“I don’t hate Mondays as much anymore!” Eunice Lim says with little hesitation and a chuckle when asked about the biggest changes in her life since she went into pre-education.
The 33-year-old started off working for a theatre company. She stayed on the job for 1 year before going into outdoor education for 3 years, but did not feel fulfilled. In 2009 she decided to follow her passion, dropping everything to go into pre-school education. She’s never looked back since.
Eunice Lim successfully made a mid-career change and followed her passion for pre-school education, with a little help from NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
Now a Deputy Centre Lead of a pre-school education centre under NTUC First Campus, Lim successfully made a mid-career change with a little help from NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i). Following her passions and pursuing her dream of nurturing the next generation has given her career much more meaning.
Simply put, she likes making a difference.
And she believes she has made a difference in the lives of the students she taught before moving on to her current management position.
“I always remember this one child who had Global Developmental Delay (GDD, a disorder where the child experiences slower growth in certain areas of development). He isolated himself and didn’t like to mix around with people. He would sit in a corner while the other children were around,” shared Lim.
“Everybody thought he was autistic at first, but when I observed him, I realised the symptoms did not match. I went back to check my psychology textbooks and it strengthened my suspicions.
I shared this with my principal and she suggested we speak to his parents. True enough, when they went to get an assessment, it was GDD.”
Teachers make a difference to preschoolers’ lives (photo courtesy of: NTUC First Campus)
“After he was diagnosed, he was given the necessary help and intervention and he really bloomed after that. He was more social and could interact with his friends.
I went back for their K2 graduation concert and he was able to perform on stage! It was really touching! I wanted to cry! That is probably the most rewarding moment in my career.”
How did she make a successful mid-career switch?
While Lim is very happy with her career right now, that was not always the case.
The psychology major, who graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2005, first worked for a local theatre company before joining an outdoor education company.
Although she had enjoyed both jobs, they had not been a good fit due to practical reasons such as career progression.
Lim admits that it was quite unsettling to walk away from a stable job and jump into a completely new industry, but a chance encounter helped put her on the right path.
Struggling to find out how she could make a mid-career switch, Lim who liked working with young children, stumbled upon a job fair for the pre-school education industry organised by the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) affiliate organisation, the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
The e2i provides career guidance to Singaporeans, assists in developing their skills and helps to match them to job opportunities across a variety of industries.
Jobseekers can seek career advice and find jobs at e2i (photo courtesy of: e2i)
“I really have to thank my lucky stars! The e2i staff members were very friendly. They introduced the place-and-train programme, gave me the application forms, and told me I had to be employed by a childcare operator before being eligible for the programme.
There were a lot of different organisations at the job fair and you could pick and choose which organisation you prefer, to find out about their curriculum, their culture…” Lim recalls of the event that saw her being interviewed by a few childcare operators before snagging a job with NTUC First Campus.
“Take that leap of faith!”
What followed for her, was 12 months of training with the Seed Institute, a training centre for pre-school teachers, and applying what she learnt directly to her job as a trainee teacher at My First Skool, a pre-school anchor operator by NTUC First Campus appointed by the government for affordable, quality early childhood education.
“As a trainee teacher back then, I came in with ideas like ‘children are so cute and they will listen’. They actually like to ‘bully’ new teachers! “ she reveals.
“There was a learning curve” admits Lim.
“It was difficult to put into practice what we learnt during theory classes and bring it into the classroom, especially since you have to deal with a lot of other stakeholders like the parents and your colleagues at the pre-school centre,” explains Lim, who even took a pay cut to embark on this journey.
But making the switch and taking up the place-and-train programme proved to be a great decision for Lim as she has more opportunities to earn a better pay with different career tracks to choose from.
Lim estimates she took a year or so to “recover” from her pay cut and earn a similar salary to what she had before she left her previous industry.
Eunice Lim now spends most of her time between managerial duties and mentoring the teachers at a pre-school centre.
Lim has gone from being a trainee teacher who cares for 20 students to being an Acting Deputy Centre Leader at the pre-school centre who mentors about 20 teachers, who in turn manage the centre’s 200 students.
Her career progression doesn’t end at being a principal of the centre.
According to NTUC First Campus, she can continue on the management track to oversee a few centres, or choose the specialist track to develop in areas such as curriculum, parent education or child development needs.
“Looking back, it was worth it.”
“You may have certain hesitations, certain doubts about switching careers, but if you don’t try you never know. Take that leap of faith! You don’t want to look back and say I should have done it. Don’t live life with regrets,” says Lim, who is now pursuing a Master of Education (Curriculum and Teaching) at the National Institute of Education as part of her plan to continually upgrade herself and stay relevant to her job.
Eunice Lim: “I believe you need to enjoy what you are doing. If you don’t, every day will feel like a Monday.”
NTUC and Union Benefits for PMEs
Lim is one of many professionals who’s a card-carrying member of a trade union. She has been a member of the NTUC-affiliated Education Services Union since 2010.
To equip PMEs in their quest for better jobs and better pay, the NTUC also offers a number of resources, such as deep skilling via programmes developed with its U Associates, and horizontal skilling via its U Future Leaders programmes.
My mentor, the CMO
Durrah Hamdan, who works as a Client Relationship Manager at Human Resource (HR) solutions provider Drake International, is one of many professionals who has reaped the benefits of programmes put in place by NTUC for PMEs.
HR professional Durrah Hamdan has expanded her skills with NTUC programmes.
In June, Durrah and a number of other professionals met Pizza Hut Asia’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Pankaj Batra as part of NTUC’s ongoing U Future Leaders Mentorship programme, where successful senior executives from various industries are invited to share their knowledge and expertise at mentorship sessions and workshops.
Durrah (3rd right) and other PMEs networked with Pizza Hut’s CMO Pankaj Batra (4th left) (photo courtesy: U Future Leaders Mentorship Programme, NTUC Membership)
“For someone like me to meet the CMO of Pizza Hut Asia and for him to mentor us, and answer our questions – I had a lot of questions - I think it is pretty awesome!
I was quite surprised that they would be willing to spend time with workers like myself to improve our leadership skills and in this case, marketing skills,” said Durrah of the mentorship session, held over lunch with a small group of aspiring PMEs.
Useful insights gained from the NTUC U Future Leaders mentorship programme.
“Before I attended this session, we were not very focused on our products and what our message was, on our LinkedIn page.
Now, we have been able to focus more on what we want to do, how we approach the market.”
With more than just a handful of tips, Durrah has now upped her career and service level, as she walks the talk of a professional whose job is to take care of customers.
“My biggest takeaway was actually to really understand your customers’ perspective, and you can only get that when you run surveys and talk to them.”
HR professionals networking at a joint NTUC-SHRI event (photo courtesy of: NTUC)
Durrah has also attended a retrenchment talk with SHRI which is one of NTUC’s U Associates, as well as an NTUC U SME event on human resources to brush up on her HR knowledge and network with other HR professionals.
How do you know if you will receive retrenchment benefits? (Source: UWEEI)
But it’s not just the short-term benefits that the 30-year-old HR professional sees in the NTUC programmes.
“I would definitely go to more such events and courses in the future and I think attending sessions like these will help make me more resilient in the job market.”
“It is about upgrading my own capabilities. I would have the skills to move on to a different career” noting that PMEs today face an increasingly challenging job market.
“I see a lot of people in their 40s who are being let go. I interview them as part of my job” says Durrah. “I always encourage PMEs to use the U PME Centres.
The U PME service centres are actually very useful. This is the first step for them to get the help they need,” she adds, while pointing out that as an NTUC member, she found that she had more opportunities to attend skills upgrading courses at discounted rates.
“I think Singaporeans need to have the right mindset” she adds. “Instead of blaming the organisation, blaming the people, blaming the economy, foreign talent, their boss …. In Singapore, we have a very low unemployment rate, and companies are always looking for people. Singapore’s PMEs need to be adaptable.”
And the other word of advice from this HR executive is for PMEs to adapt themselves by taking up relevant new skills.
“I hear this conversation all the time” she laments. “The company HR says they need a person with this certificate to do a job. Even though the candidate’s experience is relevant, they still say they need that person to have a certificate to prove they can do the job.
So my advice for PMEs is to get the training required for a new job, have a very good attitude, and be proactive!”
If you want make a change, here are some resources:
Worried about financials when making a career switch?
- NTUC members can tap on the Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP) to offset 50% of their course fees, capped at $250 every year.
- UTAP can be used together with SkillsFuture credits.
Produced in partnership with NTUC to show how the Unusual Labour Movement can help working people upgrade their jobs and skills.