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3 Questions to Help You Determine if You Should You Work for Singapore's Private or Public Sector?

by Deana Zafir

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The battle of the sectors is back! If you browse through the Google history of fresh graduates and those seriously considering switching their careers - you’ll notice keywords such as “public vs private sector” popping up frequently.

As a recruitment agency, we believe that it is our duty to help educate the general public about the different industries in Singapore. In this article, we’ll help you break down everything (including the nitty-gritty) of both Singapore’s public and private sectors. Which one are you more suited for? 

 

1. Do you prefer structured hierarchies or flexible environments?

Structured hierarchies are common in the public sector. You might find yourself questioning why anyone would be interested in a rigid work environment. Well, they appeal to the traditionalists among us. Those who appreciate:
 

  • Better communication: Not only do these structures promote better communication. It also gives new employees a clear career and promotion pathway to look up to.
     

  • Better decision-making skills: Newsflash! Individuals make decisions quicker than a group. You don’t need in-depth research to know that having a group of people deliberating over something will take longer. Groups need to take into account everyone’s different opinions and individuals don't’.
     

  • More motivating: Clear career and promotion pathways motivate employees to work harder and longer hours to better themselves. Additionally, different hierarchies will produce different types of specialists.

    This allows newer or entry-level staff to narrow their field of focus and become experts in specific functions.
     

But these advantages do not mean that flexible environments less than or worse compared to environments with structured hierarchies. There are benefits to working in a flexible environment as well, and they appeal to those who appreciate:
 

 

2. Do you prefer a stable career or a free-roaming pathway?

Full-time jobs within Singapore’s public sector are often labelled as “iron rice bowls”. The term iron rice bowl refers to jobs that are stable. Whilst it is still possible to be retrenched or fired when working within the government sector. It is rarer compared to careers within the private sector. If routine and job stability appeals to you, then the public sector might be a good place for you to start looking into.

As with all jobs, there are some risks in the private sector. A company that isn’t doing well will not be as reluctant to let go of some employees in order to stay afloat. However, job seekers who want a flexible career that allows them to dip their toes in multiple roles might find the private sector slightly more appealing. 

With a free-roaming pathway, employees can customize the future of their careers. They’ll be able to pick up the different skills, certification, and build the networks needed in order to be the best version of themselves. 


Good to Know: Some forum posters claim that fresh graduates might have stricter competition when trying to break into Singapore’s public sector.
Additionally, mid-career professionals looking to jump from the private to the public sector might find the job requirements to be particularly stringent. However, take this advice with a pinch of salt. Ultimately, as long as you have the skills and experience needed to get the job you’ve been dreaming of, it should be easy for you to get it. 

 

3. Do qualifications matter to you? 

Qualifications matter when it comes to the public sector. In the public sector, your qualifications will determine your career trajectory and even pay scale. Those looking to jump into this sector will have to realise that the industry takes its qualifications seriously. Job seekers might need to include their PSLE, O level, A level, and even university results. Additionally, the type of qualification you hold will directly impact your monthly salary.
 

Comparatively, in the private sector, there are no such limitations. Everything’s fair game as long as you have the experience to back your resume up. So think about it. Are you someone with high educational qualifications? Or do you value personal work experience more? 


Pro-Tip: Click here to download BGC Singapore’s salary guide for a rough gauge on the different pay scales across the different industries in Singapore. 

 

4. What does a fulfilling career mean to you?  

To some, working in the public sector is more fulfilling because it tends to the immediate needs of everyday Singaporeans. However, others might find a meaningful and purposeful career in fostering their own career wants and needs (i.e. better career progress), in the private sector.

A good way to find out if you’d be happier either in the public or private sector is to figure out what your personality type is. Your MBTI type might be able to shed some light on what you truly value as a person - and it’s always good to apply for positions that you personally find valuable.

For instance, someone who is an INFP might find careers related to their passion more fulfilling than others. This is a personality type that does not usually thrive in high-stress or team-heavy environments that might sound motivating or enticing to others.  

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Do you prefer embarking on a career within the public or private sector? Let us know in the comments section below! 


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