Lim tells grads not to be picky and recalls his flexibility in switching careers

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By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

It was reported in ST today (‘Don’t be too picky in job hunt, Swee Say tells fresh grads‘) that Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say acknowledged that the current job market is bad and told fresh graduates not to be picky in their job hunts.

Speaking to some 50 fresh graduates at a session organised by the Young Sikh Association and Sikh Centre at the National Library yesterday (8 Oct), he said, “I will be frank. However many good jobs we create in Singapore, however many good careers, there will always be competition. We will create an exciting future for you, but it will also be a challenging one.”

He then told them not to be picky in their job hunts, “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.”

Indeed, it had been reported that human resource experts said they have seen a drop of at least 10 per cent in job vacancies open to fresh graduates from last year.

Graduating students not sitting around

However, contrary to Minister Lim’s observations, the fresh graduates are certainly not sitting around. It was reported that some have sent 20 to 50 job applications failing to secure any interviews, let alone a job offer.

TODAY earlier reported that an NUS economics graduating student had sent out many applications for several months without receiving any offers. “I feel quite desperate about my job search, because I don’t want to sit around and do nothing,” she said.

Although she hopes to eventually work in an economics-related area, she has settled for a three-month internship in a public relations firm for now. In the meantime, she will continue to apply for economics-related jobs.

Mr Stevanus Satria, a fresh graduate from SUTD, said he is expanding the range of jobs he is applying for, after 20 unsuccessful applications with only one invitation to go for a test. “I’m trying to be not so picky, and applying to anything related to my expertise, like maintenance engineering, even though I prefer engineering design,” he said.

Another economics fresh graduate, Jasper Ng, from SIM is also applying for a wide range of jobs unrelated to his studies. “I’ll take whatever job comes, as it’s quite hard to find a job in economics if you’re not one of the top students,” he said.

Minister Lim says he is very flexible and adaptive

Meanwhile, back at the talk session in National Library, Minister Lim also told the fresh graduates that they would be able to find jobs, provided they are driven and can adapt. He said that job seekers must be flexible and be prepared to switch careers when needed.

He shared how he started out as a software engineer, only moving later to the EDB, before entering politics. “Those who will succeed are those who see every problem as an opportunity,” he said.

Indeed, Minister Lim came from an engineering background. He studied electronics, computer and systems engineering in the UK at Loughborough University in 1973 before graduating in 1976.

Minister Lim did not have to look for jobs

But what Minister Lim did not tell the fresh graduates is that he was actually awarded an SAF Scholarship to study in UK. He came back and later served his bond in MINDEF’s System & Computer Organization. At the time, Philip Yeo was the 2nd permanent secretary of MINDEF in charge of logistics, technology research & development and defence industries.

When Philip Yeo formed the National Computer Board (predecessor of IDA) in the early 80s, he brought Lim Swee Say and others with him from MINDEF. Philip Yeo was then the Chairman of NCB. In 1986, Lim was promoted to become the General Manager of NCB when Tan Chin Nam, Lim’s boss and GM of NCB, moved with Philip Yeo to EDB. Philip Yeo was appointed as the new EDB Chairman while Tan became its new Managing Director.

Five years later in 1991, Lim was also moved to EDB to become its Deputy Managing Director before being promoted to Managing Director in 1994.

Two years later after he became MD of EDB, Lim was invited to join the PAP and entered politics in 1996, superseding his old bosses Tan Chin Nam and Philip Yeo. Lim then became the Deputy Secretary-General of NTUC in 1997 after winning the election in LKY’s Tanjong Pagar GRC through a walkover.

In 1999, Lim was appointed Minister of State at MTI and the MICA. One year later in 2000, he was made the Acting Minister for the Environment. He became a full minister in 2001.

In 2005, Lim was called back to assume the Deputy Secretary-General role in NTUC and in 2007, he was made the Secretary-General of NTUC, taking over from Lim Boon Heng.

Last year, Lim relinquished his labour chief post and was appointed the Minister for Manpower.

As one can see, Minister Lim is indeed, very lucky that he did not need to look for jobs like those fresh graduates who have to. His career was pretty much laid out for him the moment he took the SAF Scholarship.

Since Minister Lim has no experience in applying and hunting for jobs, would he be in a good position to “advise” those unemployed fresh graduates whom he talked to yesterday?