More youths are worried about their job prospects amid a slowing economy.

Mechanical Engineering graduate Eric Ongko has been searching for a job for the past 7 months.

The 21-year-old has diligently applied for over 50 jobs and went for a number of interviews. He hasn’t heard from anyone.

“As Singapore’s economy is experiencing a downturn, it’s harder to find a job. Many companies are not keen to hire people now,” the Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate told The UrbanWire.

“It’s not enough to have paper qualification anymore,” he added. “A lot of employers are looking for people who have some kind of work experience. Many of us don’t.”

Another recent graduate, Theodora Soh, 23, agreed. “Having a degree alone is no longer enough since so many people have degrees now. Work experience is more important.”

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) English graduate has yet to receive a job offer after applying for some 20 openings.

Unable to find a job, Eric Ongko plans to continue his studies to improve his qualifications.

Unable to find a job, Eric Ongko plans to continue his studies to improve his qualifications. Photo by: Lim Yuan Xiu

Theodora and Eric are part of a larger group of recent graduates who are anxious about their employment prospects amid the slowing economy.

An online survey conducted by The UrbanWire shows that more than 87 per cent of the 102 respondents, aged 18 to 35, are worried they might not be able to find a job in the near future. Many feel a slowing economy might reduce job openings and stiffen competition.

Survey findings based on 102 respondents aged 18 to 35.

Survey findings based on 102 respondents aged 18 to 35. Infographic by: Lim Yuan Xiu

According to the latest joint graduate employment survey by NTU, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU) has found that less graduates are able to find permanent full-time jobs within 6 months of graduation.

Figures released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also found that Singapore’s total employment growth has slowed with overall unemployment rate rising to 2.1 per cent in 2016. Job seekers outnumbered job openings at a ratio of 77 openings per 100 seekers and more job seekers are taking a longer time to find work with average resident long-term unemployment rate rising to 0.8 per cent in 2016.

Besides having more people competing for fewer jobs, managing director of Human Resources consulting firm DecodeHR Evelyn Chow said globalization and advancement in technology have also put downward pressure on wages, making it harder for young graduates to find a job that meets their salary expectation.

She said young people “will need to be agile, adaptable and be prepared to put in the effort and time to understand emerging trends”.

After they’ve landed a job, they should also continue to “develop the skills needed to create a difference in the organizations they are a part of”, she added.

Having graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a diploma in Mass Communication, freelance producer Kellie Kuah said, “It’s not tough to find new jobs, there are always opportunities.”

The 21-year-old advised, “Never stop trying and don’t be afraid to ask. Even if a company doesn’t seem to be hiring, send in an email anyway. Maybe somewhere down the road, they would consider you.”

How can we make ourselves more employable?

Here’s some advice from Ms Evelyn Chow.

  1. Keep learning

While the phrase ‘lifelong learning’ may sound cliché, it is important for young graduates struggling to find their ideal job to continue to learn and grow. She advised: “Be open to engaging any other learning on the side, for example, online learning and certification courses. This really makes a difference in a knowledge based economy (like ours).”

  1. Show Initiative

To differentiate themselves from other jobseekers, young graduates need to be able to prove themselves in tangible ways. Having done paid/unpaid internships or even part-time jobs will give them an edge, as this demonstrates to prospective employers that they are driven, passionate and ready to commit.

  1. Develop skills

While it’s important for young people to constantly upgrade themselves and have the necessary hard skills required for the job, it’s also equally crucial for them to cultivate soft skills, including communication skills, leadership skills, problem solving skills, team work and time management skills.