Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Employer

Hint: High salary isn’t the most important reason to sign on that dotted line.
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Sarah Si
Sarah Si
Editor, gradsingapore
Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Employer_FeaturedImage

While everyone wants to start off their careers on a high income, local graduates and students today actually prioritise other considerations. In the annual Singapore 100 Leading Graduate Employers Survey 2021 conducted by GTI Media Singapore (S100 Survey), graduates highlighted five most crucial factors that’ll most likely affect their decisions when choosing their first employer (salary didn’t even make the top 10 list).

There are practical reasons for considering these factors graduates brought up – if you think about it, there’s really no point in choosing to work for an employer you’ll be unhappy with in the long run. For starters, it’s harder to look forward to work every day when you’re miserable, or to motivate yourself to give your best in what you do. In the worst-case scenario, you may even find yourself in a mentally dark place. So let’s see the top five factors new graduates look at when choosing their first employer, and what you can do to ensure you find an employer that can offer them to you!

Working under a good leader

Good leadership, advice and guidance is vital, and more so in times of uncertainty. In fact, for the first time in recent years, working under a good leader took the lead as the top influencing factor for 75.1% of graduates who took part in the S100 Survey.

Having your potential direct manager or supervisor included in the recruitment process is a good sign. When the time comes for you to ask questions, ask your potential manager or supervisor to describe the team you’ll be working with. If they understand the team dynamic well and keep tabs on everyone there, you know the person’s a good leader! Good leaders tend to make the effort to get to know their teams, understand their different workloads and constantly strive towards helping them develop personally and professionally.

Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Employer_01_Look for these common traits in good leaders

Good career progression prospects

The offer of good career progression prospects has always been one of the factors graduates have cited for several years running, garnering three-quarters of the S100 Survey votes this year. That’s not surprising, considering a clear idea of career progression can give rise to job satisfaction and a sense of purpose – values many graduates are aligned with. To drive the point home, in 2018, a survey by Randstad Singapore found that limited career paths were the driving factor behind 38% of employee turnover. In other words, clear career progression creates more tangible goals – professional growth, opportunities to learn and grow, promotions and even potential pay raises.

During the recruitment process, your prospective employer might broach the topic in later interviews. If they don’t, tactfully and politely touch on the subject with a sentence like, “What does a career path for a successful candidate in this position look like?”. This will let your employer know you’re thinking of staying with the company for the long-term; and that’s certainly not a bad thing!

Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Employer_02_ Practical goals clear career progression can offer you

Equal opportunities

Singapore’s a meritocratic society where diversity and equality are core values, complete with anti-discrimination laws, programmes and guidelines to keep discrimination in check. But in reality, despite these measures, 73.5% of graduates worry about whether their gender, race, sexuality and disability, among others, affect their opportunities.

To get around this issue, a quick way to figure out if you’ll get equal opportunities in a potential company is to do some research. If they’re a multinational corporation (MNC), chances are, they’ll have a dedicated diversity and inclusion (D&I) department, complete with public reports. If not, however, request a tour of the premises during the recruitment process. Later, ask yourself: How much diversity did you see in the office space and management levels? Are you comfortable with the diversity or lack thereof?

Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Employer_03_Get to know some guidelines that protect diversity in Singapore

Job security

Less graduates want to found their own start-up company, with only 26% of grads considering the idea in 2021, compared to 31.6% in 2020. And this is no surprise, seeing as 71.5% of graduates in the S100 Survey 2021 want job security, a much higher number than from 2020.

Although this paints a bleak picture of the impacts and cascading effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not entirely powerless. During the interview process, ask what skills development initiatives a company has that’ll allow you to hone your skill set and pick up new skills. On the other hand, if the company is only willing to take you on as a trainee, graduate intern, or part-time staff at the moment, don’t be afraid to ask how you can bolster your chances of gaining a conversion to full-time staff. Do your best to impress your manager to land that coveted full-time role!

Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Employer_04_Tips to improve your job security

Personal development and growth

No matter what others may think or say, work-life balance has long since graduated (pun intended!) from buzzword to a standard of living, as evidenced by the 71.2% of the votes the factor got. Employers have also more recently gotten on the proverbial bandwagon, and most organisations will assign a mentor to you, and who’ll oversee your progress both professionally and personally.

Find out if the employer has any schemes or initiatives for this during your interview process. These can include (socially-distanced) after-work departmental jogs in the park, to even monthly dinners with colleagues! But if you want more than what your prospective company offers, make a conscious effort to draw up a personalised personal development plan (PDP), or pursue your own interests in your own time.

Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Employer_05_How to draw up a successful personal development plan (PDP)

At the end of the day, you’ll likely want to spend up to five years with your first employer (especially if you decide to wait out the effects of COVID-19), so you won’t be doing yourself any favours if you don’t even like your job. You deserve stability and growth in these uncertain times, so don’t be afraid to put in the patience and effort!