Live & Learn
Taking Charge of Your Career Development During Traineeships
COVID-19 has had an undeniable impact on Singapore’s youth. An entire generation of college students has graduated only to find themselves face-to-face with an uncomfortable, highly competitive job market—and in some cases, they may find themselves unequipped for the jobs that are available.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this difficult situation. You are young, you are talented, and you are creative—there are many, many resources available for you to take charge of your career development, and many steps you can take to support yourself during this time.

One of the best ways to continue building your career is through a paid traineeship, a year-long working relationship where you’ll learn practical skills in the office. Within a traineeship, there are multiple ways to expand your experience and develop yourself as a candidate even further.

Why you should consider traineeship in the first place     

Several months ago, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) announced a joint initiative called the SGUnited Traineeships Programme. It’s designed to support fresh 2019 or 2020 graduates from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), as well as polytechnics, universities, and other private educational institutions.

The Traineeships Programme is designed to help companies get access to the workforce they need with funding support from the Government, and to help students get much-needed work experiences. Through this programme, the government hopes to assist businesses (including small-medium enterprises (SMEs), and large corporations) and students so that they can thrive post COVID-19.

Whereas an internship tends to last anywhere from three to six months, a traineeship can last up to one year. SGUnited Traineeships also offer a minimum stipend of at least $1,100 per month. You can browse thousands of traineeships through the dedicated online job portal—simply search “#SGUnitedTraineeships”.

The SGUnited Traineeships Programme is currently the best solution for a drifting fresh grad. It offers the stability, income, and experience that you may not have been able to locate in your search for a full-time role.

How to use your opportunity to forward your careers or land dream jobs

Landing a traineeship at a company you respect is only part of the challenge in growing your career. You could even view traineeship as a series of daily opportunities for you to hone your skills and deepen your perspective.

Each new day at a traineeship comes with myriad chances to learn something new, meet new people, and discover aspects about your desired career that you’d never considered during university. Here are some of our best tips so that you can take initiative and make the most of your year.

1. Build connections with colleagues and superiors—online and offline

Jobs can come and go, but the connections you make can last a lifetime. Your network will one day become one of your most meaningful assets, and to build it, you’ll need to show genuine interest and kindness to the people that surround you.

One of the best ways to stand out from all the other grads who are hoping to build their networks is by treating those around you fairly and with respect, even if you don’t think you can “gain” anything from them right now. It’s often said that you can tell someone’s character by the way they treat people who seem to have nothing to offer them.

By choosing to be genuine to everyone, you can avoid looking like a schmoozy, inauthentic trainee and instead grow your network in a healthy, organic way.

Besides, even if you’re not sure the effort is worth it right now, you never know where you (or they) will land one day, and having allies and good friends who care about you is always valuable.

Another point to consider: unite your offline and online networks whenever possible. Before you start your first day on the job, make sure you’ve created your LinkedIn profile and fill up all the relevant fields.

Craft an interesting, engaging introduction, and detail your prior experiences as much as possible. Ideally, people should feel pretty familiar with you after they’ve seen your profile, and be able to start a conversation with you should they meet you in person.

66% of Singaporeans use LinkedIn, and it can be a great way to maintain your connections long after you’ve left your company (like their posts, leave thoughtful comments, and show interest in their accomplishments). After you’ve introduced yourself to someone new at the office, seek them out on LinkedIn and connect with them there.

2. Practice being open and respectful about criticism

Many young people who are new to the workplace are nervous about making mistakes. They worry that a single mistake could cause their employer to terminate their relationship or regret ever hiring them in the first place.

Don’t worry! Your employer knows that you are a fresh grad with limited experience—that’s why it’s called a traineeship! Rather than trying to avoid mistakes, focus on developing a positive, humble attitude.

What does this look like? If you’re called out or reprimanded, keep an open mind. Thank them for their input, ask them to show you where you went wrong, and ask for advice on how to improve. Remember that a stern reprimand isn’t a personal attack on you—rather, it’s a way of showing that your actions could be improved.

Keeping a friendly attitude will help your colleagues and superiors feel more positive about working with you. If they know they can rely on you to take criticisms well, they’ll be more invested in helping you to grow to your fullest potential.

If you are feeling down about criticism or a mistake you made, remember that such feelings are completely normal. Avoid lashing out or getting angry in the workplace—unnecessary or misdirected anger can make the rest of your traineeship awkward or unpleasant. If you do have a serious concern, schedule a private discussion with your manager or an HR representative to share your thoughts.

3. Keep a journal of learnings

You’ll be at your traineeship for months, so a journal of learnings—where you track your achievements, day-to-day experiences, and all the lessons and concepts you’ve learned throughout your stay—can be a valuable keepsake and guide for the future.

When you’re feeling lost or discouraged, that journal will remind you of just how far you’ve come. And if you’re trying to solve a problem at one of your future roles, a few flipped pages may help you realise that you’ve successfully solved a similar challenge before.

You can journal in any notebook or even in your Notes app.

4. Be proactive—and hungry—for experience and responsibility

Be proactive. Taking charge of your career requires going above and beyond what you are asked to do. This means asking about opportunities, offering to take on a more significant role in a project, and seeking responsibility rather than waiting to be given assignments. This is a surefire way to stand out among others in your cohort or office.

You can’t progress in your career without having aptitude—the ability to handle a specific situation or address a challenge. If you can’t prove that you are capable, companies in the future will be reluctant to offer you a job. But if you can showcase how capable you were during your traineeship, future companies will easily be able to recognise your worth and offer you the compensation that you deserve.

5. Get qualifications—see if your new skills can help you earn a certification

You’ll learn practical skills, methodologies, and competencies at your traineeship. In many cases, these can be translated into a certification or micro-degree. For example, if you’ve learned about inbound marketing at your traineeship, you could grab a free HubSpot Certification on the side.

Mr. Seah Chin Siong, CEO of the Singapore Institute of Management, shares, “With micro-credentials, you can stack up to a higher qualification. Attend a few modules or online courses over a period of time, and in many cases the credits can be stacked up automatically with additional studies, all the way until you qualify for an advanced degree.”

As a candidate, having proof of your skills is a great way to validate your worth to potential employees—and a bargaining tool when negotiating a higher salary in the future.

6. Seek out a mentor whom you admire and respect

A great mentor is  irreplaceable and enormously helpful influence in your career development. Not only can they connect you to their own network—built over years or even decades—but they can also guide and lead you towards each new step in your journey.

It can be comforting and reassuring to have a more experienced guide that keeps you in check. When you’re happy about a new milestone, you can celebrate with them—and when you’re not sure if you made the right call, they can counsel you and help you decide the best way to move forward. Discussing your professional growth in this way will help you become a more nuanced, mature candidate and employee.

If there’s a senior at work whom you respect, try initiating a conversation with them about an issue you’re having, or simply ask a few questions about their own journey. You could also seek a mentor through a Meetups group, or online through LinkedIn or Twitter.

7. If you’re passionate about the company, express your interest in a longer-term role

Sometimes, the first company you stumble upon during your career journey could be the one you truly admire and respect. At the end of your traineeship, you may find yourself realising that there’s still so much you want to learn from that company. If that’s the case, why not let them know?

In many ways, your relationship with your company is no different from a relationship with your friends and loved ones. It requires communication. Rather than crossing your fingers and hoping to be offered a full-time position, take the initiative to express your interest.

Thank your superior for the experience, tell them that you would love to continue working with them, and be prepared to highlight your accomplishments if they ask.

Building your career in tough times will require you to be proactive and committed

Whether you’re filling out applications, preparing for your traineeship, or already in the thick of it, remember that you’re not alone. These are tough times, but if you are proactive, committed, and you have a strong network, you’ll definitely be able to make it through.

If you’re looking for a strong support system, why not join the Young NTUC SGUnited Traineeship Network? We aim to provide a safe platform for youths who are looking to take on traineeship programmes to network, share their experiences, get resources and useful content to help them in their traineeship journey.

To become a part of our network, simply join our Facebook group, or access our Telegram channel for regular updates on the latest workshops for fresh graduates  career resources, job opportunities and more!