From Holster to Harness: Making the Career Switch

Making a career switch when you have been in the same job for years can be a daunting decision. Find out howr Mr Samsi made the tough decision to move out of his comfort zone and challenged himself in a different industry.


For Mr Samsi, the last ten years of his career was spent in the police force when he made the tough decision to move out of his comfort zone and challenged himself in a different industry.

He had learnt from his friends that the construction industry was one that paid well and was keen to give it a shot. After leaving the police force, Mr Samsi joined a construction company as an Assistant Engineer for two years. When he left, he took on his friends’ advice and took up safety courses for the next six months so that he could be better-equipped for his next job in the industry.

Let’s learn from his experience.

1. Assess skills, interests and industry requirements

You can learn more about your own skills and abilities by reflecting on your career or seeking out opinions from former bosses, colleagues, friends and even a Career Coach. This is where you will be able to discover your strengths and interests, and if you fit well in the next industry.

For Mr Samsi, as a police officer, he was exposed to daily situations where he had to be alert and keep an eye out for any dangerous or unlawful activities. As it turned out, being alert was a key attribute needed in a construction industry –he was interested because he could apply his skillsets from his previous job, such as looking out for potential safety hazards or applying CPR, to protect the lives of workers on site.

He also spoke to his friends in the construction industry and they had encouraged him to join the industry because it paid well if he was willing to work hard and keep abreast with industry knowledge. He concluded that joining the construction industry as an assistant engineer was something which he could excel in with his NITEC in Electrical Engineering.

Combining skills from his previous job, his interests and the industry’s requirements, he made the decision to join the construction industry.

2. Adjust lifestyle and manage finances

During the period of unemployment and while looking for a job, lifestyle adjustments are inevitable due to the loss of income.

After Mr Samsi joined the construction company for two years, there were rumours that his company did not win an upcoming mega project and might let go of people. It was then that he tendered his resignation to focus on upgrading his skills. For the next six months, he took up safety courses to keep himself updated with skillsets which the industry required.

While it was a deliberate decision to take a break from work so that he could focus on his courses, monthly finances took a toll on his then-pregnant wife. She was supportive of his goals but it was hard on her. Their savings ran out and they were surviving on her salary as a Customer Service Officer. On top of the monthly expenses such as car loan, food and utility bills, there were added medical bills from the pregnancy.

The wake-up call for Mr Samsi was when his wife suggested that they sought financial assistance. He gave in to her suggestion realising that their finances were in a dire state. The additional medical bills for the pregnancy check-ups meant that they could not pay their bills on time. That was when he knew he needed to get back to work.

Financial planning is important to maintain the same quality of life when looking for a job. Looking back, Mr Samsi felt that he should have set aside more savings or planned for part-time work during the period when he took up courses.

3. Seek external assistance

A) Seek financial assistance

There are a variety of financial assistance schemes available to help you in challenging times. Mr Samsi and his wife sought financial assistance from the North East CDC at Our Tampines Hub to tide through their difficult period. It helped them with the medical bills and some household expenses.

B) See a career coach

At the same time, they were referred to Workforce Singapore’s Career Connect and that was where Mr Samsi met Eunice, his career coach. She enrolled him in a career talk at Careers Connect that taught him helpful tips such as what to prioritise in his resume, how to dress up for an interview and appropriate questions to ask the interviewer. Thereafter, she called him often to check on his job search and gave him more tips on how to handle job interviews.

He recalled, “As I was looking for better-paying job, I particularly remembered this tip – ‘Never talk about salary first.’ If the interview was going well, I could ask, ‘When can I start?’ The tips seemed to work because as much as I wanted a better salary, I didn’t ask until they broached the topic. I had to convince them that I was worth the money first. Since then, I received several calls from different companies.”

Today, Mr Samsi had been offered a Safety Officer position by a Singapore-based construction company for a project in Thailand.  He will be in charge of inspecting site conditions to determine if hazards are present and to establish procedures and policies to overcome those hazardous situations.

Mr Samsi is excited to put his investigative skills to good use in his new job. “Fortunately, I’ve been trained well to spot dangerous situations.” he said in jest.

When asked if his wife is supportive of the job offer even though he would be stationed overseas, he shared, “If the discussion goes well, I am looking at possibly doubling my last salary. My wife doesn’t have to work anymore. She deserves a better life and can spend more time with the children at home. When I told her about the plans, she was very excited about being a housewife!”

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