At the age of 25, Muhammad Nurhisham was already living his dream.
An avid lover of the outdoors, he was able to share his passion with youths for a living as a freelance camp facilitator. Organising outdoor activities for students and bringing them on overseas hiking trips was the best job he could ask for. “I could travel as part of my job—something that I really enjoyed—and that was a luxury,” he says.
However, when the first COVID-19 cases in Singapore were confirmed in January, Hisham knew that he would lose those privileges indefinitely. He facilitated his last outdoor activity in early February, following which schools began to suspend non-essential activities.
Faced with a sudden loss of income, Hisham grew anxious about his future. As the sole breadwinner in a household of four, comprising his mother and two other siblings, the 26-year-old had little choice but to find an ad-hoc job in the interim.
Together with his peers in the camp facilitator line, Hisham took up a sanitisation job disinfecting public buses for a month. It helped to pay the bills, but Hisham knew that he needed to find a long-term solution. The responsibility of looking after his mother, who suffers from Type 2 diabetes, was also constantly on his mind.
With the help of ComCare under the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), Hisham was directed to Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Careers Connect. He was put under the guidance of a career coach, who helped him identify his strengths and interests for a career switch.
“To be honest, I wasn’t ready for a new career back then. I am someone who needs to be outdoors, not in an office,” Hisham says, with a laugh. “But the COVID-19 crisis taught me to widen my options and be practical so that I can support my family. We need to keep moving forward in order to overcome obstacles in life.”
The coaching and job search took about a month. With Hisham’s outgoing personality and experience interacting with people, WSG recommended that he apply for a Customer Experience Officer position at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in March, under the SGUnited Jobs initiative which offers short-term and long-term job openings in the public and private sectors.
This was a surveyor role where Hisham would contact Singaporeans to participate in the Ministry’s manpower surveys. Although he initially requested for an administrative role as he felt he was inexperienced for the job, the interviewer from the recruitment agency Kelly Services, which listed the job for MOM, assured him that his eloquence and confidence in speaking to people would be the right fit.
The first two to three weeks were gruelling as he had to learn the ropes very quickly. To ease his transition, Kelly Services conducted a one-week coding course before he started work, so that he would be able to classify the data from survey respondents accurately.
Hisham was also a little anxious as he was given the role of a team leader, where he would supervise 19 officers. Initially daunted by the prospect of overseeing colleagues who were older than him, he started to flourish in his new role as team leader once he got comfortable, utilising his interpersonal skills to motivate his teammates.
However, the greater satisfaction for Hisham comes from the opportunity to give back and help others in need, especially those who face financial difficulties and unemployment. Often, survey respondents would ask Hisham about applying for financial assistance, and he would always patiently explain the various resources available and direct them to the relevant application websites.
"I’ve been in the same predicament before, and I’m really grateful for all the help I’ve received from the government. So now that I’m working at the Ministry and in a position to help, I want to understand their problems fully and help them to the best of my ability."
Singaporeans who have lost their jobs or are considering a job switch can go to SGUnited Jobs for new job opportunities, or receive career coaching and access reskilling programmes under WSG to boost their employability.
The Government will also pay up to 40% salary support for up to 6 months, capped at $12,000 in total, to encourage employers to hire reskilled local jobseekers.