Exploring career options in other Asian countries
Living and working abroad may sound challenging, but it also comes with new opportunities.
When someone asks me where I see myself in ten years, I usually envision myself with a comfortable career in sunny Singapore rather than overseas.
As a youth who has lived her entire life in Singapore, I really do have to hand it to our forefathers for making this country so easy to live in. But even so, I admit that there are times where the adventurous soul in me longs to embark on a career elsewhere in Asia.
When I entertain this idea, I visualise connecting with people from other countries and going after exciting opportunities I never would have in Singapore.
But it also feels like there’s so much at stake in taking this leap of faith, and too many ‘what-ifs’ in the way of making this dream a reality. What if I struggle adapting to the culture? What if I don’t understand the industries? And what if I regret uprooting myself?
These are questions with no definite answer, but that’s where the Asia-Ready Exposure Programme (AEP) and their Regional Economies & Trade: What Youths Need to Know to be Asia-Ready workshop comes in. A collaboration between the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and National Youth Council (NYC), I attended the workshop to better understand what embarking on career opportunities across Asia entails.
Held over four sessions across the span of two weeks from Jan 17 to 29, the workshop consisted of group projects and talks from industry experts to let participants learn more about career prospects in Asia, as well as the different lifestyles between other countries and Singapore.
As a youth without much knowledge about working in Asia, I was excited to learn about the growing industries in each country, because these are the potential areas to consider for a career if you wish to work overseas.
One of the most prevalent emerging sectors is the rise of tech in many countries in Asia, particularly India.
I have always been aware that India is a country known for its technological advancements, but when deputy director of the ASEAN Division at MTI Mr Goh Keng Phang shared that contactless payment had been a thing in India way before PayNow was introduced in Singapore, I was impressed.
“Digital payments are very widespread in India. We are way, way behind them,” said Mr Goh.
“We always say that we are a very advanced economy, but we are really not that far ahead from other countries.”
An even more surprising booming industry in India is the space tech industry, which isn’t even available in Singapore.
I found it hard to believe that there could even be room for space tech in Asia. But it’s real, and as one of the participant groups highlighted in their presentation, is a steadily rising industry with many potential opportunities to look into.
According to their research, India’s space research only began quite recently in the 1970s, with two major missions held in the past and an upcoming one in June this year.
I admit that from the moment I learned that there has been a space tech industry in India for years, my first thought was if Singaporeans can be involved in this. To my delight, there have been collaborations between India’s space tech industry and local universities such as NUS and NTU, signalling possible entry points for a career in this field.
As appealing as these emerging sectors are, there is also the working culture to consider, as every country operates at a different pace.
Ms Edna Tan, a Counsellor for Economics at the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore in Beijing, shared that a day in the life of a person working in China wouldn’t be much different from someone from Singapore, if not for the extra hours they put in.
A large part of life in China revolves around work. Working hours are longer, socialising is mostly done between colleagues, and even when you’re catching up with your Chinese buddies, you might find your thoughts drifting back to work-related matters because information travels through the WeChat grapevine faster than the news.
To be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised at this lifestyle at all. China has, after all, a reputation for industrial speed. But it definitely is a good reminder of the mental preparation required to begin a life there.
From all the talks we had at the programme, I’m sure that learning to work overseas is not going to be an easy journey. Understanding the working culture of a different country and adapting to it while using your existing skill set to embark on a career there is a challenging transition to make.
But it is not impossible. Every country has its own booming industries and unique way of life, and knowing what to expect is the first step in pursuing a career overseas.
With these tips in mind, I now have a better idea on how to get started on making this dream a reality, especially with the internship opportunities available at MTI, where you can learn to be more Asia-Ready, even if you don’t know much about the region.
These internships at MTI offer a more hands-on experience of the career aspects of your Asia-Ready journey. And as the experience allows you to learn more about Singapore’s Asian neighbours, it puts you in a better stead to adapt to a new life overseas.
For more information about the Asia-Ready Exposure Programme, click here.