Covid-19: What Can Young Jobseekers Do To Survive This Recession?

By Tang Kai Long   •   6 min read

Singapore will be entering a recession because of the economic impact from Covid-19. What does that mean for young jobseekers – especially those who have just graduated?

We spoke to Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp to get her perspectives on the current situation and shed some light on the actual reality of recruitment right now. Sharon has been an experienced Campus Recruiter with past experiences at GSK, Oracle, HPE, Accenture, and more.

If you’d like to read the full transcript with Sharon Lim — which includes additional details and questions not included in this article — you can download it here:

Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp

Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp

You were doing recruitment during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis as well. How is this recession different from the financial crisis back then?

From what I recall, the financial crisis was more of a progressive thing – like you kind of saw it coming one or two months prior to the crisis itself. So people were more or less prepared. They had time to prepare for their retrenchment, so even though it was still a stressful period, they were mentally ready for it.

It was not something like Covid-19 that kind of happened overnight. Covid-19 just took away jobs, like all of a sudden there were no more jobs – even if the industry was doing so well.

The Government was quick to react, implementing measures promptly to stop the situation from going out of hand. This was done rather quickly and so the public may not have enough time to react.

Were there some takeaways or advice you had from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis that you can share with jobseekers entering the Covid-19 recession?

I always believed in honing your skills, and to always keep your skills updated. The main takeaway would pretty much be not getting too comfortable or content with what you have.

The mindset that “I’m going to be with this company for the next 10-20 years” is going away. They used to say that a Government job is as good as an iron rice bowl. However, that’s not the case anymore. Even if you join an organization that is under Government, it is not guaranteed that you will still have a job by the time you are 50 or 60. It’s not guaranteed.

In fact it’s very volatile, even in organisations like the Government. They also do have retrenchment and let-goes. When comparing the MNCs to the public sector, I guess the only difference is the latter try their best to keep their employees around. If they are really at the point where it’s too difficult, that’s when they look at retrenching employees.

In times like these, it’s not only the older folks that are being impacted. People who just started working 3-4 years may also get retrenched. It’s no longer the case where you only get the retrenchment letter after you hit the retirement age. You could be just starting your job for 2 years, and when the company goes bust, suddenly you’re out of a job.

Even after upgrading myself, honing my skills, I am still not landing any jobs. What am I doing wrong? What should I do instead?

You can have all the relevant skillsets, but if there are no jobs for you – there’re no jobs.

So I always believe in keeping a very healthy network. For example, if you applied for a job, and you are one of hundreds or thousands of applicants. One way you can stay ahead of them is if you constantly build that network of people that you know.

Be it a business contact or personal contact, I believe this is where it comes in handy. All the people you have always been in touch with, they may just happen to know a potential employer. Be it your friend, or associate, or just someone that knows that you are looking for a job. They may remember you as someone that did a great job in whatever project you have worked on together.

Selling yourself in a non-aggressive way through LinkedIn and social networks actually progressively put you in a situation where such things happen.

Within your personal contacts, you may have friends that might call you and say: “Hey you know, do you want to get a job? Are you out of job right now? Do you need help?” I often get such calls even though I am currently employed right now.

How do I build a network when I haven’t even started work?

If you are a fresh graduate, then you may have to build your network within your school. I personally feel that networking can start even when you are in the university itself. Your seniors in school can potentially be your seniors at work.

I know it’s not easy for everybody. Especially for those that don’t like to keep in contact with people that they hardly talk to. But for me, I personally enjoy it.

Isn’t it common for companies to put in place a hiring freeze during a recession? Are companies actually still hiring?

Companies are still hiring, but they are being very cautious about it. Especially fresh grads and interns. The quota of how many to hire may be reduced.

The concern actually comes from both sides. Employers are worried about how to manage the new hires, and the new hires themselves are also concerned. “I am new to the job, how am I going to pick up the ropes? Is it even possible?”

Related article: 8 Recession job hunting insights you always wanted to know

Are there recession-proof jobs/evergreen jobs that you still can get even in pandemic times like this?

I think there are, but people tend to be picky.

For example in Sembcorp, the work is located at Jurong Island, which is very far for most people. These are the kind of jobs that one can easily get even in our current situation. If you are willing to travel all the way to Jurong Island to do the job, then consider yourself hired. The hiring process can be as easy as that.

Let me share another example: a trash collector. Because people still need to throw garbage, the nature of the work of a trash collector then becomes essential. When it comes down to jobs, the so-called “recession-proof” jobs then takes the form of essential services that people may not be necessarily fond of. These jobs can be easily replaced because it is easy for them to hire people. However, the retention rate would naturally below, because once the economy picks up, people jump to a better job. Only when they have absolutely no options do they resort to such jobs.

So if we get really technical there aren’t really any recession-proof jobs – only essential businesses. But they also tend to be the easily-replaceable jobs.


Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp

Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp


It’s a difficult period for everyone who’s either trying to get a job or keep their jobs. We’ve curated the best-of-the-best career resources out there on our Covid-19 Career Resources page. Includes companies still hiring, recession job hunting tips, work from home advice, mental wellness support, and more resources you don’t want to miss.

Remember: It’s definitely going to be challenging – but it won’t be impossible.


Tang Kai Long

TalentTribe Writer

If his life were a book, the title would be "The Woes Of A Jobseeker". Understanding the jobseeking-induced torment, Kai hopes to help individuals in the same plight through the articles he writes.


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