Insights on An Asia-Ready Workforce with INSPIRIT

As a cosmopolitan city, Singapore is often seen as the launchpad for international businesses from all parts of the world into Southeast Asia. With a highly educated workforce and vibrant ecosystem, it is one of the most attractive cities to start a business and for MNCs to set up headquarters in. Since Singapore’s focus is always regional, it is essential for Singaporeans to constantly look beyond our shores and be ready to seize new opportunities.

On 9 December 2020, Advisory was privileged to host a sharing session with the industry’s most distinguished professionals. On our panel that evening, we had Serene Lim, Associate Director from ANZ Bank; Hannah Lim, Head of Rule of Law and Emerging Markets, Southeast Asia from LexisNexis; Alin Dobrea, Regional Head of Marketing Solutions and Partnerships from ZALORA; S. R. Sami, Former Managing Director, Corporate Credit from ING Bank.

The fruitful exchange between the panelists and audience, comprising early career professionals, provided an eye-opening perspective on the immense opportunities available in Southeast Asia and beyond. Here are some main takeaways from the discussion:

By Jack Chan

Acquire work experiences and spend time talking to your professors or teachers while you are still studying. Doing summer internships and taking on part-time jobs gave one of our panellists a better understanding of the industry and helped him to be more ‘street smart’ by the time he graduated.

More importantly, picking up a new language, even at an amateur level, is highly advantageous as it will provide a good foundation to immerse yourself in the culture of the country you are posted to. Sometimes, knowing the local language sets you up to be selected to work in the country you desire.

Embrace the opportunity to be posted overseas if given. Sometimes, it may be difficult because the particular country may not sound enticing or not a place we had in mind. However, it will still be an invaluable learning experience as the panelists shared in hindsight.

For one panelist, this is especially important since Singapore is so well-structured. Working overseas provides us exposure and forces us to do lateral thinking in unstructured environments.

Asia is not a homogeneous state. Within Asia, you have countries like China, India, Singapore and Indonesia with highly diverse cultures. Hence, we have to be adaptable and continually learn on the job.

When placed in new social environments, we need to be cognizant of our cultural biases and assumptions about the local culture. Instead, be observant, humble, show willingness to learn and empathy when you interact with local professionals. Cultures that are more conservative tend to be more hierarchical, but it may not be true for others. Do your research, read up and ask others about their experience to prepare yourself so you are not caught by surprise.

The panelists concluded with advice for young people today: continue to have hope for the future, because everyone needs one another. Remember to look beyond codified experiences and to take time to know yourself. Meanwhile, continue to hone your own soft skills through internships and extracurricular programs.