In conversations, 27-year old psychology major Jason Chua may come across as a focused and confident individual who knows exactly what he wants but, believe it or not, there was a time he was unsure about his job options and what path his career would take.
Reflecting on his earlier days of employment at a recruitment agency, Mr Chua remembers how his work involved general routine — conducting screenings and phone calls, drafting contract details and scheduling interviews, for everyone from students looking for part-time holiday jobs, to technicians looking for places in companies.
It was good work, but he was itching to do more.
He was in the office one day when he chanced upon an advertisement for a position supported by Workforce Singapore (WSG)’s Career Trial, a programme that encourages individuals looking for employment to take on short-term trials with employers to assess their job fit. It does so by providing training allowances and incentives to participating individuals, and salary support to employers who then may decide to hire Career Trial participants for a full-time role after.
The ad was for the role of HR Executive at ACP Computer Training & Consultancy Pte Ltd, an established SME in the information, communications and technology field. Fittingly, it came just while he was contemplating a career transition and thinking about what his next career move should be.
“I was just 14 months into my first job and felt that this was a good opportunity to further utilise my skills”, Mr Chua recalled. “The eight-week Career Trial seemed like a positive step forward.”
What drew him to the Career Trial offered by ACP was that the scope during the trial period would go beyond recruiting, to include retention and retraining aspects as well. “I wanted to challenge myself in taking on an increased role and value-add to my new organisation”, Mr Chua reasoned.
So for a period of eight weeks, Mr Chua embarked on his Career Trial, grateful that ACP had agreed to give him the opportunity to try out the role, which he might not otherwise have had the experience to qualify for.
“What I like about Career Trial is that it gives you an opportunity to try out a role in which you may not otherwise have the experience for.”
The learning curve, Mr Chua recounted, was initially very steep, especially since he was the only dedicated HR officer in the company. He confessed that he was at a loss when he first started. “I could identify what needed to be done, but I did not always have the solutions for them”.
But he was grateful for the mentorship, and advice from his superiors and peers alike. “I needed help on fostering good employee relationships, but I couldn’t just refer to the employee handbook”, he recalled.
Describing his adjustment at the workplace as “difficult but not impossible”, Mr Chua said his colleagues were always supportive and helped make his transition seamless.
Fitting into the company culture was somewhat easier. He counts his ability to identify tasks and work harmoniously with others towards solving problems as crucial to blending in with the company. He reckons that “there is nothing about work that good attitude cannot overcome”.
While results were always important, Mr Chua feels that equally important was to put in the effort, and make the best possible judgement. He welcomed the added responsibilities at work, seeing them as an opportunity to grow, both on a professional and personal level.
Upon completion of the Career Trial, Mr Chua felt a great sense of mastery, satisfaction and accomplishment. He thought that the length of the programme was a suitable transition period.
Meanwhile, his employers had positive things to say about him, as well as the Career Trial programme. Ms Teo Mei Ling, General Manager of ACP and Mr Chua’s immediate reporting officer, found him fluent in his communication and adaptive to the company’s working culture from the onset. She also liked his positive attitude and ready acceptance of newly-assigned tasks.
Ms Teo found Career Trial to be a good scheme that allowed ACP to gauge Mr Chua’s credentials and capability, while he took time to fit into the working environment — a “win-win proposition” for both.
“Career Trial allowed us to gauge Mr Chua’s capabilities while he took time to assess his own fit in the working environment. We’re happy that through this programme, we found him a suitable candidate to join our family.”
On what the most important skills in his current role were, Mr Chua cited the ability to stay calm under pressure, and having good communication and people skills as being crucial.
He is careful not to let emotions get to him, even if interactions with employees on employment matters become highly charged. “I need to keep in mind not to reciprocate with the same emotion if they are angry — to be professional in my response.”
On good communication skills, Mr Chua saw the HR role as pivotal, since their instructions carry much weight. Therefore, communication, he concluded, needs to be transparent, effective and efficient at all times.
His advice to those who want to take a stab at Career Trial?
“Stay humble and be willing to learn from others — especially from those who are vastly more experienced. Everything has to start from somewhere.”