I joined the FIB course in 2009 as the only Chinese Student of the batch at SJII. This has given me ample opportunities to embrace cultural diversities and ignite my passion for communication and relationship building. I studied HL in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry during IB, graduated from SJII in 2012, and received an offer from NUS (first major choice in mechanical engineering). Upon graduation, I switched my career path to the corporate finance industry.
It is essential to plan the first job carefully and think over your life purpose alignment (e.g., interest and strength). I feel there are two most significant risks in a career switch, namely (1) lack of industry insight before switching (e.g., limited option and insight on career progression over next 5-10 years), (2) lack of relevant exp/skills owning to late planning, which will make you less competitive comparing to those with the pre-existing skillset, and result in sharper learning curve at the workplace.
I often receive updates from my peers to understand where my skill level is in the current job market. It is valuable and insightful to seek advice from seniors across various finance industries to explore opportunities, accentuate my interest in finance, and align my next career goal accordingly. In 2014, I exchanged at Hong Kong University and Fudan University for finance modules and was the only engineering major student in class. This experience broadened my view on Asian Economics, built my first friend’s zone in finance, and brought relevance to my current role. In 2020, I pursued a Master’s program at NTU, which helped me network with veterans across multiple finance industries. Learning others’ career paths helps to set my next career goal.
I would suggest keeping your experience relevant to that industry, such as relevant courses studied (foundation or electives studied with good GPA, CFA/FRM certificate), internship and project experience, relevant skills (e.g., programming, foreign language etc). Be clear of your motivation during an interview, typically for a career-switched candidate.
Many local banks provide a Management Trainee program that offers new joiners opportunities to rotate within the bank, giving them a chance to try before applying to interested departments (e.g., corporate, retail, private banking, treasury, compliance), and roles (e.g., front, middle or back office).
Though a career switch may be filled with uncertainties, one should not be afraid of changes and challenges. Changes are inevitable as the world is changing so fast with trending technologies (e.g., Big Data, AI machine learning), and we have to prepare the vital skills for future of work.
Career planning should align with our life purpose, that is a long-term commitment, and this requires the necessary skill-set to be accumulated through one or multiple jobs. With early planning and life purpose, you will be able to justify a career switch and constantly check where you are at different stages in life. A justifiable career switch also indicates that you are a faster learner, adaptable to changes and driven by motivation.
To justify a career switch, you could consider the following 3 steps.
- Step 1: Evaluate if your current role will award you in the short term, or benefit you in the long term with learning opportunities that align with your life purpose.
- Step 2, analyse the shared skills between your current and the next role. Will this switch create a meaningful accumulation of experience.
- Step 3: know the right time to exist, ask if you have fixed all the issues that you have dealt with in your current role, and check if you have ignored any good options along the way.