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Five tips for job seekers - from learning new skills to taking a contract position

Five tips for job seekers - from learning new skills to taking a contract position

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past commercial buildings in the financial business district in Singapore on Jun 11, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: With COVID-19 battering the economy, Singapore's jobless rate in the second quarter jumped to 2.9 per cent and retrenchments more than doubled. 

Companies have been announcing layoffs - from Resorts World Sentosa cutting 2,000 positions to Rolls-Royce retrenching 240 people locally and Pratt & Whitney releasing 390 staff members, just to name a few.

READ: Challenging job-hunting landscape as recruitment agencies see fewer vacancies and more applications 

For those who have lost their jobs, here's some advice from recruitment experts on how to get the most out of this period of redundancy. 

1. GAIN DIGITAL SKILLS

COVID-19 has ushered in a new era - a working environment that is heavily reliant on technology, said Feon Ang, LinkedIn’s Asia-Pacific vice-president of talent and learning solutions. 

“We will be seeing a workforce that values professionals who have diverse skills, both in the area of digital skills and soft skills,” she said, urging people to get on board with “reskilling and upskilling in these areas”, whether they are looking for a job, or adapting to their current one.

READ: New digitalisation plan for SMEs in training and adult education sector

She also pointed out that traits such as creativity and adaptability have become even more sought after today as people have to work, collaborate and manage teams remotely.

2. NETWORK ONLINE

Since it is impossible to attend any large-scale physical functions right now, don’t be shy about reaching out to other professionals through virtual events or through social media, said Wendy Heng, Robert Walters’ associate director of sales and marketing, healthcare and supply chain in Singapore.

“If you see something that interests you, like the panel or the experts that might be speaking at these (virtual) events, it is quite easy to reach out and say, ‘hey, I attended this, and what you said was interesting’," she added.

Networking is important when it comes to getting direct job referrals, Ms Heng noted, adding that employers usually trust what the referee says about the candidate, instead of trying to assess a stranger through their resume. 

It could also land people opportunities they may not have chanced upon just by surfing job portals, Ms Heng said, citing a client who approached his former colleagues on LinkedIn after getting axed from his hospitality job.

“He reached out and said, ‘hey, based on my current situation, I’ll be really keen if you have any openings … keep me in the radar if anything comes up’. 

“Just by purely doing that, he actually had two job opportunities.”

But stick to platforms like LinkedIn which has a reputation as being a place for executive to connect, said Ms Heng.

3. RIDE IT OUT IF YOU CAN

It is not unusual for displaced job seekers to offer to take a pay cut and try for positions of a lower rank than what they were in previously, noted recruitment experts. This is especially so for those who are afraid they look overqualified on paper. 

But Ms Heng cautioned individuals against doing so, as it could be difficult to climb back up again since employers usually base the offer on their last-drawn pay. 

She added that some employers are wary of candidates that lowball the asking salary, as they might think that the applicant will leave the job once a much better offer comes around. 

“That being said, I also understand that everyone's financial situation is different, so I don't think we are in a position to say ‘please don’t’ … but given a choice, I think they should try and ride it out," said Ms Heng.

READ: Commentary: Employers who lowball jobseekers based on last-drawn salaries are shooting themselves in the foot

4. OR TAKE A CONTRACT JOB

Contract positions have become more commonplace than permanent ones, recruiters said, as organisations are careful about taking on new additions, and hiring managers have to go through lengthier approval processes compared to before COVID-19.

But don’t view the temporary role as just a stop-gap measure, said Michael Page’s Singapore managing director Nilay Khandelwal. See it as a chance to turn it into a permanent position.

“Even in a contract job, we’re asking … what is the project going to be about, what are chances of conversion, what do I need to prove myself as well,” he said, adding that employers are thinking about their long-term needs as well. 

5. DON'T LET YOUR GUARD DOWN

As you may be sending out dozens of applications, note each one in a list with a hyperlink to the job description, Mr Khandelwal said. 

That way, if a recruiter calls you for the initial round, you are able to address what they want in your answers, rather than scramble to recollect which job you had applied for and subsequently giving a general response, he added.

READ: Some economic bright spots remain for Singapore despite the overall challenging conditions

If you have secured a job interview, do not be casual about the video interview. 

Mr Khandelwal said candidates should ensure that their device is set up properly. This means checking the sound and video quality at the spot you are going to do the interview at, and knowing how to navigate the screen if disruptions occur.

Do a test run with a friend or a recruiter if it helps, and always place the job description next to the screen so that you are always referencing what the client is looking for, he said.

On the day itself, dress professionally, he added - there's no need for a suit, but put on a shirt at least. And make sure you log out after the interview otherwise it could still be recording. Put on a smile so you don’t appear robotic, he said, especially when a conversation over a digital screen makes it hard for the employer to read one's tone. 

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Source: CNA/rp(gs)

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