Up Close & Personal
Changing Career Directions

Story and Photos by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat

When you are working as an air stewardess, the time spent away from friends and family which can be as long as two weeks at a stretch, has a way of taking its toll. 

“It was a dream job for me and I really enjoyed the work, but being away from my family during festivals and special occasions because of work got to me. Sometimes I will miss home on longer flights that may span nearly 12 days. This eventually made me decide to consider doing something else and muster the courage to move on,” shared the 33-year-old. 

She added that it took nearly 1.5 years to come to a firm decision and call time on a 6.5 year flying career.

Keeping an Open Mind

While Alina had no preferred industry in mind, she wanted a job that was people-oriented and offered mobility in Singapore. This led her to think about a role in sales. 

“Being a service role, there are many similarities between flying and sales. I feel that there are a lot of transferable skills from my flying days, such as how to engage with others. I also didn’t want a desk-bound job, and sales allows me to be out and about, meeting new people and interacting with them,” she said. 

Her job search eventually led her to join SuperSteam as a sales executive in 2015. 

“I’m quite open to a lot of different things and new ideas. What people see on the surface of an industry is totally different once you get into it,” said Alina. 

“I believe that we need to give ourselves at least six months to at least a year in a job. Then I’ll be able to know if it is suitable after having been able to go in-depth into the real job itself.  Before I even knew it, the three years I’ve been here at Super Steam have passed so quickly,” she added. 

Picking Up New Knowledge

Having a positive mindset may be half the battle, but the other half is in quickly learning the trade. Alina’s role involves meeting existing and prospective customers to present and demonstrate the effectiveness of SuperSteam’s range of cleaning products, cleaning chemicals, machines and supplies. 

“I had zero technical background of the machines and chemicals we sell and no sales knowledge. I underwent training, learnt the necessary technical knowledge and even role-played on how to close deals. Reading and attending lessons helped in the theory aspect, but I found that being hands-on is the most effective way to learn, along with going out to meet more people and doing more product presentations” she said.

Three years in, Alina still counts making a sale as one of the most satisfying aspects of the job. 

“The cost of the machines can be in the tens of thousands. As our company is not the only one selling these machines, it is very satisfying to know that my customers trust me enough to buy my products,” she revealed. 

Reflecting on the transition, Alina says that she now has a greater appreciation of the industry and has built greater rapport with her clients. 

“Before joining the cleaning industry, I had a simple impression of cleaning, that it was just about keeping an area clean. After being a part of it, I found that there are immense efforts being devoted to cleaning, which is why Singapore’s environment can be as clean as it is. It is more than just sweeping and mopping, but also includes the use of chemicals and machines to achieve the outcome,” she said. 

Alina admits that having an open mind is central to her being able to manage the demands of the job. 

“Customers will, at some point, come to you with certain issues. This could be stains on the floor or toilet odour issues. There will be occasions when you will have to make your way into toilets or bin centres where people throw their rubbish and it can be very smelly. 

“I still am not used to it, but I will always do what needs to be done to help my clients solve their issues,” she said. 

Keen on making the switch into the environmental services sector? Keep a look out for future editions of Young NTUC’s Green Jobs Symposium and other career support programmes here.