4 Mistakes Young Singaporean Employees Make That Might Cost Them Their Jobs

By Joanne Poh

So you’ve just graduated and you’re about to enter the working world. The minute you step into the office on your first day at work, you look around for attractive young things around your age to have lunch with, pray that your clubbing outfit for tonight is office-appropriate with a blazer thrown over it and pin up cool postcards with ironic slogans on your cubicle walls

If you’re a clueless 20-something at your first job, here are four big mistakes people your age are prone to making.

Working crazy hours and then burning out

In Singapore, employers tend to be of the opinion that employees who are young and childless should “pay their dues” by working long hours and proving their worth. It’s not unusual for fresh grads in certain industries to work till 10pm or later every day, returning to the office even on weekends.

That’s a big reason so many young professionals are suffering from burnout these days, according to this news report. Depression, insomnia and overwhelming stress are running young workers into the ground, forcing some of them to take an extended break from work even before they hit 30.

While you should certainly give the job your best shot, don’t do so to the exclusion of maintaining a a well-balanced life and looking after your health. If you have no social life and get by on four hours of sleep a night, you’re not only going to hate your job like the majority of Singaporeans out there, you’ll also look and feel 45 when you reach the age of 30.

Lying too low

Singaporeans are often very paiseh in the workplace. Apart from the few suck-ups in the office who are usually hated by their colleagues, most just keep their heads down and try to stay out of sight, hoping that if they work industriously in the background they’ll eventually be promoted.

This is especially true of younger employees, who are often at the mercy of their superiors and feel it would be audacious of them to claim credit.

While we’re not suggesting you start buttering up your superiors shamelessly or tooting your own horn, don’t be too scared to claim credit for something you’ve done. If you’ve got a boss or colleague who constantly steals credit or forgets to acknowledge other people’s contributions, learn to document work you’ve done, for instance by ccing the right people when you’ve completed a piece.

Being more engaged in the work process, for instance by seeking feedback on your work, also sends a clear signal that you’re not just twiddling your thumbs behind the computer screen.

Not working on your presentation skills

You might have gotten good grades at university by way of simply mugging day and night. But in the workplace, keeping your head down and plugging away isn’t going to make you the ideal employee.

In reality, even if your job involves screwing caps onto toothpaste tubes all day, you’re going to have to work with other people, and especially at the higher levels you will need to be a good communicator in order to leave a good impression.

Assuming that just producing good paperwork will help you get ahead is a big mistake. You’re no longer sitting the O levels, so realise that how you interact with clients and colleagues, send emails, dress and carry yourself all matter.

Acting entitled

You’re used to being regarded as an elite student, having breezed through the O levels and A levels, and then going on to get a degree at NUS, SMU or a fancypants overseas university.

So when you enter the working world and realise you were hired to do, for lack of a better term, ‘sai kang’, you get offended and try to offload the duty of photocopying or proofreading to some hapless intern or admin staff.

But you see, young padawan, your superiors aren’t going to judge you by how perfectly you manage to photocopy each document or how nicely you made their coffee. They’re going to judge you based on the attitude with which you perform even the most mundane of tasks.

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 18 November 2015. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Joanne Poh)

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.


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