There are many reasons you’ll enjoy working in Singapore. The EL team loves it and we’re sure you will, too! However, no matter what life stage you’re at – fresh out of uni and keen to work abroad; already living in Singapore with a partner as a trailing spouse; or working here already and looking to change ‘direction’ – you’ll want to know how to make it a reality. We answer some common questions about the job search in Singapore, and get views from a panel of residents who’ve already gone through the journey.
Plenty of newcomers to Singapore move here with their work, but what about those who arrive with working spouses or partners, and later decide to seek employment? If that’s you, here’s a fact file of things you’ll want to consider.
Here are five fundamental steps you can take to improve your chances of nailing down a job in Singapore.
- Have all your official documents including birth certificates, personal identification and university transcripts at the ready – Singapore-based employers will likely ask for these and you may need to provide original copies. They may also ask for a photograph with your CV.
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile and CV are both up to date. Your LinkedIn profile is a marketing advertisement for you, so it needs lots of appeal – and it also needs keywords that HR or recruiters may use when searching for candidates in your space. Your CV, meanwhile, should be short and simple (two pages is ample) – but scatter it with appropriate keywords too.
- See which recruiters are specialists in your field and go straight to them (via LinkedIn, for example); then find out which companies are posting jobs you’re interested in and get in touch. You’ll have a much better chance of breaking through the noise if someone has identified you as suitable talent.
- Spend time searching for a job every day until you get one. Searching can be a full-time job in itself – just stay determined and active. Be realistic about salary, too – remember that Singapore’s low tax rate will often offset a lower base salary.
- Attend interviews or take Zoom calls even if you’re not 100 percent sure you want the position. Many companies can create roles for the right person, but they have to meet you first.
Starting a Business
Many expats come to Singapore with a fresh business idea; others discover an entrepreneurial streak once they’re here. But how do you turn it into a real-life proposition?
First, you’ll need to apply for an EntrePass through the Ministry of Manpower (MOM; mom.gov.sg). This involves writing a detailed business plan and financial projections, plus meeting certain requirements (see mom.gov.sg/passesand-permits/entrepass/ eligibility). The application fee is $105, and successful applicants are issued an Approval-in-Principle letter within eight weeks. There is an additional fee of $225 once the pass is issued.
The business must also be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA; acra.gov.sg) as a private limited company and be less than six months old on the date of application. This can be done online using a SingPass (apply at singpass. gov.sg).
Registration fees are $15 for the name application and $300 to incorporate the company. Registration is usually approved within 15 minutes for online applications.
GETTING A WORK PASS
You’ll need a work pass (work visa) to get on the payroll in Singapore, and recent changes by the MOM have added extra complexity around this for expats.
The Fair Consideration Framework allows affirmative discrimination, and employers are required to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass (EP) holders. A quota system regulates the ratio of foreign and local workers in the workplace.
Dependant’s Pass holders used to be entitled to work after obtaining a Letter of Consent (LOC), which their employer applied for – a relatively easy process. However, LOCs for DP holders were phased out from 2021. You’ll now need to apply for an EP or a S Pass instead – and it’s more complicated. For one thing, there are qualifying salaries, a strong emphasis on educational background, and a requirement to work full-time hours.
To check your likelihood of obtaining an EP or S Pass, use the MOM’s online Self-Assessment Tool.
- CareerSource | aasingapore.com/careersource-support-home
- The Athena Network | theathenanetwork.com.sg
- PrimeTime | primetime.org.sg
- Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) | scwo.org.sg
- Mums@Work | fb.com/mumsatworksingapore
- ANZA | anza.org.sg
Panel Tips: Got any advice on finding a job or career matters in general? Anything you’d do differently as a newcomer?
“I get asked this a lot as I’m active in women’s groups. Having hired many expats in the past and worked with many women owned businesses especially, I see the struggles people have. I think the main challenge is you need to be realistic; if you don’t know the region, the culture and local clients, your skills might be relevant but you need to work harder to be better than someone local with the same skills – not just to get the job but also the visa.
Be flexible about what you could do and network, network, network; there are lots of chamber of commerce events, sector-specific events and women’s networking groups like Athena where you can network. But remember that it’s a two-way conversation; if you’re only there to get a job, then you won’t build relationships, so think about how you can help others and what you bring to the table too.”
I came here because of my job. However, I think researching before you make the move would be wise. Otherwise, there are networks of people who can help you connect. I’m from australia, and there is one organisation called austcham (austcham.Org.Sg) that connects australian members in the business community.
I currently have my own gig – a wine import, distribution and online retail business specialising in South African wines. Prior to this, I had my own recruitment consulting company when I first arrived in Singapore 17 years ago. As a newcomer back then, I probably should have started work in a company as an avenue to meet people and build connections before going into solopreneurship.
After being an air hostess with Singapore Airlines for seven years, I’ve been running my own dance fitness company for the past 10 years. I would say, if possible, find a job you love, and continue upgrading your skills through courses and training – there is no end to the self-improvement available.
I just started working at the beginning of this year. Before that, I was taking care of our kids and being a housewife. When we arrived in Singapore, it felt like a long vacation, and I convinced myself I needed a career break. I wasn’t right about that. I would suggest looking for volunteer opportunities right away when you arrive. This will help tremendously in getting a job later.
Before I arrived in Singapore. I’d already lined up a job through a friend in France who connected me with a chef here. So, my advice would be to get connected with people that you already know and use them to build up more connections that in turn help you find a job and grow your network.
I’m a finance lawyer and I work for a bank, but when I moved here I didn’t have a role lined up. I think if you haven’t worked in Asia beforehand then it’s important to try and gain some Asian market experience; one way I did that was to join a legal platform and provide some consulting services for a few months before securing a permanent role.
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