Monday, April 2, 2012

Be prepared to start from the bottom by Choo

I had just graduated from university in mid-2002 and began my job hunt immediately after my last exam. As a major in banking and finance, I was actively looking for positions in the industry. There were limited positions available and before long, I realized I had to expand my job hunt beyond the industry I was looking for. Interviews were few and far in between. To reduce the burden on my family, I took on a temporary assignment as a customer service officer with a statutory board. As an hourly rated employee, the monthly pay was half of what a fresh graduate would usually obtain. To keep expenses down, I made a conscious effort to have my meals at coffee shops and staff canteens instead of food courts or fast food restaurants. I also saved on transport by taking a 25-minute walk from my home to the workplace. I was a temporary worker in the day and a professional job hunter by night. During this period, I was still attending interviews whenever there was an opportunity. However, there were no offers. It was even more demoralizing when I hear of peers who had successfully secured employment. Despite the fact that there were other fresh graduates in similar predicament, it was no consolation. I was constantly tinkering with my resume and cover letter to optimise the chances of an interview. Even though my performance in the statutory board was rated excellent, there were no permanent openings. After six months, the temporary assignment had also come to an end.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I contemplated becoming a financial adviser, passing the necessary tests and examinations. After three months, I concluded that I was not cut out for this line. By this time, I had sent in nearly any position that was looking for junior executives in many industries (event management, banks, supply chain, property, government services, F&B etc). In fact, I even attended the teaching seminar and made a trip down to CPMB to enquire about becoming a regular. As luck would have it, I was finally offered a sales position in a small company. Even though the remuneration package was a combination of basic with incentives and the basic was slightly more than a thousand, it was the first offer I received. Later on, I learned that the reason I was given the offer was that my superior was impressed with my grit and resilience over the past year. Also, the six months temporary stint as a customer service officer had come in handy as well.

As the economy picked up, I was promoted twice and had my pay increased three times within one and a half years.

In total, over a period of one year, I had sent over 500 applications and attended over 40 interviews before I finally secured permanent employment.

After five years, I am now a sales manager heading a team of nine and my remuneration is easily a couple of times more than my first temporary customer service position. I had learned that in an economic downturn, positions are limited. For a fresh graduate, your competitors are not only your peers, even experienced professionals are willing to take a pay cut. The fresh graduate must be prepared to start humbly from a low level, regardless of your education, and prove your worth and mettle. Sooner or later, as you proved to be an asset to the organization, the rewards will come.


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