Graduating was daunting enough when fresh grads had to build their professional profiles, secure and nail interviews, and cross the threshold between student and working adult.
Sadly, in recent years, the challenge hasn’t just grown; it has evolved.
Unemployment and retrenchments are projected to worsen this year as the pandemic continues to run its course. NUS Education Economist Kelvin Seah expects lower starting salaries for graduates, while Nominated MP Walter Theseira predicts employers will simply be reluctant to hire.
As such, graduating classes are going to need the support and reassurance of their parents more than ever.
Mr. Liew Kwong Chin and Mrs. Susan Liew recognise this need, and have resolved to be that support system for their 23-year-old daughter, Ms. Liew Wan Ning. “We have to accept that this is the new norm. Not just for fresh grads but for parents too,” says Mr. Liew, who has been working from home with his wife in this circuit breaker.
While this adjustment may be unfamiliar to many, the grim job market isn’t. Mr. Alfred Tan, father to a 21-year-old business student, recalls the recession in 1985, when fresh grads were jobless for as long as 14 months. So while he’s “regretful” about his daughter’s plight, he empathises with the stress she’s going through.
The Liews and Mr. Tan have devised ways to support their children — both practically and emotionally — as they continue their job search.
Prep them for the workforce
Mr. Daniel Soh of headhunting firm Leadership Advisory advises fresh grads to use this downtime wisely. When potential employers ask how they’ve been using this time, it may not reflect well on applicants if the answer is ‘taking a break and resting at home’.
So for a start, encourage your jobseeking children to strengthen their CVs as much as possible.
For Mr. Tan, he supports his daughter as she volunteers her time to give free tuition to underprivileged students struggling with home-based learning. By using her time productively, the 21-year-old demonstrates character and displays interests beyond academic pursuits, traits which could distinguish her from other applicants.
Tap on government resources
The increasing number of government initiatives are valuable resources to direct your children to, so they stay motivated in this time.
Mr. Liew frequently shares with his daughter new developments he thinks would be useful for her. One such piece of news is the SGUnited Traineeship programme*.
For parents who aren’t aware, the programme aims to support 8,000 traineeships this year, providing fresh grads with opportunities across large and small enterprises.
Encourage a shift in perspective
In this season of cutbacks, human resources director Mr. David Leong urges fresh grads to calibrate their expectations and prioritise experience over pay.
“At this stage, learning is more important,” agrees Mrs. Liew, who frequently reminds her daughter not to be too selective. Echoing his wife, Mr. Liew adds, “Whether the job is ideal or not, something good can always be drawn out of it.”
Take the pressure off
In his speech in March, PM Lee acknowledged the far-reaching impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Nobody has been spared,” he stated in the nationwide broadcast.
The fact is, business is not as usual and expectations will need to be adjusted—both yours and your children’s.
Mr. Liew admits to having high expectations but recognises the need to lay off the pressure with regard to his daughter’s job search. “Instead of constantly pressing them, you must be realistic. Look at the current condition and then adapt to it,” he advises.
As we cope with this new reality, let’s all be reminded that there is hope on the horizon!
Take it from the experts; “When everything comes back to some normalcy, we anticipate exponential hiring,” reports Mr. Khandelwal of Michael Page. And DBS Economist Mr. Seah notes that a growth rebound will be “more than enough to mop up whatever excess manpower [we] have in the market”.
In the meantime, you as a parent play an important role in how your children will enter the workforce. Encourage them to stay positive and productive, and to keep looking out for opportunities. How they spend their time in the waiting will determine how employers will view them when the job market eventually recovers.
*The SGUnited Traineeships (SGUT) will cease by 31 March 2022.