Finding a good job with a good paycheck might be tough for fresh graduates during crisis. Even when finally landing a job, they often have to accept a low salary at their first jobs. The truth is, getting a low starting salary will not have a dampening effect on one’s pay throughout the rest of their careers.
According to an interview with human resource experts conducted by Today Online, amidst bleak job market like today, it is important for talents to take up a role. Even if it is voluntary or low-paying or outside one’s comfort zone, it is much better to do something rather than to just wait for a lucrative offer.
The issue of whether last-drawn salaries could affect someone’s career prospects was also discussed in Parliament last week. Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that applicants need not declare their last-drawn salaries and that employers cannot insist that they do so. Mrs Teo added that it was “unwise” for employers to make offers on last-drawn salaries alone.
In the interview, experts said it is inevitable that graduates entering the job market today are likely to be offered lower starting salaries than their predecessors. However, this is not the only factor that will determine one’s future pay.
“Employers look at experience, ability to handle stress and flexibility. Being able to adapt and work in a pandemic environment is a bonus,” said Mr Erman Tan, a former president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute.
He added that graduates with lower starting salaries should take a long-term view of gaining experience now so they can make up for it in the future.
Ms Angela Kuek, the director of The Meyer Consulting Group, agreed, saying that graduates should prioritise securing employment experience over salaries as this would expand their opportunities in the long run. “Graduates should remember that their career is a marathon and not a sprint,” she added.
Several graduates interviewed said that while salary was a valid concern for them, they have decided to keep an open mind.
“A lower starting salary may affect salary negotiations when I apply for jobs in the future, but I think work experience and skills are more important for career development,” said Ms Lim Ying Qi, who recently graduated with a pharmaceutical engineering degree from the Singapore Institute of Technology.
Since graduating last year, Ms Lim, 24, has been looking at jobs in the media industry and is mentally prepared not to receive a high starting salary. She is instead focusing on gaining work experience.
INCREASING ATTRACTIVENESS TO EMPLOYERS
While permanent employment prospects may be bleak at the moment, there are many ways for graduates to increase their attractiveness to employers, experts said.
“Getting any form of paid employment in your CV is always good, if not in the form of permanent jobs then in contract jobs, internships or traineeships,” said Ms Kuek, adding that graduates can also venture and try applying for jobs in different sectors.
Mr Tan agreed, stressing that it is important not to be idle. If internships or traineeships do not work out, graduates could even turn to volunteer roles, he added.
“Many sectors, like healthcare, need help now. Doing such public and social services will reflect well on you and highlight positive personality traits. These will also build communication and teamwork skills,” he said.
Member of Parliament for West Coast Group Representation Constituency Patrick Tay noted that the Government has rolled out traineeship programmes to help fresh graduates gain skills that will be useful in enhancing their employability.
Mr Tay, who is also the assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said: “In these times the key is learning, refreshing and gaining second skills to survive any form of disruption, regardless of whether one is doing freelance work or in (other forms of) employment.”