Right fit for the right job


The exams are over, the grades are in, the books put away: it's time to get serious for thousands of fresh graduates and that means turning that hard-earned degree or diploma into a good job.


You might not think you have much to offer an employer given your lack of work experience but companies are keen on youngsters with enthusiasm, ambition and an eagerness to learn.


A graduate who knows how to harness these qualities and channel them into the right job will be well on the way to building a career.


Of course, while some graduates complete their studies knowing exactly what sort of job they want, others might need some time to study their options.


Either way, it helps to be an informed jobseeker, and there are some things a fresh graduate might not know without having dipped his toes into the job market.


The Sunday Times looks at some of the opportunities and challenges that await the young candidate in today's job market.


It's crowded in finance


Although the financial crisis that started in 2008 has yet to be fully resolved, finance jobs are still alluring. There are many attractive positions in an industry with many different businesses, from investment banking to electronic trading.


Yet while a career in finance is still the most sought after among fresh graduates here and around the world, many companies in the sector have taken a battering.


The blunt truth is that the number of job openings in the industry has shrunk, especially for fresh graduates.


Many banks are keeping a close eye on their finances and that has meant a conservative recruitment stance.


And when they do hire, they are mainly looking for experienced professionals or graduates who come

recommended from someone within the bank, says Quantum Leap Career Consultancy managing director Alvin Ang.


"There are opportunities in finance, but if you don't have a network it would be very hard to get in, unless you have excellent grades or you can talk very well," he adds.


"Banks tend to rely more on employee referral schemes than external recruiters."


To get a foot in the door, graduates should consider internships or contract roles, says Mr George McFerran, the managing director of eFinancialCareers Asia-Pacific.


"Internships and work experience are very valuable. They provide graduates the opportunity to experience different business functions and can give them a competitive edge when it comes to applying for a job," he notes.


"Contract roles are also another way that graduates can build up experience in banking. There is an increasing number of contract roles in banking, and some of these are open to fresh graduates."


Retail is not just about sales


When most people think about getting a job in retail, they think about sales assistants.


And while sales assistants are very much in demand across Singapore, talent recruiters are quick to point out that retail offers a wide variety of other jobs for diploma and degree holders.


"The retail industry plays a significant part in Singapore's economy, and is also a major employer but graduates often won't consider a career in the sector," says Kelly Services' country general manager Mark Hall.


"Usually it's because they don't want to work in a shop but aren't aware of the wide variety of career opportunities that the industry as a whole offers."


Several employers in retail offer challenging opportunities such as brand management, visual merchandising, supply chain and logistics, operations or finance, and salaries in this space can also be competitive, he says.

Mr Antoine Lamy, the director of Page Personnel, agrees, adding that these roles could lead to other positions in business management or marketing.


While some retail firms might prefer taking in recruits who have a business degree or diploma, most are quite flexible, especially as there is a lack of talent in the sector, Mr Lamy adds.


The shortage of talent also means that salaries are attractive and a young recruit could climb the ladder quite rapidly.

Fresh graduates can expect salaries of about $2,500 to $3,500 a month, depending on the company and role. Some positions also come with commissions.

"This is a business that requires high EQ, initiative and accountability. One can quickly learn the dynamics of the business and thereafter your career can progress quite fast," Mr Lamy says.

Hospitality is welcoming recruits

The hospitality sector is another industry facing a shortage of talent, so young recruits can expect handsome rewards.

"Speak to the chief executive of any hospitality firm and they'll tell you that they have a problem finding talent, from senior management right down to housekeeping," says Ms Charlotte Ashton, the business development manager of Ice Professionals, a talent placement company focusing on graduates and young professionals.

"It's an industry that offers so much opportunity for travel, taking on big responsibilities relatively quickly and developing leadership skills."

As with retail, most hotels do not require a recruit to have a degree or diploma in any particular course.

Young graduates could take on general managerial roles or something more niche such as project management, says Achieve Group chief executive Joshua Yim.

"The project manager is the person who helps people hold conferences and exhibitions in the hotel," he adds.

"You need to take care of this customer who has come to Singapore to hold his conference, you need to woo them, understand their needs and cater to them."

Ms Ashton notes that while jobs in hospitality can be demanding, they can also be lucrative in the long run.

"At the beginning you might not make as much as some of your peers, but it offers rapid career progression.

The hours will be long and it's a demanding sector," she says.

"But if you can take a longer view the opportunities are fantastic."

At Royal Plaza on Scotts, diploma or degree holders can take on executive roles in departments such as accounts, human resources, sales and marketing and revenue, says director of human resources Juliana Ong.

"Royal Plaza also created the position of rooms division trainee earlier this year to provide young graduates with the fast-track opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the hospitality industry," she adds.

"Selected candidates will be attached to key departments including front office, housekeeping, engineering and security to learn on the job for 12 months."

Upon completing the programme, the trainee will be offered full-time employment with the hotel as a guest services executive.

The starting monthly salaries for jobs at the hotel are from $1,800 onwards, Ms Ong says.

Talent needed in Mice

Singapore is already a hub for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) and the industry is growing even bigger each year.

There is high demand for talent, especially for conference and exhibition organisers.

Local polytechnics and universities do not have courses that specialise in the field, so interested candidates just need to show strong organisational skills and be able to speak and present themselves well, says Quantum Leap's Mr Ang.

"It's a stressful job but it pays well. The basic salary for a junior conference organiser is between $3,000 and $3,500 (a month), and you will get conference commissions on top of that," he adds.

"If your conference is well attended and you get a lot of sponsors, you could get a commission of up to $5,000, and you could have two conferences in a month."

Achieve's Mr Yim notes, however, that the money does not come easily - organising conferences is a demanding job.

"This is an exciting job and it is demanding. Sometimes you might have to work overnight to make sure the conference or symposium is pulled off smoothly," he says.

On top of that, the organiser needs good people skills to manage the many participants involved in the making of a conference, from speakers to sponsors, participants to caterers, he adds.

Recruitment needs recruits

If the thought of helping someone else find a job sounds fulfilling, recruitment consultancy might be a good option.

The industry itself needs talent, and recruitment consultants who spoke to The Sunday Times say they are keen to take on fresh talent to boost their teams.

"Recruitment consulting is diverse and interactive. You will engage with different people each day about developing their careers, which is obviously very important to them," says Page Personnel's Mr Lamy.

"You speak to candidates about their careers, and to clients about how to drive their business through talent management. It's enlightening to meet senior-level clients and candidates who bring with them interesting industry experience."

The industry offers quick career progression, and after a few years a recruitment consultant could become a manager with responsibilities over profits and losses.

Achieve's Mr Yim says salaries start from between $2,400 and $2,800 a month plus commissions, but high performers could see their salaries rise very quickly after a year or two.

As with most jobs, it comes with challenges. Most recruits take about nine months to get the hang of the job, he says, adding: "Sometimes you have to call up competitors and headhunt people, and it can be very exciting.

"It requires tact and resourcefulness. There are a lot of elements of uncertainty that you need to manage."