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How to Choose the Right Company to Kickstart Your Career

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Chances are good that you’re already familiar with the typical criteria to check off when assessing a potential employer. Are the people friendly? Will you find the work meaningful? How attractive is the salary package?

But today’s workplace is fast evolving, and your checklist should evolve to match. Digital transformation is accelerating in nearly every industry, reshaping roles and challenging workers to adapt constantly. Meanwhile, flexible work arrangements are gaining ground in Singapore, creating new workplace dynamics for teams to contend with. The right company will be future-ready enough to offer support in this uncertain landscape, empowering you to grow and reach your full potential.

How can you choose the right company to further your career in a fast-changing digital future? Here are four questions to keep in mind during your job search – you might even want to ask some of these at the interview stage.

What opportunities for learning will you have?

Most of us are familiar with evaluating a position based on the job description and the career progression it promises. Yet the role you take up now might look very different in a few years. AI and automation are predicted to transform 50% of jobs within the next decade. And as jobs evolve, you can also expect to explore multiple roles and career paths throughout your life.

The company that sets you up for success, then, might not be one that matches your current skillset perfectly. Instead, it might just be the one that offers room for learning beyond your day-to-day work. Having diverse opportunities to learn can equip you with a broader knowledge base, increasing your analytical thinking and problem-solving – two skills urgently needed for the jobs of tomorrow, according to the World Economic Forum.

One company doing this right is VISA, which runs a learning programme dubbed Go Share. “Anyone at VISA can spend three months learning a new skill from other teams,” shared Ms Goki Muthusamy, Senior Vice President, Head of People, Asia Pacific, VISA, at Young NTUC’s recent LIT DISCOvery 2022. “It’s an opportunity to spend time in another department and learn another part of the business.”

It’s also worth asking whether the company carves out time for its employees to learn – or if learning is one more burden to juggle on your to-do list. “Many companies say learning is important, but they don’t give time to learn,” observes Ms Muthusamy. “We’re trying to change that culture of ‘get this done now’ which sidelines learning – all our new managers go through a robust training programme.”

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Is there a culture of trust?

No one likes being micromanaged, and given the rise of flexible work arrangements, choosing a company with a culture of trust is more crucial than ever. Horror stories abound of companies in Singapore tracking their work-from-home employees’ every move and pressuring them to send constant updates – a toxic recipe for stress and burnout.

A workplace culture of trust means that you’re given the freedom to manage your schedule and choose your own working style to achieve results. Rather than having to account for your every move, your company should trust you to make creative decisions and take ownership of your work. Your mental health will thank you – research reveals that employees in high-trust companies experience 74% less stress and 106% more energy.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Love, Bonito made the leap to permanent ‘work-from-anywhere’ arrangements for their team. This required some mindset shifts, especially with the challenge of having cross-border teams across different countries.

“Ultimately, it’s really about trust and empowerment,” said Ms Dione Song, Chief Executive Officer of Love, Bonito, during a sharing at LIT DISCOvery 2022. “Do we trust our talent to be passionate about their jobs? It’s very toxic to have the pressure to answer your Slack all the time. We’re seeing the need to set up training around having flexible mindsets in managing cross-border teams.”

Is the company forward-thinking in digital innovation?

When choosing your potential employer, you’re probably weighing up their brand reputation as well. Joining a successful, high-flying company can help you get involved in cutting-edge projects – not to mention giving your resume a boost. And when it comes to success in our digital era, one factor you shouldn’t overlook is the company’s plans for digital innovation.

Digital transformation is a big predictor of future success for today’s businesses – BCG research shows that companies who invest in new technologies have nearly double the earnings growth of those who don’t. Technologies like automation and AI can also minimise the grind of repetitive tasks, freeing employees to do more engaging and valuable work.

To learn more about whether your company is keeping up with its competitors or resisting digital change, consider asking questions like:

  • What are some digital initiatives that you’ve embarked on?

  • What support do you offer to help your employees upskill digitally?

  • How does your company encourage employees to innovate?

  • How will the company evolve to meet new digital demands in the next five years?

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Are there healthy boundaries between work and life?

Even prior to the pandemic, Singapore was known as the world’s second most overworked city. As companies move toward remote work post-pandemic, the lines between work and home are blurring more than ever – making it crucial to choose an employer that respects your work-life boundaries.

A Randstad survey shows that 7 in 10 employees aged between 18 and 44 have suffered more stress since the start of the pandemic, thanks to an ‘always on’ mindset while working from home. To safeguard your mental health, seek out companies that have strong policies around the right to digital disconnection.

Mr Allan Teng, Managing Director and VP of Asia-Pacific and Japan, Workato, points out that good managers should take the lead in setting expectations about communication after-hours. “I always tell my team: you have the right to ignore me,” he laughs.

Ms Dione Song of Love, Bonito agrees. “It’s important to set boundaries around notifications beyond office time. As managers, we also have to become more conscious and thoughtful about the way we reply. For instance, you shouldn’t reply at midnight because that may put pressure on your teammates, even if it’s unintentional.”

A future-ready employer can set you up for success

Choosing a company to work for can be a nerve-wracking decision, especially early on in your career. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to help you make your choice, whether about the company’s culture, digital ambitions, or learning opportunities.

You can also sign up for opportunities to connect with companies and discover what they do behind the scenes. For those interested in the film and media industry, Young NTUC is organising a LIT Learning Journey to Vicinity Studio on 5 October 2022. Hear from the team behind this Singapore-based video production agency, and get hands-on with filming and sound equipment.

As you embark on your job search, it’s time to brush up on interview prep as well. Register for our online LIT Prep on 12 October 2022 to learn more about matching clothes and shoes to look your best! After the styling workshop, NTUC Members will have the opportunity for a 1-to-1 session with our Career Coaches, where you can get guidance on polishing your resume and tackling tricky interview questions.

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