fresh graduate, do I really have to accept a blue-collar job?

This plaintive question — sent via SMS by a participant in the audience, who worried that it would affect one’s shot at a PMET job after the economy recovers — drew some laughter as it was read aloud.

But Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong was in earnest as he advised this participant, and the other 80 or so youthful participants at the dialogue session with Young NTUC, to be flexible when job-hunting in a downturn. He urged them to “take up any job that is available”, as there would always be “opportunities to upgrade later on”.

Say an employer asks why you’ve not been working for the past one year — do you answer that there were “no jobs available”?

“Employers will not believe because there are always jobs available,” said Mr Gan. “Employers will think ... if in a crisis situation you’re willing to sit at home and do nothing, it means that you’re not flexible.”

Any job should do? Gosh, that's such shockingly bad advice. It could only have come from a politician with a vested interest in being able to report lower unemployment figures.

The government may like to treat you as a digit, but you don't have to treat yourself like that. Please give your own future a little more tender loving care.

While times are bad in general, they are not equally bad for everyone. If you are really having serious financial difficulties, then Gan could be right. You might have to grab whatever job you can find (for example, I hear that MacDonalds still needs waiters). However, if you aren't that desperate, then do consider proceeding less hastily.

Fresh graduates may not realise it yet, but an impressive c.v, (and that means one which has been carefully built over the years) is one of the most important assets you can ever have for your career. And among other things, an impressive c.v. should reflect a clear sense of direction and purpose, with a consistent positive theme running through it.

For example, an impressive c.v. should show how the candidate had carefully chosen each role, had gained good experience in it, and had then used this experience to progress to his next, higher value-added role. The c.v. should show how the candidate consistently secured jobs with the most reputable companies in each field. The job history should demonstrate that the candidate really has the kind of skills, strengths and interests that he claims to have.

In contrast, a poor, "patchwork" c.v. would show a candidate moving from job to job, without any obvious strategy or plan. After all, he's there just for the sake of having a job, not because he's genuinely interested in it. And his jobs don't build on each other in a helpful way. One year he's a MacDonalds waiter; next year he's a primary school relief teacher; after that he joins the SAF; two years later, he's selling insurance.

Gan calls this "flexibility". But sorry, such a c.v. is not impressive to me at all. It is merely what happens when you take the"any job should do" attitude to your own career.

Now, if you're not that desperate for money, I suggest you consider being more patient with your job search. While you're still searching, use your personal time constructively. Read and self-learn; or take short career-related courses like these or those (whatever's relevant for you).

And take some time to chill out and relax too. Tough times won't last forever. After all, as the ever-astute Buddha had pointed out - nothing is permanent.


YY said...

This comes from someone who quotes his dream job is to teach but the closest he can get to that is state minister for education! What kind of good advise is that!

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Your impressive cv advice makes sense but unfortunately in reality may not be easily achievable for the majority if they are honest. Based on your advice, a jobless gap of 6 months to a year may be possible and then also no guarantee a decent job may come after that. And people may just become desperate to take any job if the jobless period becomes too prolonged. With this type of recession, don't be surprised if this will be common among many ordinary grads, not those high flying ones (scholarhip, honours etc) of course.

All these will not help towards an impressive cv.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Well, you have been warned.

One problem with bad jobs is that your next employer will use your current salary as the reference point, in deciding what to offer you.

If you are now being paid peanuts, in your next job, if you're lucky, your employer may offer you, say, peanuts + 20%. However, peanuts + 20% is still peanuts.

Anonymous said...

I wish some1 had given me the same advice 10 years ago :-(

Having said, I dun think it makes much difference to the bottom 80 to 90% of each cohort... given the vast disparity in pay these days.

blue white collar said...

He urged them to “take up any job that is available”, as there would always be “opportunities to upgrade later on”.Really? Is Minister Gan saying that when economy recovers, he will not allow companies to hire FTs, due to "there are no local talents with the suitable skills"?

I am seeing "structural unemployment" and "locals are not talented" all over again.

Miao 妙 said...

I'm glad I'm seeing your advice now, before I graduate in 2 years.

Anonymous said...

i think it's an unfortunately "singaporean" thing that "more is good". there are afterall still people who think that an overwhelming cv means a cv that is filled with many different experiences.

while i'm not saying that different experiences is a bad thing, but it also depends on the mentality as to why are there so many different experiences. did you decide to just take a job because u needed a job, or did u truly take the job because it was something different and you wanted a taste of it just to see if it was suitable for you.

given Minister Gan's seemingly impressive private sector cv, better advice was expected.

Anonymous said...

With such clown as minister, it definitely very flexible for him because every position he goes earn him higher salary even if he is just garbage doing nothing and responsible for nothing in the government.

kate said...

I also do wish I had read this ten years ago. Career guidance was (is?) sorely lacking in our universities, and we always felt no one cared whether we were employed unless we were on the dean's list. Anyway whatever was in the career counselling office would be propagating the same thing the minister is saying now, and I suspected the bochup career counsellors hated their jobs as well.

I like what 'blue white collar' pointed out. Makes sense. We'll forever be structurally unemployed, have no suitable skills, if we any ol' take up any kind of jobs!

I still remember, I was paid quite well for my first job. But I didn't consider carefully when I left for my next job, and ended up with a 30% pay cut to $2.6k. It's was a long hard struggle trying to convince anyone I was worth more than that after that, and I only got back to my first job pay after 4 years! Mr Wang is right in that, your current salary is always use as a reference point for your next. I learned this the hard hard way.

Parka said...

Between having a job and no having one, it's better to have a job.

Just don't forget that if the job is not impressive, you don't have to write it on the resume if you don't want to.

I agree with Minister Gan's comments.

If I'm an employer, I'll rather hear people saying they had part time jobs rather than having done nothing. Nothing is worthless.

蝴蝶思语 said...

The original article read: "Citing his private sector experience, Mr Gan said employers regard favourably those ..."

Perhaps he should also mention he worked at ONE private sector company in his whole life and started off as a manager.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, your peanuts theory will not be true if one's subsequent employer is a company with established HR policies and practices, such as an MNC. Companies like these usually have a compensation scale based on job grade, experience, qualifications, etc and are less likely to apply a generic formula of (20% + last drawn salary) to new hires.

Anonymous said...

Hi Parka

Its a pity that u are not a employer :-p

Anon@2.55 is correct of course. But sadly, those companies he mentioned is unlikely to hire folks desperate enuff to take lousy\part time jobs 9i.e bottom 90%). Ordinary folks like myself are basically trapped in a vicious cycle and will underperform relative to potential. Unless u happen to be in the right industry during a crazy bubble.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang you give a way better advice than this backdoor PAP minister. And what you said is pretty much common sense, just goes to show how useless this Gan is.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Parka isn't right.

If I were hiring for a PMET position, I would much rather hear that the person has been unemployed for the past six months, than to hear that he has been working as a MacDonalds waiter for the past six months.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chengguan said...

mr wang is right in pointing out the correct way to build up a professional resume. however, do consider your own financial situation as he has also advised. grab a job while waiting for the right opportunities. you can always blame the government, but who suffers at the end of the day?

chengguan said...

mr wang, i guess this is the primary difference between a hong konger and a singaporean. serving in macdonalds to feed one's family got nothing to do with his focus and dedication to his career.

Anonymous said...

but the person doesn't need to write in his cv that he worked for macdonalds as a waiter.

its more of a 'temporary job' if the person doesn't want to stay on the job for long and he wants to earn some money.

lh said...

But why would you Mr Wang? I would thought having work even as a Macs waiter would show some tenacity, willingness to take on 'tough' jobs, etc to tide over, while being unemployed. Or you prefer to hear the person being umemployed and using the time to learn a skill/ volunteer etc?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Right, he doesn't have to state in his resume that he worked at MacDonalds.

However, Gan is saying that employers will be impressed by his "flexibility" in working at MacDonalds.

I don't agree.

Anonymous said...

No matter what don't just accept any job.
You are always judged based on your last drawn pay and HR people in companies here will always find ways to put your salary in the lower end of the scale (if possible).
I agree with Mr Wang that you should strategise your career/job takings and move progressively.
Even if in the event that you need to suffer a pay-cut, you should still choose a job/role which you can use to "sell" in your CV at a later part of life.
Taking any job will only make the statistics look nice and employers get cheap temporary workers whom they will know will quit the moment the economy picks up again. Taking any job does not benefit the jobseeker at any point in time, unless if you are really desperate for $$$.
I've always thought during bad times, learning + cultivating local start-ups/small businesses is a way forward.

Ser Ming said...

Mr Wang,

How would a employer feel if a person move from a peanut-paid desk-bound job to a higher-paid freelance service provider then back applying for a much higher-paid desk-bound job after completing his degree?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Wang. I work in a MNC trading firm and when I recruit staffs for different depts, one key factor which I always consider is the job history and I usually more reluctant to consider candidates who move frequently. While a few maybe able to provide valid reasons or really unlucky to come across few bad employers in a row, most are unable to provide sactisfactory answers (eg can't cope with job, far from home which makes me wonder why take up the job in the first place, etc). To me, a long list of short employments will be more of a push factor than pull factor unless the candidate need to meet some urgent financial commitments. Having said all these, if the candidate has financial commitments (eg taking of parents) and take up a number of contract jobs because he/she is unable to find a perm job, it's still acceptable to most employers. H/w, esp for a fresh grad, if you are desperate to take up "any job available", you maybe ruining your cv in the long run. My advise is that if you are really desperate and end up in a shit job, try make the most out of it. To fully understand one's responsibilities and job scrop, I think we need a min of 2 yrs (more time required for positions with more responsibilities). If one can explains to the next potential employer (ie switch job after 2 yrs or so when better time arrives) why he/she needs to take up the job, the experience gained from the past 2 years of "enduring and training" and why he/she deserves a bigger increment to match the market rate, I believe many employers will still be willing to offer a reasonable package. Of coz, be realistic and don't ask for the sky. If you are good, it's a matter of time that your contribution will be recognised and rewarded - and if it doesn't, you can always stay for the next 2-3 yrs, learn as much as you can and look for better job later.

Just a word of advice to the fresh grads who are looking or going to look for job - do not wear a hat which is bigger than your head. Understand and make sure you are confident with the responsibilities and job scope before you take up a job, esp one that pay very well, there is no free lunch in the world. The damage will be worse if you take up a job which you cannot handle and leave in the next few months - not only you need to "step-down" to a lower rank designation and get a lower pay (you know what you can't handle), you leave a "black mark" on your cv which you can never erase.

Good luck to all, whether you are looking for a job or looking to change job. :)

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"But why would you Mr Wang? I would thought having work even as a Macs waiter would show some tenacity, willingness to take on 'tough' jobs, etc to tide over, while being unemployed. Or you prefer to hear the person being umemployed and using the time to learn a skill/ volunteer etc?" Yes, I do prefer to hear that the person used the time to learn a skill, volunteer etc, especially if it's something relevant to the position I want to fill.

Eg if I were hiring a young lawyer, I would be happy to hear that in his unemployed period, he volunteered by giving free legal services under the pro bono schemes run by the Law Society for poor people.

If I were hiring someone and I needed him to have Chinese language skills, I'd be happy to hear that he volunteered at CDAC to give free Chinese tuition to poor kids (because among other things, this is a signal to me that he does have Chinese language capabilities sufficient to conduct a Chinese class).

If I were hiring someone for a role that needs presentation skills, I'd be happy to hear that he took a toastmasters or public speaking course.

If I were hiring a young person for a role where extensive business travel is required, I'd actually be happy to hear that he went on a backpacking holiday for six months in Asia and Europe. It tells me that the person is fine with travelling and feels comfortable in different countries & environments.

If I were hiring someone for a creative role eg in an advertising agency, I'd be happy to hear that for the past six months while he was unemployed, he spent his time painting pictures at home or taking photos (of course, I'd like to see his portfolio).

If I were hiring a secretary, I would be happy to hear that while unemployed, she took a course learning to use Microsoft Excel and Lotus Notes and Powerpoint etc.

In all these cases, I'd be happier to hear what I had mentioned above, than if the person mentioned that he had been working in a low-level job involving work & skills that have nothing to do with the role I need to fill.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang last post is correct. If you do not need the money, then do something to improve your image. Be an entrepreneur, even if it's a small scale one. You never know, you may hit it right!
Do not just take any job. I wonder has our minister consider his comments carefully before he post it? Or he thinks that he belongs to the ruling elite, whatever he says has to be right..somehow.

Anonymous said...

I am a recent graduate and i felt tinge of guilt when i read this article.

I had been looking for a job since last Oct, 4 months before i graduate, got a few offers, but held out for about 6 months for one that i really wanted. (interview was in Oct but i only got an offer end March, starting in May). I was miserable during this time, moments of self doubt, restlessness, 'aimlessness' arose often especially in 2009. Questions from those who were 'concerned' made me feel like i was picky and lazy. Yet, all this time, i was doing free lance, part time, temps and also taking up short courses. (FYI, all these don't count as experience to HR when they do offer, so take up Macdonald's if you want to earn some $ for a short time cuz it won't count)

I felt like life would have been much easier had i just taken the first available offer, but i didn't want to short-change myself. I take this 6 months of job searching as an experience, knowing what is out there and finding the right fit. I realised that advancing in my 'specialized' area was going to limit my choices even more in the future (after meeting ppl in the field), so i'm taking up a job that is related in some ways to my area of specialization and see where it'll take me. I can always return to my 'specialized' area since i'm trained in it in the future.

This, I call flexibility and 'value-adding' to myself, and not just taking up any job available.

chengguan said...

mr wang, what you just shared is very true. one could have work in macdonalds and contribute to the society in one's area of strength. what is uncalled for is the discrimination of lower income jobs as a mean to provide for family.

Anonymous said...

As a ex-Recruitment Consultant, I must agree with Mr Wang's peanut theory. Regardless of SMEs or MNCs, do not be surprise that their HRs very often are not aware of the market rate. Remuneration are decided based on their budget, or very often - the Peanut Theory.

In my opinion, graduates should think thoroughly before accepting any peanut paying job, because it is as good tagging a price tag on the head.

I Love Cats said...

I think there will be a difference in mind set between those who are already being retrenched and those who are in fear of being retrenched. There will also be difference in mentality for those who unemployed over a different period of time. I started out waiting for the same job to come back to the market, then started looking for similar roles and now even consider a fresh grad's job in a totally unrelated area. When I still had my job and slogging hard for it, I thought how nice if I can do volunteer work for the needy. But I am sad to admit that volunteering for free has now taken a lower priority because my family and financial commitment. I can't afford to have my old parents worry about my career and let my children go hungry without food.

Pro Bono Comparison said...

What if you are looking to hire a Minister. Would "flexibility" in any other job be a bonus, or a liability? Practise what you preach.

A Minister, is also just another job.

Anonymous said...

Sadly Mr Wang is absolutely correct in the Singaporean context and hence unfortunate that Mr Parka is not an employer.

Btw, Mr Wang, being the nice guy, forgot to add that the older you are, the "less potential/value" you have. But all is not lost. Mr Wang, being the helpful guy, already posted one solution (see cartoon) should you find yourself in a disadvantageous position.

Anonymous said...

Having said that, I had ONE acquaintance who, after graduating from NUS, went to work at MacDonalds, rose thru the ranks and is doing really well in the US of A (Not Singapore).

Life is like a box of chocolates?

Anonymous said...

oddly enough, Parka always agrees with every single thing that the govt says. Seems like he does not and never has his own opinion.

lh said...

So that's why you said if the person isn't financially desperate, don't 'anyhow' take on a job. Assuming the person takes a new skill/volunteer (at own cost to take the courses/ fund own expenses), and *still no job, then how? You assume the positioning and building on the 'value' will come in *future. Why not grab what comes your way *now? At the very least, it gives an income and work (however "lesser-value" it seems). As the person who asks is a fresh grad, doing more learning (taking courses etc) vs another fresh grad who just take a job- at least can say got some working experience. It's up to the person to present how working in Mac would help in the next job.

veii said...

I guess the context varies, but I think it really depends on how one positions things, or presents oneself. For instance, when it comes to ang moh people, you often find some who have had plenty of non-conventional experience, from butcher to truck driver to tour guide to greasy spoon cook - and eventually end up as programmers, systems analysts or investment bankers. Asians, on the other hand, usually have a string of safe, 'respectable' positions in their C.V.s. It could be due to residual racial prejudice in their favour, but I tend to think that they know a thing or two about how to put a positive spin on their life's narrative that we all could learn.

JobSearchNinja said...

Every applicant should look closely at their resume and make it stand out to be noticed by their prospective employer. To top the competition resume should be adequate and compelling.

One must focus and move in the right direction. Never let obstacle interfere with job search.

Anonymous said...

Why are u guys always picking on the guy working in mac?

Parka said...

I'm pro-business, ultra pro-business. Not pro-government in anyway and I don't know the names of anyone in the government except LKY, LHL and WKS.

It a coincidence that the government is pro-business too.


There's someone who mention starting a business. That's my default suggestion for umemployed graduates right now. Spend the time to think about how you can create value for the economy. With that value creation naturally comes money.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"I guess the context varies, but I think it really depends on how one positions things, or presents oneself. For instance, when it comes to ang moh people, you often find some who have had plenty of non-conventional experience, from butcher to truck driver to tour guide to greasy spoon cook - and eventually end up as programmers, systems analysts or investment bankers." No. The more accurate way to put it is as follows:

Some jobs appear not to be related or similar to other jobs, but actually they are. So it is possible that you can work in a certain job; gain certain experience; and possibly transfer that experience into a job which, at first glance, looks very different. And yes, sometimes, whether that can happen, depends on yourself. Not just how you present yourself, but how you actually find ways to transfer that experience.

BUT it does not mean that an "any job will do" attitude is advisable. Because there really is such a thing as "irrelevant job experience".

Onlooker said...

I would like to emphasize Mr Wang point.
Sometimes employer will also look for people with previous experience in their client base.
IE A software company specializing in let say bean counting would like to have personnel who have previous experience working as a bean counter as part of the sales/dev team because they will better understanding and professional term and specification needed by the client who count bean.
But now is really a bad time for grads because of the ongoing influx of Foreign workers who had saturated the market even further.
This is still happening even when the "REAL" talents are returning back home.
For example, China have been trying to get their citizens who had worked in highly specialized area and foreigner(including Singaporeans) to setup shop in China.

Anonymous said...

You know, in the US, pro-business attitudes often are synonymous with libertarian thinking and often fail to account for the fact that the world ain't perfect, and sometimes things do not work perfectly for people. So with regard to the suggestion about "starting your own business", that is one of the biggest pieces of bull shit I have ever come across. Just who will lend the said fresh graduate the few tens of thousand to start a pathetically small business with no value-addedness or future growth? I will spit upon any "business" that isn't high technology based because there is almost no growth potential otherwise.

Jimmy Mun said...

Shucks, I'm late in an area of my core competence: unemployment.

Before I go on, I have to say I am very disappointed that Gan Kim Yong is appointed Minister for Manpower at this critical juncture. This clown, when he was MOS for Education, didn't even have a good gut feel of the number of foreign students in local universities and rattled off rubbish in parliament. Even the correction made a few hours later was not quite right. For a few millions a year, one would think we deserve at least someone who can wayang some semblence of ability.

Back to the point. I can speak from experience that prolonged unemployment can be very damaging to self-confidence. But if you are doing something that makes you feel "underemployed", it wouldn't be of much help.

I can also speak from experience that it is easy to bullshit the period of unemployment away. Spending more time with family, exploring the world, starting an internet business etc.

In fact, I had a friend, or should I say, ex-boss, who was starting a new business, and I dropped in to help from time to time without pay. When it became convenient, I just happily put it my CV, and since it wasnt a lie, I could even talk about the experience I gained.

I can also speak from experience that some companies examine your CV with a microscope, while some just skim for keywords.

The most important thing is that your CV must have the keywords that catches the HR screener's eye. Once you get the interview, then you will have the opportunity to cook a beautiful story. Unemployment scares some employers because they are afraid you may be in prison, in mental hospital or locked at home snorting cocaine, so make sure you can address this potential concern.

I also have to point out that your previous job defines who you are. I spent a lot of years working in my current field, but when I was out of job, I had to do the equivalent of relief teaching, and when I attended interviews for jobs in the same field, every employer asked me why I want a career change from teaching.

And I cant agree more with Mr Wang's point that nothing is permanent. At the worst point of dotcom bust, almost every ex-coworker of mine was either unemployed or near unemployment. Then, like someone flipped a switch, we were more in demand than at any point during the dotcom boom.

In fact, my hiring manager was zooming in for unemployed people so he doesnt have to wait for the notice period!

But one caveat: Remember Singaporeans are herd animals. If the government is promoting a field, run from it. Thanks to dotcom bust and the government directly and indirectly intervening, the fresh grad supply in my field was practically choked off completely. When demand returned, it was insane since there was no fresh grad supply.

So...you have to stay steadfast to what you love and ignore the government.

And lastly, preparing for job interviews, especially those that include a test for your technical skills, is very very very time consuming. Most of the time, jobs will be demand some skills you dont already possess, so you will need to study hard to bluff your way in. It's not going to be easy to swing it while fulltime employed. Not to mention some employers, like mine, does not interview people after 5pm, so that's a lot of leave to take.

Words or Wonder said...

The opening up to foreigners during good times, saves HR costs. No training needed. Period. That also means that you are stuck in your job and career forever. Unless you have a good network of powerful friends.

That means, what Minister says about taking any job, must be backed by Ministerial promise (no, not the CPF cut "only knaves expect promises to be kept" type) that MOM will impose stricter regulations on foreign labour influx, expecially for non-Union protected White Collar Singapore.

It also means, even if you go for more certificates, job trainings mooted by our scholars, you are still stuck in your current job, because HR can just hire from 300+ countries and 6 Billion+ people in the world to stinge and save on training costs! Sorry, career switches? Not possible for Singapore any more.

Otherwise, Minister is probably going to contradict Government's "National Service" whine for Singaporeans to reproduce. When life progresses, so do your living costs. And if you are stuck in you initial but not developing interests and almost non-existant pay increments, who will want to get married, sign on a 30 year HDB loan for a property where CPF has first charge, then have babies to pay for expensive education even before kindergarden?!

Next point. Why is our CPI not negative?! So many retrenchments and pay cuts threatening, and the prices just keep going UP?!

Answers anyone?

Anonymous said...

Parka, pro-business, is to cut RENTAL and costs experienced by employees so they can give you higher productivity with lower stress to get you to pay them more just to stay alive.

Not cut employee pay alone!

veii said...

Naw, I'm still not convinced. Looks to me that your first and second points are at odds with one another. A really smart person can and will find ways to connect one job experience with another, with the benefit of hindsight and hopefully some street smarts acquired along the road. Assuming that there is ALWAYS a way to transfer skills from one previous experience to the next, then that talented yarn spinner should be able to put together a good, job-winning CV. And in so doing make relevant all of the past experience that he chooses to put down on the CV, meaning that he's avoided the "irrelevant job experience" trap. But to each his own.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Surprisingly, no one so far has really commented on the importance of gaining good experience.

Personally when I pick a new job, this is one of my top considerations. Is this going to be a role where I'm going to get some good exposure; learn some valuable skills?

I think in my profession, the graduates are acutely aware of this. They know that generally, to get the best exposure, they need to aim to get into the top law firms, where they will have the chance to work alongside the best senior lawyers, on the biggest, most complex cases & transactions.

Joining a one-man or two-man law firm like Tan Ah Kow & Co. is just not going to get you that kind of valuable experience. Unless you wish to spend your career drafting wills and handling traffic accident claims.

Of course, working as a Macdonalds waiter is going to be even more limiting.

veii said...

Well, far apart from my own contrarian take on things in this thread, my own personal strategy is to seek good jobs with a vision for how it would take me forward, whether I stay with the firm or decide to leave later on. In other words, I already look for certain things - good employer name, good pay for the given level, exposure to desired skillsets etc. And this began with my very first job interviews some years back. I worked to make myself attractive, found ways to connect what I had in education and prior experience to what I thought the employers wanted. I got hired in a boom time just prior to the 97 bust.

What I got from my first job was a great, intensive graduate training with a lot of emphasis on sales and relational skills, presentation and the like. Then, I learned a trade for which I had not been trained in college: computers and networking. I think that my first job more than doubled my value as a worker since I gained entry into a completely different field from what I studied at uni, training to carry myself professionally and the firm came with a good, strong name. I never had problems getting another job after that.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,

Thank you for the kind advise, I am jobless for 3 months already. My CV wasnt that bad but sometimes, i got so desperate that i told my friend just intro any lobang to me, I AM WILLING TO DO ANY JOB!.

Your article stopped me back from compromising my future. You are right, the Mc Donald working experience is not going to help in my CV (no offence to those working in Mac Donalds though).

Good luck to those who are unemployed like me :-)

Anonymous said...

to previous anonymous: if you are in your 30s, yes you can afford to wait. If you are in your early 40s, you are taking a huge risk. Whether it is private or public sector, your value takes a plunge when you are pass 40. Never mind what the government says, hiring managers will almost always shun older people.

Anonymous said...

I just turn down an offer for a job. And the company I am currently working for is retrenching, cutting pay to stay in the black.

The reason? It is more of a horizontal move for me than a career progression. And 5 years down the road, people will be asking why i move? It will seems that I jump ship as soon as there are problems brewing and not stayed on to solve it.

I will not be on the R list (since I am one of the person determining it... and if I am, then I am still need to lock the doors) and I am will still be employed in the foreseeable future. So I am sticking around till a better offer comes along.

Having said that, there will be ppl that say that I am crazy to do so

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Where got good place to migrate to?

A place where people won't discrimate me and can get a lot of money, work litle, little.

Please help.

Anonymous said...

I finished my studies in Sydney, Australia 3 years ago. Found a job in a hardware company doing logistics then.
Today, I'm back. Couldn't tolerate those racist white colleagues who were darn sarcastic and patronising most of the times.
Mental torture! Good ridden.

Anonymous said...

I was lay off 3 months ago and could not even find a job, how am I just "take any job that is available". Went for a couple of interviews, but both did not offer me the job - "over qualified" (I think pay to high or at least they are not willing to pay, even I am willing to take a 30% pay cut)

Went CDC too but did not receive any reponse or call from them at all!! See them talking so much about helping in the news, but maybe not me and my friends who are in the so call PMET.

Lucky I've enough saving after working for more than 10 years and single. Being single and out of job is both good and bad.

Good - you only got yourself to feed (for me I have to take care of both my aged parents). Bad - it is more difficult to find a job as some employers are more willing to employ married people cause they need the income to "feed" their family.

So good luck to me - 40, single(with aged parents), more than 10 years of manufacturing experinence, without a job.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Apr 24, 3.52 pm

Try Education. MOE is massively recruiting mid-careerists as education officers as well as ancillary officers like AEOs. Also MINDEF is doing likewise. God bless. . . .

Falcon said...

Gan is giving bad advice due to his inexperience in the real world. A manager who reported to me before has left the company to become a teacher. Now he wants to go back to becoming a manager but without success. He was talking to me the other day and I told him the last job and last pay is an important consideration for any potential employer. If Gan were to be out of work and opted to become a taxi driver, when the economy recovers he would find it very difficult to get a management job again with a higher pay. Employers considering him for a management position will not be thinking how proactive he is in getting some work during recession but thinking how he can justify a 1000% pay jump and how a taxi driver can become a CEO or director in their company. I worry for Singapore when we have such calibre leader as our minister.

Anonymous said...


Dear Mr Wang, would you be commenting on the news article/headline? I mean, I saw the headlines too, the media is trying really hard..there's another one on 7 out of ten laid off found jobs

Anonymous said...

yes, a CV is impt, but HR and the people hiring should be aware during a certain period where the economy is bad and that to take up a job that may not be what you want is necessary to put food on the table.

There is nothing wrong with being a part-time sales assistant even when you are holding a degree, while riding out the recession when no one is hiring. People who can afford to attend upgrading courses and such while looking for one, good for them, but for the rest of us, its cold hard facts, we still need to eat and such.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang, you conveniently forget that Generation Y goes through a patchwork of jobs to find what they like. You are also reproducing an elitist mentality that insists only on a perfect career route to ensure future ‘success’. The tall poppy is not always right. What is wrong with a lateral career trajectory, and what is wrong with working in McDonalds? At the very least (forgetting the talk about Gen Y and remembering that we ARE in a financial crisis), as an employer I can be sure that my worker is a survivor and will work hard for his keep. A piecemeal-type job strategy is not necessarily wrong or bad when one is young or desperate. And remember that CVs are tailored to a job. You don’t blab your entire work history in 2 pages. A smart person will play up the strengths and skills learned from his past work according to the current job's needs.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

1. If you are searching for a job where you will do what you like, then you are NOT taking an "any job will do" attitude. Surely you don't just like ANY job.

2. My post is also quite clear that if you desperately need the money, well, then you have no choice but to take whatever job you can get.

3. I'm a bit tired of the comments along the lines that you can "play up" your past work, or to use another phrase that another reader had used, "spin yarn" about how your past job helps your new job. Apart from all this spin, do spend some time thinking about how your job experience REALLY does or does not help you to gain new skills / knowledge.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the main points you are making Mr Wang, about the importance of a progressive CV in securing juicy PMET jobs in Singapore's antiquated HR environment and the irrelevancy of experience gained in many low skill/low value-add jobs. e.g. MacDonald's, low end retail sales. And I think the poor graduate who asked Mr Gan the question will appreciate your advice.

But I think his question and your response are both rooted in the classic Singaporean paradigm of white collar material success, which has been dominant in the past few years.

Veii and RogueStampede commented on the value of non-traditional jobs and I disagree that this value is derived from "playing up or "spinning" these non-traditional work experience. Value simply derives from taking pride in what you are doing and trying your utmost to learn the most you can from it. To that end, not every job is equal in terms of learning value but a significant number of them provide opportunities to come into contact and learn more about social conflicts and challenging situations.

Even the most mind numbing work has the value of freeing the mind for higher pursuits. Einstein did most of his groundbreaking work on relativity while employed as a patent clerk, a job manifestly below his above-average intellectual capabilities.

A blue collar job such as an auto mechanic, a plumber or even a hairdresser is not necessarily inferior to a PMET job except when viewed through the lenses of our Singaporean need for affluent white collar success. They might even be economically superior options, given the rising need for services and lack of people entering the trades.

Furthermore, for most people, the hard skills learnt in University are largely as irrelevant for a PMET job as a white collar job, unless you are going into the professions or into teaching. The purpose of a university education should not be the Excel and Word and Powerpoint skills which are after all, the tools of trade of the PMET class, but rather a journey of self-improvement, a search for a deeper understanding of the world and people around us.

We are in the early stages of a depression which might be worse than waht most people alive have ever experienced. Paradigms have to shift. Your advice is valid for the situation of the previous years but the good times of the 2000s might simply not come again for many years.

A fresh graduate who is unemployed for more than a year rapidly becomes not only unemployed but also unemployable, as he loses contact with responsibility and society at large. To avoid this, a large number of people will simply have to take jobs which they might not like just to continue functioning as a well-adjusted member of society.

As an aside, I think your personal experience as a lawyer is not really relevant for the vast majority of graduates. Law graduates have certain hard skills which are sought after because of the artificially high demand and low supply caused by regulation and government interference in the markets - there are many more people who want to be lawyers and more companies that need lawyers than there actually are lawyers. As such, you guys are a lucky bunch with the opportunity to select the jobs which will add the most to your specialised skillsets and personal career development as a lawyer. Especially for you, as a outstanding lawyer. But life is not so kind to the rest of the Excel and Powerpoint monkeys out there.

roguestampede said...

@anon you're right, i reckon good attitude counts more than chasing after the "right" job.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Then go and take the first job offer that comes along, lor. Whatever the job is.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

I will just ask you to consider one question. If Gan has children who are about to step into the working world, do you think that Gan would really give them that advice.

As in - do you think Gan would really tell his own children, "Just take that offer lah. After all, any job will do" ....?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"A blue collar job such as an auto mechanic, a plumber or even a hairdresser is not necessarily inferior to a PMET job except when viewed through the lenses of our Singaporean need for affluent white collar success. They might even be economically superior options, given the rising need for services and lack of people entering the trades." Correct. So if you have carefully thought about it, and it is your view that being, say, a plumber would be an "economically superior" option, and then you choose to be a plumber, well, that is perfectly fine.

What has happened here is that you thought seriously about the matter, and you decided that being a plumber is a good idea, and SO you chose that path.

This is entirely DIFFERENT from an attitude where you just take any job that comes along.

Incidentally, plumbers do make a lot of money in some countries (in fact, Australia welcomes immigrant plumbers more than it welecomes immigrant physicists). I'm sure that there ARE hairdressers who make a lot of money and might end up, for example, owning a chain of hair salons spreading across several countries; or dressing hair for TV stars or millionaire tai tais. An auto mechanic who shines in his job and has an entrepreneurial streak may end up owning & running 12 car repair outlets across Singapore and becoming very rich.

But there is a difference between people who go into these jobs with a game plan in their heads, and people who just become a mechanic or a hairdress because that was just the first job that came along.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Good attitude is definitely very important.

I strongly recommend adopting a good attitude + carefully selecting your job.

Eugene said...

I'd say that what Mr Wang posted has appeal, a consipiracy to make up numbers and make himself look good. However my experience in real life has been quite opposite. Yes, people use your previous salary as a reference. But myself I only started receiving job offers when I started doing temp work. Nobody wanted to hire me, no matter how good my references were, or how pretty my resume was, as long as I did not show that I was working and making something happen myself. So find a job. Try to find one that you enjoy doing, or even one that's relevant to the career you are trying to build. And don't worry so much about the salary now. If you have it in you, you're going to go places no matter where you start from.

Anonymous said...

Aiya anyway this is what I think the posters above mean when they say that the ang mohs are good at spinning their past work experiences.

Damn power lor sell shoes can also talk until like that.


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I agree with you, Eugene, when you say that you should find a job that you enjoy doing or one that's relevant to the career that you are trying to build.

That's why it's important not to just take any job that comes along; and that's why Gan's advice is bad.

I'm wondering why my basic point seems so difficult for people to understand.

Anonymous said...

I do not fully agree with you. Your point, if I am not mistaken, is that one should only take any job hat comes along if one needs money urgently. The problem is that Singaporeans sometimes do not know when they are in need of money urgently. They resort to loans and credit cards and then suddenly, bankrupt or families are swamped in debt. Thus, I think that SIngaporeans who are unemployed should take any job that comes along while looking for their career. I do not think a job at Mac Donald's will adversely affect a person's CV.

As a waiter, one can learn service skills, team work and so on... As a security guard, learn discipline and leadership and responsibility. It is how you sell yourself. Of cos if in Jan you work in BK, Feb in Mac... You are asking for trouble.


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

If you are applying for a PMET job, you are definitely expected to already have attributes like discipline, responsibility, teamwork etc etc. It need not be said.

But if you still actually need to work as a waiter or security guard in order to acquire those attributes, well, I definitely won't be hiring you for a PMET role. Because it's clear that you still have a lot to learn.

Anonymous said...

Err u misunderstand. I never said that you need to join as a waitor to learn those skills. I mean that you can sell yourself by saying that those jobs have taught you indepth or gave u the chance to practice and refine the skills in a reall working environment.

It is how you put in it. The point is at least you can say that you have experience in the real world setting.

If I were the employer, I will look at this applicant more favourably than another applicant with no work experience all else being equal. That is why while you work as a waiter, you must also be on the look out for opportunities for your career and/or take up courses. Of cos la, if you just work while another applicant takes up courses but never work, then different story la.


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

If you come to me for a job interview to get a professional role

and you say: "I worked at MacDonalds as a waiter so as to practice my leadership skills"

I am going to .... puke.

Anonymous said...

Err I meant as in...

Employer: So where have you been working the past few months?

Me: I worked at Mac Donalds.

Employer: Why did you work there, seeing that it is not relevant to your job?

Me: I felt that while I am going around looking for the best job for my qualifications, it was best that I take up some courses in the mean time, and get some form of working experience in the service secotr as it can benefit me when I finally get the job I want.


Anonymous said...

If I were applying for the post of a manager, I would probably say something like this
"When I worked as a waiter, I see and experience first hand the issues faced by the rank and file. Thus, I learn the importance of being empathatic to all the staff regardless of rank and the importance to have an overall picture in making management decisions. This experience will definitely help me when I am making decisions as a manager..."


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with what you have said based on what I have been through. I graduated from NUS in December, went for COUNTLESS interviews and received a couple of offers along the way. None of these offers really suits the career path that I want to take, so I decided to hold out for a little longer. Recently, I received an offer from a top investment bank as a permanent hire. My advice would be (just to re-emphasize): LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS, BUT NEVER SETTLE FOR LESS.

Anonymous said...

You are mistaken. Yours will not be the only resume on the recruiter's table. You will not even get into an interview, let alone be asked about your role in Macdonalds.
There is clearly a mismatch in intellectual capability and conceptual skills between Mr Wang and Philip.