Human resource experts pointed out that fresh graduates have nothing to worry about with regards to their career in the long run if they were to accept a low-salary first job.
They added that it is important for first-time job seekers to grab any role that they get in this current economy rather than waiting for a job with good remuneration. The roles could include any voluntary or low-paying job or even one that is outside of their comfort zone.
The experts made this point after a graduate told TODAY that he rejected a job offer due to the low starting salary offered, fearing that it will have a negative impact in his earning capacity in the future.
Meanwhile, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in Parliament last week that job seekers do not have to state their last-drawn salaries, adding that employers cannot force them to do so as well. She went on to say that it is “unwise” for employers to make an offer based solely on last-drawn salaries.
Admitting that fresh graduates who enter the workforce today are probably going to be getting lower starting salaries than those from a few years ago, the experts asserted that this is not the sole deciding criteria in determining one’s future wage.
“Employers look at experience, ability to handle stress and flexibility. Being able to adapt and work in a pandemic environment is a bonus, said Erman Tan, an ex-president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, to TODAY.
Mr Tan added that fresh graduates who manage to secure a job with a lower starting salary should look at the bigger picture of gaining substantial experience as it can be beneficial to them in the future.
Concurring the same point, director of The Meyer Consulting Group Angela Kuek told TODAY that job seekers who just entered the job market should focus on gaining employment experience as this can give them future opportunities.
“Graduates should remember that their career is a marathon and not a sprint,” she remarked.
Fresh graduates’ concerns
In an interview with TODAY, a number of graduates pointed out that although salary is a worry among them, but they have decided to keep an open mind with everything that is out there.
“A lower starting salary may affect salary negotiations when I apply for jobs in the future, but I think work experience and skills are more important for career development,” said 24-year-old Lim Ying Qi, who recently graduated from the Singapore Institute of Technology with a pharmaceutical engineering degree.
Ever since graduating last year, Ms Lim has been applying for jobs in the media industry and is expecting to not be offered a high starting salary.
Sharing the same sentiment, 23-year-old economics graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Trudy Kong, highlighted that though lower starting salary is not the best situation, but acquiring experience and skills can offset it.
“Initially I expected a starting salary of around S$3,500. Now I’m happy with anything between S$2,800 and S$3,000 for a permanent job,” she noted.
Given the current uncertainty in the economy, Ms Kong has also applied for internships and traineeships outside of the related industry to keep her options wide.
Just focusing on high salary will only result to dissatisfaction, said founder of NeXT Corporate Coaching Services Paul Hneg, urging graduates to look beyond the wage. “Feeling short-changed is never a good mindset to have in any job.”
However, for Timothy Tan, a NUS graduate in the field of environment engineering, looking for a job with a good starting salary is more than just the future of his career. According to Mr Tan, high salary also shows his value as someone “who worked hard to graduate early and about supporting my family”.
Build an attractive skills range for employers
Despite a rather dull job market for permanent roles, experts noted that there are still a number of ways for fresh graduates to increase their attractiveness and stand out in the crowd in order for employers to notice them.
“Getting any form of paid employment in your CV is always good, if not in the form of permanent jobs then in contract jobs, internships or traineeships,” said Ms Kuek
Echoing the same point, Mr Tan also stated that it is important to not remain idle, adding that they can opt for volunteer roles, apart from internships or traineeships.
“Many sectors, like healthcare, need help now. Doing such public and social services will reflect well on you and highlight positive personality traits. These will also build communication and teamwork skills,” he noted.
Netizens disagree with the experts
Over on social media, online users have voiced their disagreement over what the experts said.
Some pointed out that if the graduates’ lower their salary, then it only shows their lack of worth, which will inadvertently affect the rest of their working life. Others pointed out that employers are not hiring them even if they request a low starting wage.
One user, Mok Tong Sun, commented that it is important for some fresh graduates to earn a good starting wage as they have to pay off their “study loans, apply for BTOs, get married and have babies”.
Hence, starting with a low salary will affect their future pay as “most employers peg the salary that they offer based on last drawn salary”.
A handful others mentioned that fresh graduates’ low starting salary will only increase if they perform above average or jump to new jobs fast. What’s more, many hinted that most employers decide on a wage to offer based on the candidates’ last drawn salary.