Between August and December 2014, I was at a crossroad on where I’m going next in my career. I enjoyed my work earning my keep. However due to reasons listed in this post “Why I Quit Freelancing in Singapore”, it was time to move on. Now where should I go?
Considering Allied Health Occupations
I explored a mid-career switch to physiotherapy or occupational therapy, because I figured there is an increasing demand for therapists and you can hardly be out of a job. Healthcare sector is always hiring, and to make the deal sweeter, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) works with employers (hospitals and not-for-profit organisations) to give study sponsorships to mid-career professionals. Well the catch? You have to work for the sponsoring employer for 3 years after your study and if you default on your promise, you’d have to pay back what is due to them. It’s a fair deal – a way to prevent brain drain out of the country. Singapore has no natural resources, except humans – our most valuable asset. 🙂
On my part to know more what I’m getting into, I attended WDA’s prep talk. In addition, I signed up for the 1-day pre-conference visit during the National Occupational Therapy Conference. I also took the initiative to request for a visit to Singapore General Hospital for observations in the various wards (e.g. general surgery, burns, geriatrics) with the physiotherapy and occupational therapy departments. It was an eye-opening experience. I’ll blog more about it the next time.
After what I did, I still wasn’t sure if I would want this. I don’t think I’d want to settle on a 30% cut from my previous salary. I think my uncertainty showed at the interview and I didn’t get through it.
I had my concerns of returning to marketing after my last full-time position. Was I really suited for marketing? Am I just running away using the excuse of a ‘career switch’? Is there a mismatch of my values with marketing?
I was also somewhat burnout. While I love design then, now I find the design production process a chore. When they say too much of a good thing isn’t good, I fully agree here. I knew I don’t wish to go back to full-time designing. After that, I toyed with the idea of being a Ministry of Education (MOE) teacher but I had my reservations too.
I did some psychometric tests, DISC and MBTI among others, and I didn’t get a clear answer. I was still at a lost. I don’t know what I want to do. From then on, I knew I need a professional second opinion, or at least get a professional to assist me to draw my own conclusion.
Because my mind was a fuzzy mess.
Getting Help – Career Counselling
I searched online, and there were few results on career counselling in Singapore for working professionals. I found two – one was Sandbox Advisors (SA) and the other Gary & Pearl International Pte Ltd (G&P).
SA uses psychometric tests, giving a list of ideal educational and career options based on a combined interpretation of an individual’s personality and interests. After that, they will provide a detailed analysis of the reports and a career advisor will explain the assessment, engage in some exercises and discuss/go through some options. Depending on which 1 of the 3 programs you choose, how much details you get vary. Cost ranges from SGD280 to SGD575.
G&P has a different approach and their targeted clientele is people experiencing burnout or are at a crisis in their career, to help them gain clarity on their jobs and career goals. I also read their clients’ testimonials, structure of their counselling and FAQ. I was initially a little put off by the high cost, so I wrote in and reply was swift. I spoke to Vinod, the associate director, a day after I sent the email for a better understanding of what I’m getting into. In the end, I picked G&P because it seems to be a better solution fit to my issue than SA. Because if I have done psychometric tests and I’m still running around in circles, then I think SA won’t be able to help as much.
Keep Calm and Counsel On
G&P office is in Golden Mile Complex. I wasn’t aware that Golden Mile Complex has an office tower. All I know is this place is where the Thai people gather on their off-days and where tourists commute on coaches to Malaysia.
What surprised me was from the office tower’s vantage point, you could see Singapore’s beautiful cityscape.
More surprises – there was even a disused swimming pool on top of a carpark. I must say, architectural implementations in those days are pretty contemporary!
It is a very old building and corridors are eerily quiet on weekdays. I reckon people working behind those closed doors are in small office spaces, just like G&P’s. What I like about the location was its close proximity to a 3-storey hawker centre that serves up delicious local foods.
All information shared within the counselling sessions are kept confidential, and whatever was written on the whiteboard film are taken down after the session. You can take photos of all that were documented on the film. Before the first session, you will have to do some homework – thinking about activities you like, dislike and feel neutral about, hobbies, aspirations as a child / teenager, mentors, behaviours that seem ‘out of character’ for you, skills you’d like to acquire, qualities in people that attract and repel you, favourite food, last holiday etc.
I won’t be able to share more photos, other than this one which I think it’s pretty neutral to show on the Internet. Purpose of the first two sessions would be to go wide (exploratory stage), and then go deeper to discover your stress trigger factors, reasons for the current burnout / imbalance that you’re feeling in your life and your possible career options.
Vinod asked questions to show and write down your thoughts and replies. In one instance, he asked what marriage mean to me. I would equate marriage as love, companionship and sacrifice. However it might be different to others – they could hold its meaning as love, having children and a family. And when we talked about the possibility of me being a teacher, he questioned whether I’m putting myself in stress if I were to be assigned to a primary school. Suddenly, I was enlightened. I didn’t mention about children in that ‘marriage’ query, so would I be able to handle them? How about marking assignments or exam papers? – Can I imagine myself in that situation?
On the onset, there were a lot of probing. Questions you probably never thought on a deeper level, let alone answering your replies out loud. I find that this is a helpful process that crystallises thoughts and clears your mind. Vinod’s role as a counsellor is to be a facilitator, so he doesn’t give you the answers or tell you what to do. In the last session, he will provide a roundup. After that, you will somehow naturally come to know what you should do next, versus before you first step into the counselling and are bouncing off everywhere and anywhere.
In this fast-paced life, we get swept up in going with the motion day-in day-out. What he has provided gives us the opportunity to slow down our footsteps, “stop and smell the rose” – to make us probe deep and think about ourselves and our lives we are currently leading. All the documentation on the whiteboard film will serve as a lighthouse for future decision-making process, applicable in other aspects of life, e.g. studies / family, other than for work.
As far as I know, G&P may be the only one providing such a detailed service that looks at your entire life to present. I paid $750 for approx. 18 hours done in 4 sessions, and also had a follow-up session outside office to find out how I was doing in my new job. You may need more or lesser sessions, depending on how fast you set the pace.
I’m glad that I went through counselling and it has benefited me. Counselling in Asian societies somewhat remains like a taboo. In a metropolitan city like Singapore, there are people who are generally still embarrassed by it. Pride of self, face saving and showing vulnerability are the greatest stumbling blocks to a person’s own improvement and hope. I’d rather be proactive, grab the bull by its horn, and nip issues in the bud, rather than passively taking things as they are.
Is your current situation doing you any good?
If it’s not, maybe it’s high time to get help and look at your life in a different perspective.
*Note: I do not receive any remuneration from G&P or Vinod to write about my experience.
Hope you have enjoyed reading this entry. Feel free to check with me on Twitter if you have any questions.
— Sharon Lee (@sharonleesg) April 22, 2015