“I STARTED off by not wanting to do sales, to being forced to do it and now I actually don’t mind it.”
This was a statement by 28-year-old Fatin Fiezwa Ismail, a 1Malaysia Training Scheme or Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) alumni who, after facing one year of unemployment upon graduation, has been working with Bank Islam in Ayer Keroh, Melaka for two years now.
Coming from a mathematics background, she did not expect to be placed in a sales department. Not letting her lack of experience, dislike for the job and timid nature stop her from trying, Fatin shadowed her colleagues to learn the ropes, and with the assistance and motivation from her supervisors, she began to hone her communication and consultation skills.
From not meeting her targets in her first month, she progressed to achieving beyond her sales target in just a few months!
Fatin was formerly a trainee with SL1M, a socio-economic upliftment initiative introduced by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister’s Department.
While there are many success stories like Fatin’s under the SL1M programme, the recent SL1M roadshow held in Ayer Keroh, Melaka, revealed several pain points felt by SL1M secretariat head Norashikin Ismail – who has been leading the SL1M initiative for seven years now – and employers.
Rejection of job offers
Speaking to reporters two weeks ago, SL1M secretariat head Norashikin Ismail – who, along with her team, had recently completed five successful roadshows in Malaysia – said that its partners (employers) had given them some worrying feedback: job applicants do not report for work after receiving their offer letters.
This news came as a surprise to the room full of reporters, as graduates who apply to become trainees under SL1M are thought to have trouble securing employment, and it was disheartening to discover that opportunities were being turned down.
“Becoming a SL1M trainee doesn’t necessarily mean that you (the applicant) will be absorbed into the company (under SL1M) upon completion of training.
“So, some of these students will wait and see if good offers come along. If there aren’t any, they are willing to be unemployed while waiting for something better to land on their lap.
“For me, it’s okay to reject a SL1M offer if, say, they received a full-time job offer elsewhere. But the fact remains that even after getting an offer, they are still picky. They have a negative mindset,” she said.
Lacking skills to market themselves
One employer at the Melaka roadshow claimed that job seekers did not know how to market themselves to recruiters.
Felda Trading HR executive Mohd Hisyamudin Md Amin said: “We had an accounting executive position open. I asked the applicants how to use a particular accounting software and some of them couldn’t really tell me. I had to ask a lot of questions to get answers I needed.”
He said some had unnecessarily long curriculum vitae (CVs) and even asked him why the need for an interview when they had already submitted their CVs.
Hisyamudin said he did come across applicants who came in with confidence, but this was normally due to the work experiences they had.
Opting for an easier route
Imtiyaz Consultancy’s takaful and Islamic investment advisor Mohd Hanif Khalid said even though job seekers had degrees related to the position they advertised – sales and marketing – a lot of them wanted administrative jobs. It seemed as though they wanted something “easy”, he added.
This was surprising as the salary offered to trainees – upon confirmation – ranges between RM3,000 and RM5,000.
Living in comfort zones
Perhaps the previous point could be attributed to another fact brought up by Norashikin, who said students refuse to get out of their comfort zone.
“Some students say that if they have to move to Kuala Lumpur, they have to pay rent, cook on their own and fend for themselves. And they see this as a huge challenge, even if they are given a salary opportunity of RM3,000 and above!” a visibly disappointed Norashikin said.
She said that for those from poor families, SL1M is able to get a sponsor to pay for transportation costs if they are required to move from one state to another.
But after talking to one parent, it is discovered that at times, parents themselves could hinder their child from moving to a different location.
One mother said: “I don’t want my daughter to work outside Melaka. She can study outside Melaka, but for work, no. Cost of living is high in KL.”
Several job seekers at the roadshow stated that they looked at the following criteria when applying for jobs: in line with their field of study or qualification, something of interest to them, location and salary. On the surface, these seem like reasonable factors to take into account when applying for a job.
“The reason why some applicants are pickier than others is because they are higher up in the hierarchy of needs. If a job doesn’t provide a sense of passion or purpose, employers can’t expect job seekers to work for them,” said founder of EduNation Edmond Yap.
He used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to illustrate his point, noting that once a person’s basic needs (safety and physiological) are fulfilled, they look to fulfill their psychological needs (esteem and sense of belonging).
Nonetheless, Norashikin pointed out: “The thing is, the ones who reject SL1M offers are mostly students from rural areas! Of course students from urban areas find it easier to get jobs as most of the big companies are based in urban areas.”
Twenty-one-year-old Haziq Hashim who attended an earlier SL1M roadshow in Johor had failed to receive any replies from employers. He then decided to try his luck at the Melaka roadshow.
With a certification in design and draughting, Haziq said that due to financial difficulties, he was unable to further his studies, and this meant that he had to find a job first. However, he faces tough competition from more qualified applicants.
Here’s the thing. There were jobs available to almost everyone at the Melaka roadshow, even those without an SPM qualification. This means that someone like Haziq could have landed a job if he wasn’t so particular about doing something within his field of study.
“Students shouldn’t be so picky. They need to grab whatever opportunities that are out there,” advised Bank Islam’s Ayer Keroh branch manager Norhayatti Ithnin.
“Actually, not everyone has to go to university to be successful. Having the right skills and attitude are sufficient. So, the mindset of job seekers and society has to change. There is no shortcut to success. You have to go through hardship. You have to move out of your comfort zone and be opportunistic. This is my advise to graduates,” added Norashikin.