Many graduates and mid-career switchers want to find the right job, but it is an elusive goal (and COVID’s not making things easier). What is a good place to begin? Writer-turned-career coach Yong Yung Shin says: start at the end.
The search for a job is a global concern — it affects every society today. For new graduates and those who have been retrenched during the pandemic, it is something of a nightmare to navigate the job market.
Instead of approaching it with desperation and negativity, a job seeker might want to apply some strategy to his job search. “Start at the end,” advises Yong Yung Shin, a certified resume writer and career coach.
The job search process is about three things: Who to talk to, how to reach them, and what to say to them.
“It’s not a matter of sequence but strategy, and strategy comes from vision. What is your vision — your end goal — for your career at this point in your life?”
But what if you don’t know the answer? “That’s great news!” she says. “It means you can start anywhere, beginning with jobs that are a natural fit with your current skills and qualifications. It might be a good time to try different things.
Personally, I shun assessments or ‘personality tests’ — these are tools that create superficial boundaries and limitations to your career possibilities. Who has a right to dictate your life choices based on a few multiple-choice questions?”
If you do have a clear idea of what you want out of your career, you can start researching the needs in the market for that particular job in the form of skills, achievements, qualifications and certifications.
“Of course, soft skills and experience will compensate for lack of qualifications in certain jobs like sales, marketing, business development, IT, and especially in the creative industry where a good portfolio speaks volumes. However, some industries will require formal study or licensure, like engineering, accountancy, and law.”
This is where strategy comes into play. Yung Shin shares her personal journey to illustrate this.
COMING UP WITH A STRATEGY
“I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Real Estate, and ‘did my time’ as a property marketing executive before the drudgery of the work and hatred for office wear forced me out the door after nine months,” shares Yung Shin.
“I had a goal in mind: to pursue a budding interest in writing. But without a degree in arts and no portfolio to show for my writing, who would hire me? I had to develop a strategy to get my foot in the door. So I wrote to a lifestyle magazine that accepted me for a three-month internship. Unpaid.”
I had to develop a strategy to get my foot in the door.
She recognises that not everyone has the luxury of doing this, particularly if one has family commitments. “If I did, I would have taken on freelancing gigs or started a blog, which, on hindsight might have been the more financially prudent path to take.
“The idea is to identify low-risk options, both for yourself (if it didn’t work out, I could have just returned to real estate) and the employer (because you need someone to take a chance on you when you don’t have a track record) — and I guess free labor was about as low-risk as you can get!”
As things turned out, Yung Shin proved well-suited to lifestyle writing. “The internship turned into a full-time gig because, among others, I learned I had the ability to describe the taste and texture of wagyu steak in 20 different ways.
“Two years on, I had built up a nice portfolio that landed me my next writing job, which I applied for through a job site. My subsequent role was offered to me because I had been volunteering with the organisation, and they happened to be expanding the team.
“As you can see, I got each of my jobs through different avenues, first through an internship, the second via a job board and the third one through voluntary work,” Yung Shin points out, adding that how she became a career service professional is another story.
“The main point here is not to fixate on the best strategy or method for your job search, because there isn’t one. Instead, fixate on the growing conviction within you regarding where God has gifted you; in other words, the areas you excel at and enjoy working on the most. Fan the flames of what you have been given.”
If that is your concern, then Yung Shin suggests that you find a job to earn a living but cultivate your dream on the side: “Be it taking part-time classes, self-learning, reading or volunteering.
“Doors will open when you faithfully steward the little time or resources you have left after attending to your responsibilities. In time, you will find your practical and aspirational needs dovetailing.”
It is not difficult to bridge the gap. First in terms of skills, which again you can get via volunteering, formal studying or self-learning.
Singaporeans aged 25 and above received a fresh top-up of $500 in SkillsFuture credits recently for reskilling and upskilling. Those 40 to 60 would have received an additional $500 credit.
SkillsFuture’s website provides a wide range of courses that one can utilise to bridge the gap.
“In terms of communication, help people understand your motivation behind your career switch, and what you have done in pursuit of your interest,” says Yung Shin.
“Demonstrate that you have invested in yourself before asking others to invest in you because that is effectively what you are asking a potential employer to do. This is where a strong resume and cover letter comes in.”
UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU CAN BRING TO THE JOB
The most common problem both early and mid-career job seekers make is that they focus on the tactical steps like writing resumes and applying to job advertisements without understanding themselves.
“What are your strengths and what are the needs in the job market? What are you supplying? Is there a demand for it? Who are the buyers? What is important to them? What are the trends disrupting that sector or market and how do you fit in as part of the solution?” Yung Shin asks.
“This is something no one can do for you. A career coach can guide you through this process of discovery but he or she cannot, and should not, tell you which path to take.”
In short, the job search process is really only about three things, Yung Shin states: “Who to talk to, how to reach them, and what to say to them. That’s why it’s so important to have an end goal — once you have done the legwork and gained clarity into your goal, the answers to these three will fall right into place.”
YUNG SHIN’S 3 STEPS
1. Research your area of interest, both online and offline
Talk to people who are in the relevant field after you have done your online research because you want to respect the other party’s time by asking sensible questions, not something you can easily find out yourself. Sometimes, you might find that your goal changes with new insights, and that’s progressing too.
2. Take stock of how you measure up
If you don’t have the necessary skills or experience, find ways to obtain or learn them.
3. Write it down, make it plain
If and once you have the necessary skills and experience, write it all down on paper, from your core functional skills to soft skills, domain expertise, possible employers, and job titles.
For example, the role of content creator is interchangeable with writers nowadays.
Congratulations — now you have the building blocks to write your resume and embark on your job search!
If you found Yung Shin’s tips handy, you’ll be happy to hear she’s offering a free 20-minute career consultation session. Just visit her site and submit a contact form, then key in “CityNewsTRB” in the subject header.
This article was first published on CityNews and is republished with permission.
- Which of Yung Shin’s tips in the article can you apply to your job search?
- Know of someone who could benefit from this article? Share it with them as encouragement this week!