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In this economic climate, should I accept a lower pay?

While fresh graduates should always base their career decisions on their particular circumstances, it’s possible to take advantage of interim work while waiting for the job you want at the same time. Bottom line? Know what your options are to make informed career decisions.
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Written by Daniel Tay

Let’s face it. This generation of fresh graduates has it rough.

Image source: Unsplash

While millennials entered the workforce during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, today’s new and soon-to-be graduates—members of the Gen Z cohort—are facing an uncertain future due to the spread of COVID-19.

In Singapore, it’s estimated that around 48,500 fresh jobseekers are expected to join the workforce this year. While the government has begun relaxing ‘circuit breaker’ measures, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warns that the country has yet to feel the full economic fallout of the pandemic, adding that unemployment numbers are expected to go up.

New jobseekers must now overcome unexpected disruptions to their career plans and navigate their way through a job market in shambles.

Temp jobs available for new jobseekers
Image source: Pexels

Still, it’s not all bad news.

According to a government advisory, companies providing essential services in healthcare, food, and logistics are actively hiring to meet the surge in demand for groceries, online food delivery, and online shopping.

The catch, however, is that some of these opportunities are temp jobs. Of course, these roles can be suitable for fresh graduates looking for an interim source of income while waiting for the worst of the pandemic to pass.

A few companies are also hiring for “normal” jobs. Before the pandemic, global banks in Singapore posted 310 vacancies on their career pages in January alone—the most since July 2019. However, the implementation of lockdown measures in the months that followed caused this number to plummet to 115 new positions in April.

Jobseekers getting lower than expected salary offers

What’s more, a CNA story on the plight of fresh grads shows that new jobseekers are not only finding fewer jobs, but they’re also being offered salaries below the industry average despite having competitive degrees and multiple internships under their belt.

Graduates from polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) also report similar frustrations, with employers citing the economic slump caused by the coronavirus crisis.

If you are a new graduate experiencing the same problem, you’re probably facing the tough choice of accepting a temp job or a lower-paying job in the hope of securing a better one in the future, or sticking to your guns and waiting it out.

Each approach has its pros and cons.

The case for taking on temp jobs or accepting a low offer

Depending on your financial situation, you may have no choice but to consider short-term work outside your area of experience while the country’s employers adapt to a post-circuit breaker world.

Not only is a temp job a useful source of income during these trying times, but it also presents the opportunity to be productive while being actively engaged in the workforce. Most temp jobs fall under customer service, warehouse distribution, inventory and stocking, and food delivery, all of which allow you to hone skills such as:

●    Communication
●    Conflict resolution
●    Organisation
●    Problem-solving

These skills can help you stand out when you can finally apply for more permanent roles or jobs that match your career plans and core skill set.

In addition, being in the workforce can go a long way towards positioning yourself to get networking opportunities. These, in turn, can open new doors to potential new careers and jobs in the future. A jobseeker with a background in political science, for example, may find an opportunity to pivot into a lucrative career in marketing and advertising.

The same logic holds true for accepting a less than ideal salary offer from a potential employer. While your expectations may not have been met, getting hired in these trying times still puts you on a trajectory towards your career goals.

And remember, you can still negotiate that offer. Rather than fixate on money, focus on the value of the entire package: job responsibilities, remote work, opportunities for career development, and travel.

In fact, money isn’t even the top driver of job satisfaction in Singapore. That distinction goes to confidence in the company’s leadership and a helpful manager to help resolve issues at work.

Holding out for an ideal offer

There are equally compelling reasons to wait things out until you find a job that suits you. For starters, accepting a salary offer that’s “below average” can have lasting effects.

You may think that you’re okay with a lower salary today because you’re confident you’ll get a raise in the near future. However, any raise you get by that time will likely be based on a percentage of your current salary.

To better explain, let’s say that Jane and Dave work at Company A.


  • Jane joined the company in 2020 and accepted a monthly salary of S$2,500—S$500 lower than the industry standard due to the economic downturn.
  • The economy recovers in 2021 and the company resumes offering “normal” larger salary packages. This is where Dave comes in, who negotiates up to S$3,000.
  • Jane still manages to get a raise and now makes $2,750—a 10% increase. But it took her a full year to get that pay bump, whereas Dave got a better offer right from the get-go.
  • This also means that—assuming both workers get pay increases at the same pace—Dave’s salary will grow faster than Jane’s.

This is a situation that happens all too frequently and is a source of serious employee dissatisfaction.

What’s more, even if Jane does leave Company A in the future, her potential future employers will still look at her salary history to determine an offer, putting her at yet another disadvantage.

How to get the best of both worlds

Image source: Pexels

While fresh graduates should always base their career decisions on their particular circumstances, it’s possible to take advantage of interim work while waiting for the job you want at the same time.

The demand for temporary staff in Singapore means it should be relatively easy to find a source of income, even if it’s contract-based. You can also go online to look for remote work outside your core expertise.

While all of this is happening, you can take advantage of government programmes to reinforce your CV for a permanent role. The Singapore Government recently created 700 paid research and development (R&D) traineeship positions to help new university and polytechnic graduates prepare for their job search. Traineeship offers an alternative way to pick up relevant skills while waiting for the economy to recover. It’s a great way to ensure your free time is being put to good use.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 displaced and furloughed workers have been matched with new roles by the NTUC Job Security Council between February and the first week of June. These graduate trainee programmes will help you acquire industry-relevant technical skills, develop your soft skills, and nurture an entrepreneurial mindset.

Bottom line? While Singapore’s jobs market is in bad shape, things aren’t hopeless for the new jobseeker.