Starting pay is probably going to get lower
Our BrightSparks survey showed that three in four local students expect a starting pay of $3,000 to $4,000/month for their first job. In today's climate, that's not very likely.
Fresh graduates this year probably have to accept a lower starting pay compared to their peers from years previous. Data from recruitment firms has shown a decline in entry-level salaries for top jobs in IT, accounting or recruitment. In some industries like HR, the drop is as much as $500. (From $3,400 to $2,900/month).
In this situation, do not look at a salary as the benchmark of a job. Instead, prioritise learning opportunities and the chance to gain fresh skills that could be useful in a variety of situations. For example, a frontline job in customer service yields insights about how companies are run that will be applicable later in the boardroom setting.
A long job search is the norm
Fresh jobseekers can become very disillusioned when they send twenty applications a day and get no replies. Unfortunately, that is set to continue for the near future as we struggle with this unprecedented global event. While some experts predict exponential hiring when all this is over, there is no precedent and change will take a while to happen.
Try to explore networking opportunities outside of the traditional apply-and-reply practice. Interact on LinkedIN, upskill yourself via SkillsFuture or attend a virtual career fair. Don't just search for jobs – strengthen your CV at the same time with courses and volunteer work.
When you do score that interview, invariably the interviewer will ask, "What did you do during the downtime?" If nothing else, the work you put in will ensure you can answer this question impressively.
Fewer companies are hiring
Many companies have shelved or suspended their hiring plans, especially in hard-hit industries like retail and transport. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) stated that total employment in Singapore, excluding foreign domestic workers, fell by a record 25,600 in the first quarter.
Also, more than one hiring firm has mentioned that they are only able to store resumes for the time period, with no guarantee of a position. Mr David Leong, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said: "Hiring is frozen except for those in critical and essential services, like healthcare, environmental cleaning, logistics, manufacturing and information technology/ telecommunications services."
His advice also points to a way out of the situation for you, the jobseeker. It might be a good idea to focus your job search efforts in essential industries that are booming as a result of Covid-19. These include healthcare, logistics and IT. You might also consider a temporary job or contract job during this period, and keep an eye out for opportunities in the long run.
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It's not time for a graduate degree
Some students, upon reading the bleak manpower forecast, immediately jump into the next option – further educational qualifications. On the surface, this makes sense. The reasoning goes thus: As it's unlikely I'll be able to get a job, I'll study more and get my Masters, so I can get a better job when this blows over!
However, that might not be the case. Further education may push your dream job further away rather than closer, as you may be deemed overqualified or unsuitable for an entry-level role. Also, if you have a Masters', you will be competing with other Masters' holders, so your efforts to thin out your competition will be for nought.
We recommend targeted upskilling efforts instead, such as the SGUnited Traineeship programme or a Career Trial. These will give you on-the-ground, ready-to-use knowledge about how things work in your industry. After all, a degree has already settled the theoretical portion of your knowledge – adding practical experience will be more helpful.
It's not time to give up
As they say, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Even if the forecast is bleak, it's not time to give up! Continue sending out applications and keeping yourself visible, and reach for those openings!
Whatever stage of your job search you are in, you need to face reality first. It's difficult, but keep trying – the posting you want may be just around the bend!