Migrating Your Job

Hi there, actually I am curious, why would any professionals, like a Consultant in Singapore would be a supermarket packer in Aussie? When you move to Aussie, should you already got a position there waiting for your arrival in a nice office somewhere?

Hi James,

I don't have an answer for this question. Firstly, would you consider a Project Engineer or Regulations Manager as professionals? If not, I am not in a position to answer this question and I'll leave it open for others to fill you in.

Personally, I got to know stories of Singaporeans via email. There was a businessman who was in business all his life. When he moved to Perth, he took up a job as a car washer. According to him, this is his first job as an employee. Why would he do this? Perhaps he made his fortune and wanted to experience a dose of mundane life as a worker? Maybe he relished his freedom earning a day's wage for an honest day's work? Another who confided she was an ex-lawyer but would not mind to pick up menial jobs like one you mentioned, a supermarket packer if she manages to get her work visa to Australia. She specifically insisted to keep her information and story confidential so I would reveal no more.

The examples show there were and will continue to be people who walk this curious path. As for why, it is difficult to answer. Ultimately it has to be somewhat a choice to let it all go. After all, the idea of a professional is a mere status. Over here, I am tasked to dictate the pace of the entire factory here. I make decisions about what product to manufacture and their sequence. I am assigned to set up the entire quality assurance procedures and given the authority as the only person to stamp the QC clearance here. I control what goes out of the factory on daily basis down to every bolt and nut, keeps the integrity of quantity of stocks in check and is consulted for stock ordering forecasts. I purchase all essential equipment required to run the business. What does that makes me if I work in Singapore? A Purchaser, a QC manager, a Process Engineer? 

You can call me a factory supervisor. Some prefer to call me a delivery man. What gives, its just a name. Money isn't the key in life but we need a minimum to keep things going.  If I am called an Oracle of Ages or even the CEO but paid a dollar a day, you can bet that status isn't going to go well on me for too long. Neither would it on you. The thing about achieved status is that it is a mental concept denoting a social position on the basis of merit. It is either earned, chosen or in some cases in Singapore, passed on. The problem with migration is that many expect their statuses to be migrated along with their physical belongings and bank account but the hard truth is, in a new land, we have to re-earn the societal place that we think we deserve. Nothing is a given.

Thus ideally, when a Singaporean moves to Australia, there will be a red carpet all rolled out leading him to the seat of that nice office where he takes on his cushy job and live happily ever after. The even harder truth is, even Lee Hsien Loong will be probably be rejected for almost every job application the secretary in the PMO spammed in seek.com.au. On the basis he does not have local experience. Of course there are always exceptions, nothing is absolute in life. We've heard of cases of Singapore migrants securing good jobs before they leave the sunny island. We even heard of some headhunted, very probable though only if they have a special skill. Such as a specialist in a special type of security.

Having said that, there is nothing to stop you from doing what you love in Australia. Glass ceilings may exists but I'm not in a position to comment on that because I've never got my head bumped against one so that doesn't bother me at all. If you are persistent enough in a certain career path, it is likely you'll find yourself landing on a suitable job eventually. The question is before that happens, what are you willing to take up in order to kick-start your life here?


  1. Dear -asingaporeanson-,

    I just got off a discussion over at Winking Doll's blog, in which I agreed that many Singaporean men come across as traditionally narrow-minded (a long-winded way of saying 'outdated') to me.

    I wonder if James's comment, which started this latest post of yours, is reflective of such a 'traditional' Singaporean.

    Ploughing through the thick layer of assumptions in 'his' question to you, I feel transported back to the time of Mandarins and eunuchs, in pre-revolutionary China, where people sip tea from ornate porcelain cups, and sport long hair queues (ponytails, actually).

    Then I re-awaken from my uncomfortable daydream back in the present, and feel relieved I'm typing (tapping?) this on a web browser, in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

  2. [Deleted previous comment due to typographical errors]

    Because in a "real" 1st world economy, even blue collar and "no-skill" jobs are typically considered respectable occupations as long as they are legal employment. There are strict labour laws to prevent exploitation of such workers.

    Because in a more socially equitable economy, a person's worth is not tied to his/her job title nor the size of his/her paycheck. There is more to life than titles and income.

    Because adaptability is key to becoming a successful immigrant. See the "failure" examples from SG Quitters blog entry.

    Because in a country that does not open its immigration floodgates to all-and-sundry, local experience is crucial to gaining a foot-in-the-door. You can be smart, speak the right languages, have the relevant experience back in your country of origin (or even worldwide) and solid paper qualifications, and still fail to get a job because of a lack of local experience/qualifications.

    Lastly wrt the rich/successful (especially businessmen) willing and wanting to start over again -- because those who "have been there, done that" find it too easy to "migrate their jobs". It is more interesting to enter the workforce from the bottom-up so as to get to know the local people, culture and workplace-norms intimately. At least that is what I understood from a millionaire who worked at a minimum wage part-time job with me at my previous workplace.

    1. I would add that a blue collar job has arguably less stress too. Take the supermarket packer for example. All he/she has to do is show up for work and do his/her work for 8 hours. Once he/she goes home, it is complete relaxation time. Don't have to think about work.

      Contrast that with the consultant. Once he/she returns home, there will be emails to check, things to review and plan - especially planning stuff for tomorrow, next week, next month, etc. Headache ah!

  3. This is a very innocent question "...should you already got a position there waiting for your arrival in a nice office somewhere?" To an extend naive. If you are a super star maybe.

    Building a career is like building a business. You need to gain your reputation and clients. With nobody knowing who you are, who dare to employ you based on your piece of impressive CV. Be realistic. Australia is by no way skills shortage especially professionals.