Do you really need experience to get a job? 6 things that I learnt about careers as an undergraduate in Singapore

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We are all too familiar with this chicken and egg question - You need the experience to get a job, but you also need a job to get experience, so which comes first?

Many Singaporeans naturally aspire to get good jobs that we want or have studied for.

However, upon entering the workforce or when considering a mid-career switch, many of us find it difficult to get the jobs that we want.

We sat down with Andre and Kaven from Indeed Singapore, one of Singapore's largest job search engines to hear their views on job searching and careers in Singapore.

As an undergraduate, here are six things I have learned from this episode of the DollarsAndSense Tonight talkshow.

#1 YOU CAN GAIN RELEVANT EXPERIENCE EVEN WITHOUT A JOB

As what Kaven mentioned from 1:18, experience need not be gained through past work experiences but can be acquired through your hobbies instead.

For example, if you are planning to make a mid-career switch from a banker to a writer, you need not necessarily have worked as a journalist at The Straits Times to qualify as a suitable candidate.

If writing has always been your passion and you constantly write for your blog, or as a freelance writer for a publication, you can list these achievements in your portfolio or resume.

Often, the expertise you have learned through your hobby can translate to hard skills that employers want and need.

#2 THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING AHEAD FOR YOUR CAREER

As an undergraduate, it is easy to be fixated on the immediate future - What industry should I venture into right after graduation?

However, it is important to think beyond your first job and consider if the skills in your first job are transferable to your future postings.

As what Andre mentioned from 2:26, like mid-career switches, it is always important to be aware of what skillsets you have that are transferable to future jobs, and what are the gaps you must plug.

As such, continue upgrading your skills to stay relevant is critical. The possibility of landing a new job can be a driving force for us to continue to improve and maintain our employability.

#3 BE PREPARED TO START FROM GROUND ZERO

Whether you are starting your first job or planning to make a mid-career switch, do not expect success straightaway as you take time to adapt to your new role and job scope.

For fresh graduates, as a new team member of the company with zero to little work experience, be expected to start right at the bottom in terms of job title and salary.

But, never be afraid to make mistakes and see this as an opportunity to explore what you like and dislike about the job.

For mid-career switches, be prepared to get "demoted" - you might have to start right at the bottom from an entry-level position.

#4 KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING YOURSELF INTO

If you are thinking of a mid-career switch, it is important to talk to people in the industry you are planning to enter.

As what Kaven mentioned from 4:54, to hear from the horse's mouth is the best way to understand the pros and cons of the new industry.

For fresh graduates, talk to professionals from different industries before making the plunge and committing to a full-time job. Even if you have secured a job, be open to new opportunities that come your way and never stop learning.

Undergraduates should always try to complete different internships during their summer breaks to get a sense of the job scope and culture of the different companies.

#5 TAKE EVERY JOB AS A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

Even if you regret changing jobs, take every job as a learning opportunity to upgrade your skillsets. Instead, be thankful for the multiple career changes as they all teach us something.

In the fast evolving landscape we live in today, there is something to learn from companies, even the smaller ones such as start-ups and SMEs.

That being said, do not commit to a job switch for the sake of it. You should be fully open to new opportunities and not riding the waves and joining a new company because it is deemed to be popular among job seekers.

#6 DO NOT JUST SEE YOURSELF AS AN INTERN

Even if you are just an intern in the company, do not see yourself as just an intern. Take the time and effort to understand the culture of the company and how things work.

If you do not know where to look for internships, tap on your school's career office. There will be career coaches and mentors to guide you into finding an internship that best suits your skillsets and area of study.

Furthermore, there are a range of career-related websites for you to self-source an internship, such as Glints and Indeed.

This article was first published in Dollars and Sense. 

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