Want to switch jobs? Pause before jumping ship

PHOTO: Want to switch jobs? Pause before jumping ship

Marketing executive Aidah has been in her job for 18 months but the stress is so great she is already thinking of jumping ship.

The pressures of being a young working adult in Singapore are mounting while the rising cost of living means her monthly pay cheque does not keep up.

Ms Aidah (not her real name), 26, who is in the retail industry, says: "At the moment, I'm quite happy in my current job. There are many opportunities to do things and initiate projects.

"I have good bosses and mentors who are generous with sharing and guiding fellow colleagues, which I appreciate."

However, she feels that her pay package does not justify the long hours, including many nights of working overtime, while juggling the fast-paced environment.

"If I were to switch jobs, I would be looking for something more sustainable. Also, I may want to pursue a different industry altogether. But as long as there is value for me to stay, I'll stay," she says.

Recruiters have certainly noticed that Singapore employees are more likely to job-hop, especially when they are offered a pay-rise carrot.

The lure of more money is hard to resist, especially for employees who find themselves moving up the career ladder too slowly for their liking.

Robert Half Singapore director Stella Tang said employees in certain positions here tend to change jobs more often than their counterparts in other places.

Employees in the finance, accounting and banking sector serve an average of three years and four months in a job, way below the global average of 5.2 years.

And 34 per cent of Singapore employees last less than two years in a new job compared with 15 per cent globally.

Of 15 countries surveyed by Robert Half, Singapore has the lowest average time spent in a job and the highest percentage of staff who leave in two years or less.

Besides a bigger pay cheque, Achieve Group chief executive Joshua Yim has noticed that candidates cite reasons such as wanting a career change or change of environment, but they "do not make a strong and credible case".

"I understand that it is possible for a person to encounter stagnation in his career but this usually takes a while and should not happen before the two-year mark," notes Mr Yim.

Those are extrinsic factors, says Mr Stephen Lew, director at the School of Positive Psychology, adding that there are intrinsic factors too.

"Intrinsic factors refer to the person's psychological reasons that cause them to job-hop. These can include experiencing a lack of meaning at work, lacking a sense of belonging, inability to deal with politics in the workplace, feeling that they are unable to fulfil their potential.

"For example, some people go into banking and finance because of the prospect of earning a lot of money. But when they enter the real world, they realise it is not aligned with their values and it starts to rot their souls away."

But are you job-hopping into a black hole?

Firms still resist hiring job- hoppers, who are traditionally seen as flighty employees who will desert the company at the drop of a hat.

Ms Tang says: "Job-hopping has always been perceived negatively. The difference is that two decades ago, what was considered job-hopping was moving every five years. Now, it is every two years."

Mr Lew classifies job-hoppers into two categories: high performers and non-performers.

High performers may job-hop as they are highly sought after and are constantly offered better opportunities, he says.

Ms Tang notes that this may work for a couple of years when the person is new to the workforce, "but to be considered for top-level management jobs, people need to prove themselves reliable and committed to their profession".

On the other hand, non-performers move because they cannot deliver, says Mr Lew. "They may be trying to buy time to get a salary and it is just a matter of time before their non-performance catches up with them."

A positive spin on a job-hopper's resume?

Ms Ati Simatupang, head of South-east Asia at headhunting firm Bo Le Associates, says: "Resume reviewers are especially interested in the patterns of your work history - evidence that you are able to handle both internal and external changes are crucial."

Job seekers have to be honest about their employment history.

Ms Tang says: "The best way to counter an impression of job-hopping is to explain that there were very good reasons for your move, such as for career or family reasons. The decision to move in your career should be well-thought through, and not seen as rash or impetuous."

Always discuss career development with your existing company first, she adds.

"You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that your employer is more than ready to accommodate your desire to stay and grow with the company."


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