, Singapore

Gen Z: The trials and tribulations of seeking employment

Accounting expert Chiew Chun Wee talks about the challenges faced by Singapore’s younger employees.

Generation Z seems to have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to starting their careers, either getting their first job or graduating in the middle of a global health crisis. Suddenly physical offices have been shuttered for industries that can implement hybrid work-from-home set-ups.

According to Microsoft's 2021 Work Trend Index, a majority of Singaporean workers born after 1997 are “merely surviving or flat-out struggling.” Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey said 40% of Singaporean Gen Z feel anxious or stressed all the time. Like the millennials that came before them, Gen Z workers tend to be conscious of their mental health.

Gen Z is entering the workforce when the economy is downtrodden. Their thinking and behaviours have been affected by the seismic pressures of the pandemic. With the world engulfed in predicaments such as job instability and isolation, it is not surprising that the survey found job security and opportunities, personal wellbeing and mental health as the top two concerns amongst this generation globally, including in Asia Pacific region and Singapore,” said Chiew Chun Wee, head of policy at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) for ASEAN and ANZ in an interview with Singapore Business Review.

Yet according to ACCA’s "Ground-breakers: Gen Z and the future of accountancy" report, most of the Gen Z continue to be discerning when it comes to accepting jobs.

“The Gen Z respondents were judicious about elements that are important to them when it comes to employment opportunities. They prize opportunities that allow them to continuously strengthen their capabilities and enhance their employability. Despite current restrictions imposed by the pandemic, international career opportunities remain an important consideration as well,” Chiew said.

A majority of Singaporean respondents, at 64%, noted lack of job opportunities and job security as key concerns, higher than the global and the Asia Pacific average of 58%. Work-life balance and employee well-being were the top two factors for new Singaporean workers, whilst high remuneration didn’t even make Singapore’s top five despite being the third most important factor for global respondents.

The policy head advised Gen Z to not look at careers as “ladders”, as lateral moves and continuous learning can help one land a better job in the future.

“The career journey is a long runway. The early foundational years are critical, and taking calculated risks pay off in significant ways. Additionally, the ability to build a personal brand and life-long networks, as well as seek guidance from mentors are indispensable,” Chiew said.

When it comes to accountancy, he said that Gen Z has a leg up on the competition because they are true digital natives, having grown up with technology, mobile, and social media that older workers may have more difficulty in grasping. They can be tasked to look into implementing new technologies or reshape business models to better fit the future workforce.

In a 2020 ACCA report, the organisation forecasted five career zones that the new generation of accountants are expected to straddle over their careers: data navigator, business transformer, digital playmaker, assurance advocate, and sustainability trailblazer.

“Gen Z is well-positioned to take advantage of these evolved fields of accountancy work and take on board their professional training, which requires them to think and execute in an integrated, strategic manner, to drive sustainability efforts passionately and purposefully within the organisation,” he added.

But the buck doesn’t stop on Gen Z’s being able to get their dream job. There’s also the matter of employee retention. ACCA has conducted several roundtable discussions with employers and thought leaders on the matter, not just in Singapore, but also globally. ACCA found that employers who succeeded in retaining their Gen Z employees created a space where they can explore their entrepreneurial side.

“Employers we spoke to cited the great benefits of creating a corporate culture where Gen Z talents can bring their entrepreneurial thinking and capabilities to the organisation. This allows Gen Z to have the best of both worlds, a space to stretch their entrepreneurial mindset and the security of having stable employment. When organisations do provide Gen Z with opportunities to brainstorm and generate ideas, it is imperative for them to instil psychological safety for failures that often come with experimentation,” Chiew shared.

As of 2020, more than 244,000 of Singapore’s 5.69 million population are between the ages of 20 to 24, falling under the Gen Z age bracket.

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