SINGAPORE (July 15): Employers in Singapore are preparing for an influx of fresh university graduates to enter the job market.

About 18,500 Singapore students are expected to graduate in July, of which 6,000 are in IT and engineering and 1,300 in accountancy.

These are based on latest available figures from 2017 and assuming relatively static population growth.

And although Singapore has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in Asia Pacific, new professionals are entering the job market in a state of rapid change as local businesses are increasingly embracing new digital technologies and automation tools as part of the Digital Industry Singapore (DISG) office established in June.

In an effort to help companies digitalise and keep pace with changing technology, the DISG aims to create about 10,000 new tech-related jobs over the next three years, with digitisation as a whole expected to drive emerging job opportunities and growth in IT, communications, finance, insurance and professional services.

With this, recruitment specialists and job agency Robert Half has come up with five useful tips for Singapore fresh graduates.

1. Equip yourself with in-demand technical skills

With the increased focus on business skills and digital innovation, employers are constantly seeking commercial-savvy finance and accounting professionals who can demonstrate in areas like Microsoft suite, analytics, SAP, BI and ERP, according to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide.

In particular, the top skills in the financial services sector that are in demand include programming (Python, R, Tableau), private equity and hedge fund accounting, as well as fluency in Mandarin.

Meanwhile, in the IT industry, cyber-security, risk management, data science, as well as programming skills are the most sought-after roles.

Currently, the DISG has plans to work with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) as well as industry and local education institutions to introduce training that focuses on areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber-security, data science and network engineering to prepare the workforce for the estimated 10,000 new tech-related jobs the DISG will help create and to equip workers with increasingly in-demand tech-related skills.

2. Soft skills matter

Having technical knowledge may be important, but emotional intelligence is also becoming increasingly valued.

Employers now are looking to recruit professionals with soft skills such as communication and negotiation, teamwork, creative problem solving and adaptability, as these skills are considered key to career success, due to their role in influencing organisational stakeholders and making data-driven strategic decisions.

According to Robert Half, internships, volunteering, temporary or part-time work, and adopting a ‘constant learning’ mindset can all help improve employability in a thriving but highly competitive job market.

3. Prioritise professional development

For career starters who want to further enhance their skills, Singapore’s SkillsFuture initiative is a great choice. The initiative is aimed at helping to develop a culture that supports and celebrates lifelong learning.

As technology is constantly evolving, professionals need to upskill regularly to stay relevant – a core reason for the introduction of the SkillsFuture programme. The ‘Emerging Skills’ areas of the program include cyber-security, data analytics, digital media and tech-enabled services.

4. Job for life is obsolete

Traditionally, job-hopping is frowned upon. But according to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide, 56% of Singapore CFOs are willing to hire a candidate that has made four or more job changes in the last decade.

Although with multiple jobs come broad and diverse skills, Robert Half recommends professionals who are early in their careers to find a comfortable balance for themselves, as taking time to ‘grow in a role’ shows loyalty that may be rewarded in terms of promotions and pay increments.

In addition, young professionals should not feel shy about seeking new opportunities if they feel they are lacking compensation or career progression in their current workplace.

5. Consider temporary jobs

Robert Half recommends graduates to also consider entering the job market via temporary or project work, as this can help them learn new skills and experience, while building their professional network.

Through these employment opportunities, they can also determine what type of company they’d like to work for over the long term.

For some temporary professionals who perform well, the employer may even offer a permanent position if and when there is an available opportunity.