Minister for Manpower, Mr Lim Swee Say spoke to 50 fresh Sikh graduates at an annual tea session organised by the Young Sikh Association and Sikh Centre. Straits Times reported that Minister Lim told the fresh graduates not to be too picky in the job hunt. The report quoted Minister Lim as saying:
“You’re just sitting there waiting for the perfect job, but what if it doesn’t come? Will you just sit there? The longer you stay out of employment, the harder it is to come back”
The report seems strange. It suggests that Minister Lim was insinuating that young grads are just sitting around doing nothing, passively waiting for the right job to come along. That is very different from being picky.
Yes. There are young grads out there who are very picky about what jobs they get into. They may be actively searching, sending out applications, upskilling, going out to different events to meet potential employers. And when they are offered a job, they may scrutinise it and reject it if they don’t find it suitable. They may still whine that they desperately need a job.
Yes. The whining part can be quite irritating. But what’s wrong with them being careful about which job they get into? After all, unless they are the sole breadwinner of the family and all that, they don’t really need to jump at the first job offer they get, right? What’s wrong with them thinking about whether that job is most suitable for them?
Think about it. If that young grad is really talented, and he just jumped at the first job offer he gets, he might miss out on another job offer that would have stretched him further. That would mean that his talents are wasted. It would also mean that he’s not creating as much value for the economy as a whole as he could have been if he had considered more job offers.
The problem is with people (not just young grads, but anyone), who don’t do anything and EXPECT to get a job. Or worse, think that the government magically know who they are, reach out to them, and give them a job that they want. Worst is if their expectation of a ‘good’ job is one where they can work comfortably, short hours, yet earn ridiculously high pay.
But there’s another big problem. It is when Singaporeans are putting in the effort to upskill, are actively looking for jobs, willing to put in work in whatever conditions, but are still not able to get any offers. The whole talk that degrees and paper qualifications aren’t important is a lie. It may be something that we hope will be the reality, but now it is nothing but some politicians’ pipe dream. I personally know of someone who got rejected for a job in the government even though she has the skills. Just because she doesn’t have a university degree.
Then there are the ex-offenders and people with mental health issues. Never mind how hard they try, how much effort they put into upskilling. Never mind that they aren’t picky. It’s still extremely difficult for them to get a job. What about them?
I think that what Minister Lim said would make sense if there was a trend of young grads just sitting around not doing anything and expecting a good job to fall into their laps. But what’s more important for the Minister and his ministry to do are two following things.
Firstly, the government should help those who have taken the effort to upskill and are actively searching for jobs, to find the appropriate jobs that would best stretch their potential. Beyond virtual career fairs, a better jobs portal will be very useful.
Secondly, the government should take the lead in truly focussing on the ability of the person rather than on paper qualifications or that person’s history. Be bold. Set an example for other employers in Singapore to follow.
But… I don’t think any of that will happen any time soon.
[Featured image via Facebook and Elizabeth Boon]