Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Curious Advice from DPM Najib

Our deputy prime minister (DPM) Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak recently advised (according to the New Straits Times) the graduates from University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) "Don't just stick to one firm". Errr... did he really really say that?

In the article, Datuk Seri Najib argued that:
Lifelong employment is outdated as companies can no longer guarantee that their workers will always have a job. [He] urged them instead to nurture "lifelong employability".
The above is absolutely correct as there is absolutely no reason for companies to "guarantee" lifelong employment to their employees. One of the key reasons why certain organisations in Malaysia (particularly the government linked companies (GLCs)) such as Telekom and Tenaga Nasional are clear targets for reform and restructuring today is because of the unwritten lifelong employment guarantee for its employees. As a result these organisations becomes fat and unproductive as there is clearly little incentive for the employees to perform at their optimum to ensure that they continue to possess the job in the longer run. Datuk Seri Najib rightly pointed out examples overseas such as:
...the case of United States conglomerate General Electric, Najib said its former chief executive officer, Jack Welch, had fired thousands of the company’s workers even though it was doing well.

He also said countries such as Germany and Japan, which traditionally encouraged lifelong employment, had abandoned these policies.
Hence, our deputy prime minister advised the 300 or so pioneer graduates from UTAR was:
"Forget about lifelong employment in a single company. It is no longer feasible or desirable. You must be flexible and relevant to the job market.

"Take up opportunities in different companies and do not be afraid to seek promising jobs overseas."
Did the above actually meant that he is advising these graduates to switch jobs at practically every opportunity? Is that actually sensible advise to give? Does the lack of lifelong employment mean that graduates must now switch jobs frequently (I don't understand the rationale)?

If our DPM did not actually meant the article's headlines, then clearly the reporter from NST have misunderstood his message. I don't blame the journalist though, as the quotes attributed to Datuk Seri Najib were not exactly all clear in their intent.

Irrespective of whether Datuk Seri Najib actually meant to dispense the advice - my opinion is that it is at best, a misleading advice and at worst, a career-damaging one.
  1. Switching jobs is just not the right advice to give to graduates when faced with no 100% certainly of continued employment. The right advice to provide these graduates is to work hard, think out-of-the-box, be innovative and creative and ultimately be productive to ensure that one skills and services continue to be demanded by the respective firms in this highly competitive environment. I can't believe that by switching jobs, the problem of job certainty will be resolved - how is that?

  2. This is not to say that employees should never switch jobs. One should not be blindly loyal to any particular company, but at the same time, one should be objective as to whether the next job offer is actually offering something significantly better than what he or she is already enjoying in the existing position. Do not switch jobs purely because its something "new". Switching out of this something "new" may not be the easiest thing to do after that, if it was the wrong choice.

  3. At the same time, if the existing company continues to remunerate the employees competitively, offer a good environment for learning and growth as well as take care of the employees basic needs - why should the employees switch jobs, even if he or she has been working there for 10 years? The fact is that if this company operates on a "productivity" retention basis, and if the employee has worked for more than 10 years, it means that the employee is obviously productive and valued by the organisation. At the same time, it also means that the organisation values positive contributions by the employees. In that scenario, employees should actually stay longer in this organisation instead of moving to another which might value his or her contributions equally.

  4. And finally, the candidates should beware of the trap of switching jobs too frequently. Whenever I receive a resume of someone switching jobs on a regularly every 1-2 years, I will have serious doubts about hiring the candidate. I will have very strong reasons to suspect that this candidate is unlikely to stay within the organisation for a long period of time, and the initial training and effort to ensure that the candidate gets up to speed will be wasted if he or she leaves within a couple of months. Hence the more a candidate switches jobs, the more likely he or she will not be able to secure a job position of choice in the future.
So for all you fresh graduates out there, my advice is to choose the companies you intend to work for carefully - it's not necessarily the best thing to do by taking up the very first job offer in hand. Find a position suited to your qualifications which you believe you will be able to stick to for at least a couple years. For if the position is unsuitable, changing jobs will be not only be disruptive to your lives, it may also create negative implications to your resume.


Anonymous said...

If we don't take up the first job offer in hand, the number of unemployed graduates will increase. Then we will have the government pointing fingers at us because we're too choosy but the fact is that, we're trying to choose the best jobs or maybe close-to-ideal jobs that suit our qualification.

So I think taking up the first job in hand would be ok...and then during that period of time, start looking around for opportunities. Opportunities for your ideal job is everywhere when you work because you'll meet people. It's better than staying home, looking at the recruitment section everyday. It's so unproductive that way.

Having said so, of course don't lah go take a job that you dun like just for the sake of working.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for Malaysia which I have observed, most of the people take the job for the sake of they have to and not the job they like. This has 2 probable causes,

1) Limited job opportunities in Malaysia. (Like sales and marketing, sales and marketing ,rinse and repeat 90% of the time)

2) The jobs doesnt offer growth but instead it stunt growth. For instance, low pay. I know I know you are probably saying the job market is bad and pay is bad and starting pay is even worse. On the grand scheme, if resourceful people stick around in the 'brain drain' area and low pay area, they are not maximizing their capability and everyone knows that how a depress worker performs hence productivity drop. Now if this continues in a cycle, I am afraid to say the country is going to stuck like that forever.

So I think the decision one should make here is, you want a career, not just a job. You want to build your future not waking up day in day out hating yourself for taking up something you dont like to begin with.
As a great philosopher once said, if given a better choice human kind would most likely pursue it if not definitely. As for in Malaysia, there are only very few companies which are doing good. So can you actually blame people for not switching job?
Of course one can always argue in the point of loyalty, but when push comes to shove and the chips are down, human nature dictates that you seek for the better option.
However, having said that, if employers demand loyalty then in all fairness, employees would demand great leadership and productivity. By leadership and productivity, I mean people who knows the field, been in there, done that and get on field experience before. Looking at Malaysia, if most employer claim that they are great leaders, by default most of the companies should do well. Sadly that is not the case in Malaysia.
So back to our main issue, I think for fresh graduates, taking up first job and switching it later,I think is reasonable. That is if you find that the company is unable to use you to fullest potential, doesnt provide the necessary environment for growth and doesnt fully appreciate the skills you have.

PS: For the last point you might think is absurd, but in reality I have seen people who worked in the company for more than 10 years, and still remain static in their position. So working long doesnt imply you are being treated well or getting the benefits you deserve in the company.