HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Jacky Tan

How can a Singaporean compete with a foreign talent?


“Anyone Can Win the Game So Long the Rules are Fair".

It is true that the pace of life in Singapore is picking up really fast; homes are getting more expensive, trains are getting more packed, and most controversially of all, the job market has become highly  competitive  due to the influx of foreign talents.

This is the reality that we are facing today and we have to learn to deal with it tactfully.

As hard as we hope to see some changes from the government, why not we start the change from within ourselves?


1. Show Positive Results Through Your Action

We must think that jobs are not always secured. Instead, we must continue to take action and create positive results for ourselves as well as for the company. The better your company can grow, the more “secured” your job will then be.

Amidst building your company portfolio, you also need to build your own industry value; this will act as a backup plan for you, just in case any unforeseen circumstances occur, you will not be affected by it.

2. Be an Expert in Your Industry

If you are an expert in your industry, not just your colleagues know about you but people in your industry knows who you are and how capable you are.

You could write a blog article and share your opinions to teach people on things that you are very capable of. In this way, people will perceive you as an expert and your niche industry value will therefore rise as a result.

Not only that, overseas employers may also get to notice you, and they might offer you a better salary package to invite you to be their foreign talent.

3. Always have a Winning Attitude

Don’t lose that Kiasu-ism in you. Instead of being “kiasu” for MRT seats, let’s be “kiasu” to be the top professionals in our job industry. Let’s be “kiasu” in our confidence that we can be better than the competition. Let’s compete to be first not just locally, but also globally. You have what it takes when you have that winning attitude in you.

4. Nurture Your Talents

Continue to upgrade yourself, learn new things and skills even after you graduate. Expand your learning curve. Read more. Create a niche skill for yourself, do something that average professionals in your industry find difficult to follow.

5. Don’t Compete in Low Prices

Don’t give in to low salaries if you think you are worth more than that. If the employer were to employ “talents” based on their willingness to take in lower salaries, you could forget about joining this company. This is because such company does not appreciate real talent. Look for other companies that are able to pay you the salary that you’re worth for.


As the saying goes, it takes 2 hands to clap. The employer also has a role to play in this “Singaporean vs Foreigner” competition.

Equal Opportunity

The employer’s main responsibility to make the game rules fair, thus ensuring that equal opportunity is available for all. Anyone, whether it is a local talent or a foreign talent, has the same opportunity to be promoted to higher levels in the corporate hierarchy so long they have shown great achievements in their jobs.

Get Real Talents, Not Low Priced Talents

Companies should not employ people based on the fact that they are willing to work harder and accept a much lower salary package; if not, such company will not be able to have real talents.

Real talents, be it local or foreign, are employees who will help their companies to grow their market share much faster than its competitors. They are the ones who are able to think out of the box to create many positive opportunities for the company to grow. Hence, the return in investment on real talents can be expected to be higher than employing someone who is able to accept a lower salary but produced little to none result.

Just like market positioning, companies that compete based on low prices may have to face the consequences of turning its products and services into a commodity. When you are selling a commodity, you will lose your product differentiation and your brand identity in the long run.

Look Beyond Paper Qualifications and Experience

Except for companies that require certain specific skills or knowledge, employers should look beyond paper qualifications as well as work experience especially in new employees or our fresh graduates.

Employers should come out with more performance based jobs in the way the employee has to achieve certain results for the company within the probation period. The emphasis here will be more on “achieving results for the company” and not going through the motions at work.

Hence, when all conditions remain equal, whether it is local talent or foreign talent, anybody can have a shot at the job. It all boils down in having the right attitude as well as really showing positive results at work within the probation period. It’s all about taking action right now and not really much about paper qualifications or work experience.

Such increase in competiveness within the company will somehow increase the competitiveness level of the company within the global economy as well.


Let’s embrace our foreign counterparts and compete with them with our utmost respect and sportsmanship. Nobody will know who will win the talent war eventually, but what matters the most is whether or not we have put up a good fight.

With the change in our perception within ourselves, we can see that foreign competition may be one of the many reasons that can help us to better ourselves and improve our own industry values and portfolio.

To end my sharing, let me quote what our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s said in his recent rally,

“Singaporeans must show a generosity of spirit to one another, including new arrivals.”

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Jacky Tan

Jacky Tan

Jacky Tan is a brand strategist, professional marketing writer, blogger, speaker, and author. He is also the chairperson and keynote speaker for Marketing Asia Conference 2016. Jacky leads boutique marketing and branding agency 'Jack and Chaz Pte Ltd'.

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