Sometimes a nudge in the right direction can lead to the right opportunity, as it did in Ms Sim Lay Koon's case.
The former finance manager left her job in May 2015, dissatisfied with her job scope as it did not match the accounting skills she had to offer. "I felt it was a waste of my knowledge and skills, and it was not really the right fit for me as I had to do administrative and even human resources work," says Ms Sim, 54.
Yearning for a chance to maximise her skills, the degree holder embarked on a journey to find the right match.
Along the way, she came across Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Career Support Programme for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in The Straits Times and signed up for the programme.
The programme started offering added salary subsidies yesterday, especially to employers who hire Singaporeans who have been out of work for at least a year.
With WSG's support, Ms Sim carried on with her job search, which took about a year and often hit dead ends. "I probably sent out about 100 resumes and was called for 20 interviews, but they led to nothing," she says. "Perhaps there's more competition out there, and employers may think younger graduates are more 'fresh' and IT-savvy. I'm not too bad with IT but I still can't be compared with a young person."
Besides offering resume courses, WSG gave Ms Sim an important tip - to get out there and network as it could lead to new career options.
She says: "Networking was something I never did. They said I should start as it was a way of finding a job. I eventually spoke with a former colleague and got to know my current boss, who was short of people then. I went for the interview and got the job."
SUPPORT FOR PMETS
From April 1, the Career Support Programme (CSP) is being enhanced.
The CSP provides wage support ato encourage employers to hire mid-career PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians). Employers can receive salary support of up to $42,000 over 18 months for each eligible Singapore citizen PMET they hire (see table).
This will help defray a portion of their salary bill as employers tap the pool of experienced and skilled PMETs.
PMETS who are eligible can call WSG Career Centres on 6883-5885 or NTUC's e2i on 6474-0606 to find out more about the CSP, or visit www.wsg.gov.sg for more information.
That was how she started last June in her current role as a senior account associate at consultancy firm Bridge 2 Biz Consulting, where she is able to stretch her accounting skills.
WSG career coach Tarcisius Wong, 46, says a proactive stance from mature PMETs is great. For instance, he had a client who anticipated "a scenario where she might be made redundant" and took preventive measures for a "resilient career". The client also learnt to have a professional social media presence, which scored her some interviews.
Bridge 2 Biz managing director Henry Ong, 43, recalls how his former university classmate called him up to recommend Ms Sim. "I was told that she was looking for a position and was very nice - such compliments play a part," he says.
"I used to be concerned about age issues as I'd hear stories from other employers of how older workers can be more stubborn, but Lay Koon is so open-minded and was willing to accept the new enviroment. She's very flexible and fits in well with her colleagues," Mr Ong says, adding that she is his oldest employee, apart from a previous part-time worker who was in her 60s.
The firm treasures Ms Sim's years of experience, particularly in handling people.
Mr Ong notes: "She imparts life values to the younger staff, who tend to be more idealistic about work and how people treat them."
Senior associate Tan Zheng Bang, 27, agrees, praising Ms Sim's approach towards tough clients. "Her soft skills are good and she's taught me how to deal with people and handle clients, and how to approach them. Once, I asked her to assist me with drafting an e-mail, in a manner that would not irritate the client," he says.
"I'd ask Lay Koon rather than my peers as she's more experienced. She was previously in a management role, so she is strong in managing people."
Mr Ong encourages Ms Sim to use the skills she previously acquired to maximise her potential with the firm. "She was in charge of HR at her previous company, so she has helped me by taking on the role here and would filter candidates and help me during interviews, which has saved me a lot of time," he says.
"I'm more relaxed about hiring mature PMETs now that I've worked with her and know that there is help from the Career Support Programme."