Jobseekers need reality check on what to expect

Jobseekers at the Adapt and Grow Virtual Career Fair, a pilot by Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) at e2i in Jurong.
Jobseekers at the Adapt and Grow Virtual Career Fair, a pilot by Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) at e2i in Jurong. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say suggested that the current rising unemployment is due to the Singapore economy going through a transition ("Job woes part of transition to quality growth: Swee Say"; last Saturday).

He hoped that there would be a better match between jobs and skills, which would make workers happier.

Can such a scenario exist in reality?

Job matches have never been perfect, even long before the advent of the current technological disruption.

But there is something we seldom talk about - the match between a worker's expectation of and his attitude towards a job.

It is not uncommon to have a fresh graduate report on the first day of work only to quit because the job was not what he expected it to be.

Another common phenomenon is many junior employees being reluctant to do a job because they were not specifically taught to do it in their studies.

Bosses are unwilling to fire such employees because they do not expect the new hires to be any different. This often results in the supervisor quitting because he cannot get his subordinates to execute their duties.

These anecdotes are tell-tale signs that something is amiss in our employment market.

Rather than call it a mismatch in soft or hard skills, we need a reality check.

We may be putting too much focus on the technological disruptions and the need for new relevant skills, and neglecting to inform our workers that most jobs are really quite humdrum.

We have not prepared our workers, especially fresh graduates, to face life and the real world of work.

The reality is that no amount of formal education can ever adequately prepare a person to do all the work required in a job. More importantly, much of school learning is irrelevant on the job.

What matters is the attitude behind a worker's job expectation, and the willingness to do what is required to get the job done, no matter how mundane or unfamiliar it is.

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Jobseekers need reality check on what to expect'. Print Edition | Subscribe