Candidate for SMEs? Corporates? How to win in the Singapore job search
By Kylee McIntyre03-Jul-2018Views 4741

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Photo credit: Pexels.

How do I conduct a successful job search in Singapore? It's a complicated question, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Best practices have to be followed, but talk to a friend in an industry different than yours, and you'll find that one set of rules is not enough to ensure success. Different industries - and different positions - require slightly different methods of approach.

With nearly two decades' worth of experience working as a software developer in Singapore, Stephan February has plenty of advice to share. The current GoBear technical director has found himself in the Singapore job market at several points over the past years, and each job search has taught him something different.

GoBear is a financial services comparison website, which is based in Singapore and has a presence in seven countries.

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Before he was technical director at GoBear, developer Stephan February experienced Singapore's job search scene from multiple angles. Photo credit: GoBear.

Stephan spoke to 100offer about different challenges in each role, as well as how the can relate to what it's like working as a developer in areas including startups, consultancies, corporates, and more.


Services and Consulting

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Consulting and freelancing can feel like an uphill battle at first, but if you learn fast and build your network, the job search in Singapore gets easier.Photo credit: Pixabay.

Working alone brings its own set of challenges. You may gain decision making power because you don't have to balance out your opinions with those of your colleagues' or higher ups, but that also means that you're responsible for a lot of the input on whatever you're doing. Though you're self-employed, you're still doing a job search of sorts - you're responsible for all your own avenues of income.As a consultant selling a service of yours, you don't necessarily need to know how to run every aspect of your business at first, but you'll need to learn in order to be successful, says Stephan, who spent time working with his own Linux consultancy after his first developer job in Singapore.

“I would stay that working independently or working for yourself, it's extremely important to know how to find business; so if you go in not knowing how to sell, you will have to learn how to sell," he tells 100offer.

You need to ensure that you have 12 months worth of runway in your savings.

Use all your available resources to figure out what you need to learn and who can teach you how to do it. “If you're starting from scratch, you have to go through the process of building up your reputation until your name becomes your brand, and then you can sell on [your name]."

Also, leave yourself a wide berth to fail - at least at first. “One book that I've actually read about independent service consulting said that, to go into this business, you need to ensure that you have 12 months worth of runway in your savings in order for you to be able to pay for yourself," Stephan recalls. “You should have the expectation that for the next year, you will not be able to make ends meet while you're building your business up."

Products and Startup Life

There are whole genres of books that just focus on how to make your startup successful, but Stephan focuses on a few things: learning style, product development, and your team.

Working with a startup is similar to working with a service business in that the most successful people are not necessarily those who know the most but who can learn the fastest. “Those who actually learn faster, who can actually catch on quicker, tend to be more successful if you have a little luck thrown in and you have a really good idea," Stephan explains.

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A lot of working at a startup is augmenting your strengths, then finding a good team to fill in your weak points. Hard sell your strengths if your job search takes you to a startup. Copyright: sondem / 123RF Stock Photo

The similarities do end after a stretch, though. “Building a product business is very different than building a service business." So, the learning process began again.

“Never do it by yourself - don't ever do it by yourself. Find two to three people who are like-minded, who have different roles they can run in the business," Stephan advises. “Doing any one of these things is really hard. Doing it by yourself is an almost unassailable task."

Corporate Life

When Stephan left his cycle of consultancy-startup and his job search took him to a corporate job at PayPal in Singapore, he came to learn that the challenges there were interpersonal, which was very different from the way that developers were treated in the 90s, when Stephan first began working as a software developer.

“You need to learn how to play ball - to cooperate rather than compete," he says. He adds that the term “office politics" is not entirely accurate, but if you like working in a startup environment, a lot of the things there that work for you won't work in a corporate environment.

Almost every company had a disheveled-looking guy sitting in the corner who was brilliant but had zero interpersonal skills, and nobody cared.

“My technical forming years were in the 90s, the age of the independent cyberpunks, where individuality was prized heavily, where you had the myth of the 10x developer, which actually persisted for a long time after that, where the intelligent asshole was essentially venerated," he says. “So almost every company had a disheveled-looking guy sitting in the corner who was brilliant but had zero interpersonal skills, and nobody cared."

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Many of the challenges in a corporate setting can be solved with cooperation, not competition. Copyright: crazymedia / 123RF Stock Photo

Today, an individual like that will not fit into a corporate office. “The ability to work well with others is going to be valuable at any point in your career, but especially in a corporate environment where [...] whether you stay or leave doesn't make much of an impact," he explains.

Once you learn the interpersonal dynamics of the office, work becomes a lot easier.

Running a Team

Now, at GoBear, Stephan runs a technical team, which he describes as being the compilation of all of his previous experience. “My biggest challenge moving to GoBear has been to take all of the failures and all of the headbutting I've done through my career [...] and apply it effectively, because my actions affect the bottom line in a rather direct manner now, so there is much less margin for error on my part, so I have to get things right."

The jump from developer to manager is a unique but not impossible one. Stephan's current role means managing a team of developers, several of whom are not in Singapore. At the same time, he also oversees relationships with vendors, interviews future GoBear developers, and breaks down user stories. There's a lot of multitasking, but that Stephan figures that keeps things interesting.

“My role is not particularly unique in this [tech] industry. Particularly if you're working at a startup, you end up with people who have to wear many hats," Stephan says.

Ready to kick off your successful job search in Singapore? 100offer streamlines the job search process for you so that you can upload one set of information, then get an average 5-10 interviews a week for top tech companies like Go-Jek and Transferwise. Sign up to the 100offer platform now - it's free - and see roles in fintech, blockchain, and more. Our dedicated talent consultant will help you find the next stop on your career journey.


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Kylee McIntyre
American tech, science, health, and environmental writer. Lover of scifi, fantasy, travel, and coffee. Find her on Twitter @ejkyleem.
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