When she left her job in human resources because she felt her career was stagnating, Ms Christina Kuek had no idea she would spend a whole year searching for work.
The 49-year-old former executive director at a private bank was willing to take a pay cut of about $8,000, but hunting through job websites led nowhere.
She was among the 140 or so hopefuls who attended a pilot job fair held at the Devan Nair Institute yesterday by the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) for middle-aged professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).
"I realised you're not likely to get interviews through job portals because it's hard to be convincing on paper, especially when all they may see is something like your age," she said. "But face-to-face, like in this job fair, you get the opportunity to tell your story."
The fair came ahead of next month's launch of the Career Support Programme (CSP).
The Singapore Workforce Development Agency programme sweetens the deal for employers hiring mature PMEs in jobs paying at least $4,000 a month, by subsidising their wages if the new hires have been jobless for at least six months.
At yesterday's fair, job-seekers got to apply to 10 companies, including SMRT, Resorts World Sentosa and the Infocomm Development Authority, for 50 managerial positions with salaries ranging from $3,000 to $9,000 a month.
Mr Gilbert Tan, chief executive of e2i, said: "In Singapore, or anywhere in the world, there is always a perceived preference for younger workers over mature job-seekers."
Close to seven in 10 long-term unemployed residents this June were aged 40 and above, according to the Manpower Ministry.
Ms Jennifer See, HR manager at software provider Ecquaria Technologies, said schemes like the CSP help companies defray the costs of hiring older PMEs, who usually command a higher starting pay.
She added: "We have a big range of young people in this industry, but we are looking for older PMEs because they are more stable and can contribute their job experience."
Mr Raymond Lee, 49, has been out of work for three to four months after giving up his job as a health and safety manager when his teenage daughter was hospitalised for an eating disorder.
He said: "I'm not here to get just any job. I believe I have value in me still, and I want to add value to my organisation."