There has been a rising trend of professionals in Singapore who leave their corporate jobs in pursuit of more meaningful work that interests them. While their stories often inspire others to think about pursuing their life goals, some of us might wonder, “What are some steps I should take to find my career interest?” Andre Foo, 30, was a corporate banker for two years before he decided to take a step back from his full-time job and make a career switch. Take cues from his story to help steer your towards your career interest.
1. Set aside time to self-reflect
Andre worked as a corporate banker for two years, selling financial products to prospective clients. However, he realised that being good in the job is not necessarily an indicator of job satisfaction. “Every day I’d look at numbers and targets, and would ask myself if this is what I really want to do. Even if you move up to the managerial role, you are looking after the people who are looking at numbers and targets, and you would have your own set as well. I had a good time working there, there were good mentors. However, the question boiled down to whether I want to be numbers-driven in the long run.” Andre resigned from his corporate banking job in September 2017, a timing he deemed advantageous. “Although I had friends who warned me not to leave the job at the end of the year because it is usually a lull hiring period, I made use of the time to have a thought about my life goals, so that when companies start hiring in January, I am mentally prepared to apply for jobs.”
Learning point: Self-reflection is an essential step towards self-awareness. Set aside a 15-minute session every day to pen down your thoughts and feelings in a diary. Over time, these entries might provide a hint of aspirations that you wish to achieve.
2. Learn from your own experiences
Before his corporate banking days, Andre was a regular in the army for five years. “I wasn’t interested in studies and building a career, although during my NS days, I had an interest in the army. This interest led me to sign on as a regular.” Having shouldered many responsibilities during his career in the army, Andre became aware about personal and professional development. “That was when I decided to leave the army to study for my private diploma and degree.” Andre graduated with a degree in business management and finance, which landed him a full-time job as a corporate banker at 28. However, his stint in the financial services sector was another milestone in his career development and life experiences.
“After one and a half years in corporate banking, I became interested in client engagement, helping SMEs with their businesses, instead of selling financial products.” Once he realised, Andre knew he had to make a career switch. He might have taken a longer path to develop his career, but the journey provided him with a better understanding of his purpose. “You have to build your experiences and learn from your mistakes.”
Learning point: Don’t get frustrated if you are unsure about your career options, it is never too late to learn from past experiences. Let your experiences be part of the decision-making process. If you are facing a problem, ask yourself or your loved ones what you can learn from it. If you have difficulties at work, find out how you can improve your skills to overcome it. Record these thoughts into your daily diary entries and read them once in a while.
3. Seek professional help
After he left the financial services sector, Andre attended e2i’s Optimise Your Career via MySkillsFuture Portal at a Todo Todo event. The workshop gave him an introduction to MySkillsFuture, which contains 3 self-assessment tools for users to discover their career interest, skills confidence and work values. “I gave the self-assessments a try and the results were close to what I am looking for, which helped to affirm that I am suitable for a career path that I was interested in: client engagement/consultancy.” After the workshop, Andre was referred to Jerlyn, an Employability Coach in e2i. During their coaching session, Jerlyn “deduced and inferred from the self-assessment results, made the connections and sought out suitable jobs openings” for him. Through a job referral by the Employability Coach, he now works as a Business Advisor at SME Centre at ASME.
Learning point: After writing a few diary entries and taking the time to reflect on recent experiences, perhaps a getting little guidance might help to steer you closer towards finding out a suitable career path. Public programmes like Optimise Your Career via MySkillsFuture Portal, Successful Online Job Search or a career guidance session with an Employability Coach will equip you with skills like networking, goal-setting, and resume writing.
Whether you are an undergraduate, a full-time working adult or currently unemployed, career planning begins with discovering your career interest. Although it might seem like a huge undertaking, by taking the time to reflect and learn from your experiences and to seek for help, you can start the process of self-discovery.