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Jobseekers’ Diaries: Covid-19 made my job search at 45 harder. My resolve paid off with my foray into the hotel line

In this instalment of Jobseekers’ Diaries, Ms Suriah Abd Jalil, 47, writes about how her job search after a long spell out of Singapore was made harder by the Covid-19 pandemic. But her determination to repay her mother’s faith in her paid off when she got a position as a front desk executive at a hotel, even though she had no experience in the industry.

Jobseekers’ Diaries: Covid-19 made my job search at 45 harder. My resolve paid off with my foray into the hotel line

Ms Suriah Abd Jalil, 47, spent almost a year looking for a job after she returned to Singapore in mid-2019. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the job market hard and made her job search even more challenging.

Suriah Abd Jalil

As jobs are a top concern for Singaporeans in the Covid-19 crisis, TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts from jobseekers in which they reflect on their experiences and what keeps them going.

In this instalment of Jobseekers’ Diaries, Ms Suriah Abd Jalil, 47, writes about how her job search after a long spell out of Singapore was made harder by the Covid-19 pandemic. But her determination to repay her mother’s faith in her paid off when she got a position as a front desk executive at a hotel, even though she had no experience in the industry.

It has not been an easy journey.

I worked in a number of administrative jobs after dropping out of secondary school.

It was only at age 32 that I decided to return to the classroom.

At my last job in a private school, interacting with students encouraged me to fulfil a dream — to experience the feeling of graduation.

I took the plunge, studied hard and graduated with an advanced diploma in international business studies in 2007.

As someone who loves engaging people, I joined a French restaurant in May 2013 as a restaurant manager.

It was my first experience in food and beverage, and I gained a different perspective of customer service.

The restaurant, however, closed in 2014 and I was let go.

I relocated to Indonesia and returned to Singapore in mid-2019.

I lived alone in a rental flat and needed a job.

I browsed job portals and applied diligently for more than 10 jobs daily, mostly customer-service-related roles, but did not receive replies.

I struggled emotionally and financially.

At the age of 45 then, I questioned why I was living off my elderly parents.

I wondered if anyone would still want to hire me, especially as I had been unemployed for five years.

At the lowest point of my life, Covid-19 took a heavy toll on my job search.

It was a tough battle daily, but the thought that I could not rely on my parents drove me.

My mum has been my biggest pillar of support. Her constant encouragement spurred me on.

I remained hopeful and reminded myself to remain active in my job search.

I wanted to repay her faith in me.

My breakthrough came in late July last year.

GP Hotel Management called me for an interview for a front desk executive role that I had applied through the MyCareersFuture job portal.

I was beyond elated when they offered me the role in August last year under government agency Workforce Singapore’s SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme — Company Attachments.

Having no hotel-industry experience, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to acquire new skills.

The initial period at the Ibis Budget Singapore Pearl hotel was tough. I was new to the hotel’s system and got frustrated when I encountered difficulties checking in guests.

I was exposed to digital tools that were foreign to me, such as Google Drive.

It was tiring to learn numerous things within a short period, but it was satisfying whenever I accomplished something new.

I was offered a full-time position at the end of my attachment in February this year.

The support from my colleagues has been instrumental and I plan to grow with this company in the long run.

The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges and taught me many life lessons.

It taught me to never give up as there are always opportunities out there.

It taught me that one can build a new career regardless of age with the right mindset and willingness to learn new things.

ABOUT THE WRITER:

Ms Suriah Abd Jalil, 47, spent almost a year looking for a job after she returned to Singapore in mid-2019. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the job market hard and made her job search even more challenging. Her fortunes turned when GP Hotel Management hired her as a front desk executive under a programme for mid-career workers in August 2020. She was converted to a full-time employee in February 2021.

If you are a jobseeker with an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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Jobseekers' Diaries career work hospitality

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