With the improved market situation, many workers are seeking new job opportunities. They have to compete with the fresh graduates who are job hunting too. We look at why those who are employed have decided to leave, how to leave on a good note, and what they look for in their new job.
THERE are many fresh graduates looking for various job opportunities, be they internships that can lead to a prospective job or their first full-time job. On the other hand, there are job seekers who may have been retrenched during downtimes and are seeking new opportunities to get back into the rat race. Then there are the disgruntled workers who have had it with their employer and are looking to leave as soon as possible.
The fresh graduates tend to gravitate towards this desire to work for a multinational company, MNC. Their perspective seems to be that if their first full-time job or internship is with an MNC, they have their futures made. Many of them do not realise that it is not necessarily the MNCs that will provide them with the best platform to learn. Often, it is working at a small and medium enterprise that will provide the strong groundwork for their career.
They will be able to pick up numerous skills as they will have a larger job scope. In most SMEs, the likelihood of one person multitasking and holding more than one role is common. As an employee, one will rarely be bored as one will not likely be doing the same job all the time. For a fresh graduate, this is the ideal place to hone one’s skills and truly use what has been learnt.
The preliminary qualitative results from the Singapore Institute of Management’s inaugural Singapore Management Capability Index carried out in the fourth quarter of 2010 and completed during the first half of 2011, showed that SMEs were facing issues in attracting and retaining talent. The target audience were mainly senior management participants who provided some interesting
insights. One participant commented that jobseekers gravitated towards MNCs as SMEs were unable to pay or reward them as highly. Another participant highlighted that SMEs will always face this challenge of competing with larger organisations. He advised: “SMEs need to work on creating positive public awareness, branding, and positioning itself appropriately if there’s going to be any success in attracting and retaining talents.”
James Caan, a famous United Kingdom entrepreneur and author of Get the Job You Really Want, has an interesting perspective on how fresh graduates approach the job market.
He advises: “I think it is simply an awareness issue, big brands are always on our radar because of their media coverage and brand power. But SMEs should never be underestimated, especially in the current tough economic climate. They are much more nimble and responsive than big corporate, who in contrast are quite stagnant at the moment. SMEs can be vibrant and entrepreneurial environments to work and often provide young workers more scope for broader work experience.”
Caan emphasises that fresh graduates should not approach the job market blindly, sending out their résumés to numerous companies, hoping for a call back. He says: “I would recommend doing some research, find out as much as you can about the job and company you are applying for and tailor your résumé accordingly. Find out what their culture is, look at their prospects, how successful their sales are, find out their business strategy. Only then can you customise your application to fit with the specifications of the job, and more importantly, demonstrate what you have to offer the company.”
Judy Ang, a fresh graduate from a local university, felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. At an MNC, even if it was an internship, she knew that she would end up doing more administrative tasks instead of learning and applying the skills she had picked up at university. The plus point, however, was that she would have a big brand name MNC to list on her résumé. Working for an SME, she knows that she will be working on various projects or some portfolios that she would never have a chance to work on at an MNC. The only risk is that if the jobs she had performed during her internship were not seen to have amounted to much, she would not have a big brand name to fall back on, hence she felt that working at an SME could affect her résumé negatively to a certain extent.
Other job seekers who have been in the work force for a couple of years face other issues. Marlene Koh, who works in the media line, was an employee who was not only seeking greener pastures but was a disgruntled worker as well. Her health had suffered as she worked long hours. She recently quit without a new job. She says: “It is a sobering thought, especially in times when illnesses seem to be getting more virulent. You sometimes choose to throw in the towel because you can never predict when the damage to your body will hit you. That latter risk represents itself in susceptibility to chronic illnesses, a large chunk of future lost income, and you become a liability to your family.”
Due to these reasons, she decided to quit. She planned accordingly prior to quitting. She ensured that she had emotional, financial, and spiritual support. She knew that with these areas covered, she was better able to handle the months ahead, unsure of when her next job would come or what it would be.
Nicholas Di, an information support engineer, became a new job hunter recently. Having moved from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, he was hoping to expand his job scope and find a better paying job, while remaining close to his family. The thought of quitting without a job never crossed his mind as he felt that he would only quit if he had a job offer. The only time he would even consider quitting without a job is if he had sufficient savings or knew that he could get good job prospects through contacts. If he were to move to a new job, the salary and perks would have to be attractive enough to warrant the move.
Rachel Chua would not quit without having a job offer waiting. She pointed out: “It is a risky move that I do not encourage as apart from the loss of income, it speaks a lot about a person’s character as well. Quitting without a job will present myself as someone who is not able to cope with a demanding environment. This will not be helpful when I present myself to my potential employer.” However, there are times when the circumstances are just too great for one to tolerate. When it reaches breaking point, one has to decide which path to take. If they find that they can change their outlook and turn it into a positive factor, then it would be advisable to stay in the current job until something better comes along. Remember, there is almost always no such thing as a perfect job. Once one is able to wrap one’s mind around that notion, it would be easier to accept what one is facing. Do not act on impulse. Do not quit suddenly or jump to the first job that comes along as it may end up being a case of going from the pot into the fire.
Caan advises against quitting without a job as well. He feels that being out of work may decrease one’s confidence level and affect the performance at interviews. The employer tends to have an upper hand and this gives them contractual negotiating power when finalising the job offer.
If you are really unhappy with the current job situation and job prospects are low, there are some ways to work around it. Do take a break. Go for a short holiday nearby or speak with your employer about the possibility of going on one to two weeks’ leave. During this time, go to a spa or go overseas. Catching up on your favourite video games or reading books you have put on hold for a while will help to make you feel better. It will give you time to clear your thoughts. Then decide whether it is better to leave your job or if you can withstand a few more months in the firm. The break will give you a fresh perspective compared to the current jaded one that you may have due to your unhappiness.
Chua suggests changing your mindset. Try to look for something positive in your current job and keep those positive thoughts in mind. Another option is to lift your spirits by making time to do fun things like attending a concert, for example. Koh emphasises the importance of having a strong network of friends and family to keep you happy and uplifted during this trying period.
If you are lucky enough to get a new job, ensure that you leave your current company on a good note. One’s reputation is of utmost importance. Most agree that you tie up all the loose ends and try not to leave any unfinished business behind. Do your best to finalise and close as many of your projects as possible. If there are projects still pending, make sure you do a handover that is as thorough as possible.
Ensure that you have informed any external parties about your departure from the company. Let them know who they should contact for their queries in the future. Koh says that it is a good idea to give thank you cards to your boss and colleagues who have helped you as a token of appreciation. This helps to maintain good rapport between you and the company.
Caan feels that an employer should understand why an employee leaves a company, like the yearning to further one’s career, for example. He advises job leavers to inform their employer appropriately, handing over a letter of resignation. Make sure that your employer does not hear about your departure through the company grapevine as this could get ugly. If there is a successor for your position, do your best to assimilate him into the company culture. You will leave the company with your head held up high and reputation squeaky clean.
If you are a job seeker, update those résumés and upload them on the various job sites.