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What Bosses Want: Preparing Students for the Workplace

29 May 2014

  • What Bosses Want_Preparing Students for the Workplace_1

    Industry heavyweights shared with parents and students what they looked for in potential employees, at a COMPASS Conversation, "What Bosses Want".

  • What Bosses Want_Preparing Students for the Workplace_2

    Parents and industry players had the opportunity to network.

Finding a job and having a successful career is the aim of every graduating student. But what are bosses looking for in an employee? What are the traits that appeal most to employers?

To share their perspective and insights as bosses, industry heavyweights from sectors such as banking and finance, health sciences as well as infocomm and media, spoke to parents and students at a seminar, What Bosses Want, on 25 April. The seminar was organised by COMPASS (COMmunity and PArents in Support of Schools).

What Bosses Want_Preparing Students for the Workplace_3_Joshua Soh_CISCO“Are we setting them up for success or failure?”

From his perspective as a Managing Director of CISCO Systems (Singapore & Brunei), Mr Joshua Soh shared that in the technical industry, academic achievements were often not crucial. In fact, a university degree would not necessarily make one more equipped for the job than a diploma. What was more crucial was having the relevant skills and professional certifications.

Speaking to a crowd of parents and students, Mr Soh was of the opinion that people who learnt better experientially and through a hands-on approach should consider applied learning institutions like the polytechnics. Parents could also do their part to find out more about the diverse programmes and help their children choose schools that would match their strengths and interests.

“Polytechnic graduates usually have a direct link to what we need in the industry,” said Mr Soh.

Though Mr Soh has been in the IT industry for close to 20 years, he initially studied Arts at the National University of Singapore. Later on, he realised that his interests were in IT during an internship with an IT company. He went on to pursue this path, and underwent professional development.

“If we push our kids without giving due consideration to where their strengths lie, are we really setting them up for success?” asked Mr Soh.

What Bosses Want_Preparing Students for the Workplace_4_Shahul Hamid_Abbott Laboratories US

“The interview process is not a one way street”

“There are people who rehearse their lines for job interviews,” said Mr Shahul Hamid Bin Jahabar Sali, Regional Director at Abbott Laboratories US.

But they need to do more than that to prepare for a successful job application and interview. Studying a company’s profile and the career progression it offers is something graduating students can do to assess their suitability for the job.

“It also shows how much interest you have in the organisation,” said Shahul.

Looking carefully at the job description and qualities required is also important. In this way, students can prepare themselves by considering what they can bring to the organisation.

At interviews, bosses would often also look for non-academic participation, to better decipher a prospective employee’s character and personal qualities.

What Bosses Want_Preparing Students for the Workplace_5_Han Kwee Juan_Citibank“Attitude wins you 50% of the battle”

“We treasure people with initiative because we will empower you,” said Mr Han Kwee Juan, CEO, Country Business Manager of Citibank Singapore Ltd.

Motivation and interest make a huge difference to the daily grind of work. Mr Han shared that Citibank had hired people with qualifications not related to banking, because of their mindset and attitude.

For example, he had hired an employee because of her high energy, which was crucial in a direct sales job. Her performance was outstanding, so the company was supportive when she indicated her interest to be in a completely different field of retail banking. They believed that her enthusiasm and attitude, matched with the right training and opportunities, would bring about great results.

“We want people who are adaptable”, said Mr Han Kwee Juan, who recognises the need for employees to continue learning and re-learning, if they are to stay relevant in the workplace.