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No Experience, No Problem! How 2 Singaporeans Succeeded In Completely Different Industries

In our pragmatic and realistic society, how well we do in school and the course of study we choose typically shape the path of our careers.

Like, if you studied Banking & Finance and worked in a bank a bank, you are most likely to be working in financial institutions for the next few decades.

If you have a diploma or degree in engineering, it’s only natural that you’ll hone your capabilities as an engineer over the rest of your career.

But what if you decide to switch industries? Where would you start from? How should you make the change?

Previously, Workforce Singapore (WSG) ran a career programme called, Work Trial, for Singaporeans who decided to take the leap of faith into the unknown.

The Work Trial programme has now been enhanced to become the Career Trial, under the Adapt and Grow initiative. More information about this later.

Back to making a career change, we spoke to two individuals who did that and found their way to career fulfillment by through Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Work Trial programme.

From Accounting And Sales To Early Childhood Education

Ms Christina Koh / Image Credit: Christina Koh

46-years old Christina Koh was previously an Accounts Manager in the accounting industry for 17 years, and then she did corporate sales.

Now, she’s a trainee teacher at Nurture Education Group Pte Ltd, one of Singapore’s largest preschool operator.

How did she move from a job that required her to deal with adults from all walks of corporate lives to a job that now requires her to educate young children?

It took Christina a surgery to make that job switch.

“I have been working (numbers behind a computer screen) since I graduated from school, and besides going on short vacations, I haven’t had a proper break. So I decided to take some time off to recover from my surgery and build up my health by resting, dieting, and exercising,” she said.

During that time, she got to spend more time with her son and used that time to consider the career path she wanted to embark on.

“I first learnt about the Government providing job assistance for those aged above 40 through a radio advertisement, and went on to conduct an online research on it,” she said.

This led her to e2i’s website where she found career advice, and it was there that she found out about the Work Trial programme.

She approached the counter at e2i and was told to fill up an application form. After the registration process, she was assigned to a career coach.

“Miss Tracy Tan from e2i West was very helpful. When I decided to go into Early Childhood, she told me about a course provided by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and the career fair where I had my interviews with the various schools.”

Christina’s leap of faith was made easier than she expected as she had the opportunity to experience the role first hand. It helped reaffirmed her passion in Early Childhood Education.

She recounted that in her previous career, she met adults who have “controlled emotions”.
“But with children, most of the time, they express freely. This is a challenge for me because each child is different and I have to take on different approaches,” she explained.

Christina playing with her young students / Image Credit: Christina Koh

She remembers her first day of the Work Trial programme, she was attached to a playgroup class and gushed about how adorable they were. Even though her body ached from work, “it was all gone” when she went back to the centre the next day.

You can tell it’s passion when all kinds of fatigue melt away when you return to work – and that’s the case for Christina when she said she gets a burst of energy everytime she goes back to the centre and see the children.
Her Work Trial was supposed to be one week long, but she was offered a job on her fourth day.

“Senior Principal, Miss Ruth, and my mentor teacher, Miss Yvonne, are very encouraging, supportive, and friendly. They made it easy for me to settle in,” she said.

Image Credit: Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse Facebook

She said her colleagues gave her plenty of tips and advice, and even brought an extra set of clothes in case children vomit on her or if she gets wet when showering the children.

“As we spend many hours with the children, it is important for us to be able to bond with them. I observed the interactions between Miss Yvonne and the children, and I was inspired to become a teacher that children will love and not be feared.”

“My achievements now are of a different kind: the children’s love and parents’ appreciation,” she said with a smile.

Upon reaching out to Nurture Education Group, Vivan Wong from the Human Resource and Administration department explained how the company participated in the programme.

Nurture Education Group’s booth at a career fair in 2017 / Nurture Education Group Facebook

“Nuture embarked on the Work Trial programme after it was introduced to us by WSG at one of the career fairs we attended in 2017,” she said.

She broke down the process in five steps:

  1. The company indicates its interest in getting candidates through the programme by filling up a form they got from a WSG personnel.
  2. Submit a list of job vacancies.
  3. Contact shortlisted candidates and place them at Kiddiewinkie Schoolhouse @ Grandstand to monitor performance for two weeks.
  4. Discuss with them personally on their experience and further assess their suitability as a teacher and if they are comfortable with the daily routine before offering them a position.
  5. Upon official commencement of work, evaluate them further for three months before sending them for a course in Early Childhood.

“We were interested in this because we believe that individuals who have the passion in this industry should have a chance to be trained.”

From Oil & Gas To Healthcare

Ms Karen Kok / Image Credit: Karen Kok

37-years-old Karen Kok was retrenched twice from two companies in the Oil & Gas industry, the first time 2012 and the second time in February 2017.

At that point in time, she had about 10 years of audit and accounting experience in the industry.

But she took it positively, “I had the opportunity to re-look at how I should chart my career. I wanted to add value and give back to society while leveraging on my decade-long audit experience.”

She found the healthcare industry appealing as the government has been encouraging Singaporeans to tackle the nation’s ageing population issue.

Karen (far left) and her team, the MOHH Group Internal Audit (GIA) division’s dinner / Image Credit: Karen Kok

Karen is now the Manager in the Group Internal Audit Division at the Ministry of Health Holdings (MOHH).

Like Christina, Karen turned to Workforce Singapore to make the job switch, where she signed up for a career coaching session.

“My career coach identified a suitable opportunity at MOHH and arranged for me to have an interview there,” she said.

“I was fortunate to have an engaging and motivating career coach at MAXIMUS who took time to understand my thought process and personal goals,” she added.

That interview went well and it matched Karen’s current skills. She told us that the “in-house training sessions” held at MAXIMUS refreshed her “interview skills and resume-writing techniques” which helped her land the job.

“Moving out of my comfort zone to a different industry like healthcare was a challenge I was excited to take on,” she quipped cheerfully.

Karen (far right) and the MOHH GIA division’s bonding event, “Amazing MRT Race” / Image Credit: Karen Kok

She went on to say that she is “grateful” to be placed with colleagues who are “helpful and passionate about their work”, and with superiors who are “understanding, and supportive in developing and growing (their) careers”.

A job that pays well is good, but a job that has a welcoming and conducive environment to improve and grow is better.

Karen cherishes her experience at MOHH and enjoys the close bond she shares with her newfound colleagues, and said, “The past five months have been enriching and I am constantly learning.”

Life After The Switch

For Karen, she thinks that since she started working in MOHH, “the journey has been challenging yet rewarding” as she learns about the healthcare industry.

She is excited about “contributing and adding value” to the industry and believes that her career is “back on track” now because of her supportive colleagues and environment.

“I have developed a greater appreciation for good health and life’s values, and I look forward to a fulfilling career in healthcare,” she said.

And for those who face the same problems as Karen did before, she advised, “Every hurdle in life pushes you forward, view it positively and make the best of what you have.”

As for Christina, she feels more passionate as a teacher than when she was climbing the corporate ladder.

“When I have to deal with children throwing tantrums, I would remind myself that this situation is better than having to deal with adults who ‘play politics’ behind my back,” she said.

“I know I am in the right place when I smile as I reflect upon my day at work, seeing the children’s happy faces.”

Christina thinks this has enriched her life as she is learning on the job and furthering her knowledge in the Early Childhood industry.

Since starting her job as a teacher, she believes in continuous learning, the need for more “people with passion in nurturing children” to join the industry, and that it goes beyond “taking care of children” and providing education.

She encourages people who are daunted by the prospect of switching industries to just “take the first step” because she believes Work Trial is a great platform for them.

“In any career you are in, there will always be stress and challenges to overcome, but having passion for it makes it easier to bear, and eventually enjoy!” she shared cheerfully.

Like Christina and Karen, you can be on your way to achieving career fulfillment after making a career switch.

Under the enhanced Career Trial programme, participants will receive incentives of up to $7,200, and gain work experience with a host company.

It costs nothing for host companies to assess a job seeker’s fit before offering employment.

For more information, visit the Career Trial website here. To see a list of career-matching services, go here.

This article was written in collaboration with Workforce Singapore.

Featured Image Credit: Christina Koh, Karen Kok

 

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