If you are working in Singapore, Labour Day (aka May Day), is more often perceived as a holiday to rest and relax.

According to gov.sg, Labour Day was gazetted as a secular public holiday in 1960. It is a day of rest to honour everyone that has worked hard to make Singapore a successful nation.

In 1960, Lee Kuan Yew announced the government’s commitment to the welfare of workers. He emphasised that a symbiotic relationship and confidence between the unions, employers and the state (known as tripartism) was imperative for Singapore’s progress.

One recent product of tripartism in action is the opening of the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) to provide advisory and mediation services for salary-related disputes.

Here are 5 other secrets about working in Singapore you may not know, until today.

1. Strikes aren’t illegal in Singapore if planned properly

While many parts of the world are already in strike-mode, Singapore seems to take it easy.

The last strike we had was the illegal strike by SMRT bus captains in 2012. The last legal strike was the Hydril workers’ strike in 1986.

It is possible to still hold a legal strike in Singapore today, provided you go the proper route.

2. Industrial action is passé, industrial “inaction” is preferred

Singaporeans can be so passive-aggressive.

When unhappy about working conditions, they may not pick up a signpost, storm the streets, burn cars and overthrow the government of the day.

Instead, they choose to mass resign, take mass MC or medical leave or mass complain to the higher authority.

3. There are groups secretly helping people working in Singapore

5 Secrets of Working in Singapore You Didn’t Know
Graphic: Quote on influence by Salvador Dalí (Quotefancy)

There’s a reason why the term “unsung heroes” exists.

Not many people know they can join a union to protect themselves like a form of “workplace insurance”.

Even fewer are aware that unions are just 1 out of 5 limbs that the Singapore Labour Movement uses to help workers.

4. We will have many jobs in our lifetime

It’s true, lifespans of jobs are getting shorter, skills in demand are changing faster than ever.

Since I started working full-time, I’ve been in 3 vastly different industries and 3 almost completely different job roles.

And none of these matches the traditional jobs that my degree nor MBA was supposed to train me for.

Chart: Automatable jobs (BI/University of Oxford)
Chart: Automatable jobs (BI/University of Oxford)

Even computer programmers can be automated away!

There is no job that is guaranteed for life, but chances are that “high touch” professions that amalgamate multiple skills will stay relevant longer.

Graphic: Competitive advantage quote by Daniel Burrus (Quotefancy)
Graphic: Competitive advantage quote by Daniel Burrus (Quotefancy)

Competitive advantage is about stringing together strengths that others cannot replicate easily and innovate faster than others.

You don’t need to be the fastest, just don’t be the slowest.

Being creative, thinking differently, exploring, failing, falling, trying untested roads, going into the unknown, is all part of our journey in life.

It is so tempting to just stay where we are, unmovable in the comfort of predictability.

But just as the Earth doesn’t stop moving, we shouldn’t either.

5. Having a mentor, career advisor/coach/guide really helps

I think having any of the above is totally underrated.

Just because we’ve graduated, doesn’t mean we’ve arrived.

It’s ONLY JUST THE BEGINNING (just like one’s wedding isn’t the end of the story).

Schools have a really basic form of career guidance, résumé and interview tips and grooming courses.

But what about the real world where employers check your social media profile before considering you for an interview? What should you do if you encounter personality conflicts with your colleagues?

You can find out what kind of career(s) you are suited for and get mentoring from others who can give “work hacks” on iffy issues.

  • Understanding your MBTI personality type
  • Discovering your DISC personality trait
  • Korn Ferry Advance‘s Self-Assessment Tool
  • Mentorship programmes (via industry, type of business e.g. SME, startup, youth, alumni of Institutes of Higher Learning etc)
  • Career coaches (Mums at Work, e2i’s U Career Network, WSG Career Centre etc)
  • Networking (e.g. for entrepreneurs)

If you haven’t started on any of the above, give it a try.

You should plan for your next career before your current one disappears.

Now that you know these 5 secrets about working in Singapore, don’t be shy to share with the people who matter in your life.

You never know what you may learn in return.

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