An overseas relocation for one partner may not necessarily translate into a great career move for the other.
More often than not, the trailing partner – usually on a Dependent’s Pass – may struggle to find a suitable job opportunity, build a career from scratch, adjust to a new work culture or, ultimately, decide to strike out on his or her own to start a business venture. Here’s where to begin.
Networking is commonly described as interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. What it really means? Seeking out like-minded people and having conversations.
Interestingly, networking has long been an important part of Singapore’s business industry. “Being a historic entrepôt economy, trading hub and a strategic port, Singapore is massively driven by guanxi (meaning “connections” in Mandarin) and the barter culture,” says Australian expat Kalli Coplin, director and founder of Band on the Run Entertainment, which specialises in providing live music for events in Singapore.
“Business is still written very much by word-of-mouth and recommendations.” Emma Osborne, who has 12 years of recruiting experience in the European Union and Asia, concurs that networking is extremely important here.
“It’s crucial,” she says, “even more so for female executives with ambitions for their future careers, who face a senior maledominated landscape.” For these women, she suggests: “Seek support from other women in your industry to offer guidance and share insights.”
Business Women Network aims to empower women to become successful entrepreneurs and offers a space to share stories, achievements and skills, and organises upskilling programmes and networking sessions for members; the 350-strong PrimeTime Business and Professional Women’s Association offers more than 90 activities such as discussion groups, social gatherings and more.
Looking for support from back home – or whatever comes closest? American Women’s Association has a Newcomers Network that offers support to new members and a membership magazine that helps get businesses or services out to the expat community, while American Association of Singapore‘s Career Resource Center for Excellence has an expat job board, weekly email alerts with career listings and member prices for exclusive workshops and events
And one specially for the mothers: Aside from being the first career portal in Singapore to lend assistance and advice to flexi-work mothers and mumpreneurs, Mums@Work also works to partner prospective employees with employers of their choice.
While networking can help you make inroads into an industry and garner you some interesting leads, it helps to understand what you’re looking for before you start meeting people and establishing new professional connections. Is it a new job? A career change? A part-time opportunity or mentorship role?
Emma says that first answering these three questions can help: How do you want your life to improve? What are you willing to sacrifice to make that happen? What will be the impact if you don’t make it happen? Only once you know your objectives should you list out your “must-have” criteria compared to your “nice-to-have” elements.
Thinking of a career switch? Take a tip or two from Band on the Run’s Kallie, who spent 17 years as an early-years education consultant before establishing her current company with her husband, Simon.
Kallie believes the Red Dot provides the perfect environment to steer your career away from your initial chosen profession. She shares: “Singaporeans and, more broadly, Asians are extremely accepting of technological and social changes, and of new business models. A decade ago, Simon and I saw a gap in the market, and we offered customised corporate and private, live entertainment for companies in Singapore.”
An important point to note: Some skillsets or elements of your resume that worked overseas may not be as useful or effective in Singapore. For example, most CVs outside of Singapore may not require a cover letter or a picture, but some companies here may request for these in their job ads.
If you’re not sure how to craft a fresh resume for the Asian market, consider working with a recruitment agency like Aegis Recruitment or Career Hub Consultants to understand the roles that are available in your industry and how your skills can fit these positions.
Should you find any gaps in your skillset, don’t fret! Singapore has various opportunities for you to take up professional development courses. Singapore Management University and the National University of Singapore are good places to look for short-term courses or executive programmes; online learning platforms like Coursera offers programmes from reputable institutions like Stanford University.
The last hitch? Despite advancing your skillset, many Singapore companies request for work experience in the Asian markets. Consider taking up pro bono, volunteer or freelance work, as this can help provide some experience – especially to understand Singapore’s culture and work with locals closely – and help get your foot in the door.
By Sushmita Mohapatra, The Finder (Issue 286), October 2017
Like this? Read more career stories here,