How can I manage my job and my career?


Why career mentors could be what you need to help you in your job search

Dennis Chan, a career mentor - NTUC's U PME Centre

Why career mentors could be what you need to help you in your job search 

In need of a listening ear? Career mentors like Dennis Chan will be there for you

Dennis Chan has enjoyed a pretty successful career so far. Ever since he graduated from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) with a diploma in electronics, he had moved across different roles in his 20-year career – from Systems Engineer to Senior IT manager.

However, Dennis admitted that he had his fair share of set-backs, and that his career was not always a bed of roses.

Dennis left his IT job in 2007 to become a freelance trainer in presentation and writing skills – such was his wide ranging experiences. But the call of the IT industry remained strong and in 2009, he yearned for a return to IT. However, things did not turn out to be as smooth-sailing as he thought.

“I sent my resumes to many companies, but was only offered so few interviews. How could this be?” Dennis, then 42, could not make sense of his plight. With two decades of experience under his belt, surely there were companies out there who would want him.

After several unsuccessful pre-interview phone calls, Dennis began to wonder if his age could have blighted his job search right from the start.

Although miserable with repeated rejections, Dennis was determined to prove that his extensive experience and knowledge was still up to par with the younger generation of IT experts. Not only did he manage to eventually secure a new job, he has since channelled these disappointments into a drive to help others in similar situations – by volunteering as a career mentor.

Turning anger into worthwhile action

One could say that Dennis and GioCareers – a community support network for mature job-seeking PMETs – were brought together by fate. 

“Back in late-2015, I stumbled across GioCareers in a newspaper article about a PMET struggling to find a job,” Dennis recalled. “His story felt so similar to my own, so I instinctively picked up the phone to call GioCareers to ask how I could help.”

Being a career mentor with GioCareers was a natural fit for Dennis. After all, he had been a lecturer for over a decade, a trainer with various private organisations, and even an English tutor at commercial schools such as Training Vision Institute. His wealth of experience in guiding individuals from various backgrounds complemented nicely with his approachable and caring demeanour.

In his element supporting his peers

Jointly organised by NTUC’s U PME Centre and GioCareers, the Career Activation programme (CAP) allows Dennis to meet with mature PMET jobseekers once a month. At these sessions, the GioCareers team of career mentors share job hunting tips with the jobseekers. An unusual feature of the session is using the Knowdell Motivated Skills Card Sort to identify their motivations and skills vital to their career success – an interesting contrast to the usual resume-building and interview preps.

A one-to-one discussion then follows. Jobseekers are paired with career mentors like Dennis, who are essentially their peers in terms of age and years of experience. These peer mentors can better relate to these jobseekers’ problems, while the latter are usually more receptive to the advice of their mentors.

Dennis Chan listening at a peer mentoring session

Dennis’ down-to-earth and empathetic personality usually encourages jobseekers to open up and share their problems and worries. The casual environment also allows him to share his own experiences and career setbacks, which often resonate deeply with his fellow mature jobseekers.

CAPping off a year mentoring…

The past year of career mentoring has certainly changed Dennis’ perspective as a career mentor. He realised that career mentoring is more than just sharing advice with jobseekers. Sometimes, as he explained, jobseekers just needs someone to listen and empathise with them.

“Once, I was paired up with a jobseeker who was willing to take a much lower pay. Yet companies rejected her as they doubted that she would stay with them in the long run,” he recalled. “She broke down as she mentioned how badly she needed a job to pay for her family members’ hospital bills.”

Dennis gave her the time she needed to get her worries and anxieties off her chest. “I also knew that I had to give her some hope by showing her all the resources and programmes that could help with her job search,” he concluded, “I linked her up with a contact of mine, which led her to securing a new job.”

“She was very grateful; knowing I could help someone drives me to continue career mentoring.”

Dennis Chan speaking at a peer mentoring session

Aside from employment facilitation provided by career centres, jobseekers - especially older ones who have been retrenched recently - mostly just need to know that their decades of experience are still valued. 

And this is where career mentors like Dennis can come in to help their job search along.

“Sometimes, mature jobseekers can feel disillusioned and defeated during their prolonged, frustrating job search,” Dennis said. “They just need reassurance that they are still valued in the job market, and will eventually be able to find the right job with the right employer.”

Dennis also highlights how the CAP assures jobseekers that they are not alone in their job hunt.   

“Being part of this programme and meeting with the mentors and fellow jobseekers gives them a sense of community and fellowship,” he added. “With such support, they are less likely to give up on their job search.”

Reflecting on his past year as a career mentor, Dennis hopes it will be the first of many years as a career mentor. A firm believer in giving back to society, Dennis is certainly using his strengths – namely his people skills and wealth of industry knowledge – to, as he puts it, “pay it forward”.

If you would like to seek advice from career mentors like Dennis, start by registering your interest with U PME Centre today! 

Or if you are interested in joining Dennis and making a difference as a career mentor yourself, do get in touch with the Giocareers team to find out more!