07 Jun CLARITY Feature Story: Ng Aik Saw – Advocate of Resilience
Scaling the Job Landscape with Employability Skills
As a career coach, Ng Aik Saw is able to stand tall with creditable achievements. Over a period of four months, he coached over 40 unemployed PMETs one-on-one and led almost half of the group to secure jobs within the same year.
As a result, Aik Saw’s feat recorded the highest number of clients who have gone on to find work from a national initiative to help Singaporeans adapt to changing job demands and grow their careers. Clients who are in this initiative are unemployed for more than six months.
When asked how he achieved the high job take-up rate, the lean man modestly brushed it off, saying that “there are no tricks to it” and that he did not expect the result but nevertheless welcome it.
Man for all Seasons
From an entry-level computer operator in IBM, Aik Saw gradually diversified into sales and marketing, HR and training positions within the organisation. His business sales acumen and leadership qualities enabled him to rise through the ranks to senior management level.
He surpassed the sales target consistently for seven years and was twice ranked among IBM’s top salesmen in the Americas and Asia. As senior manager, he trained and coached managers and staff under his fold, several of whom later moved up the corporate ladder.
His leadership role further expanded to that of Functional Manager in IBM’s ASEAN Region HQ. Here, he initiated improvements in work systems by process re-engineering, and pushed for the consolidation of facilities by setting up a regional spare parts warehouse which, in turn, achieved savings of over $3 million.
With his extensive management know-how, Aik Saw conducted training courses for committee members in his neighbourhood RC while serving as a volunteer and later, as vice-chairman.
He now focuses on career coaching and training in adult education. Besides coaching clients under national initiatives, he has also facilitated workshops in motivational, team building and age-friendly initiatives.
Tried and Tested
Aik Saw spoke vividly of memories of working at IBM. He recalls working the night shift in a freezing air-conditioned room to prepare the weekly wages of stevedores at the Port of Singapore Authority. “One blip in the processing could hold back the workers’ pay and cause dismay!” he shared.
On another occasion, he was assigned to churn out data on vocation selection for the very first batch of national servicemen. As a salesman for IBM, Aik Saw had to frequently think out of the box to win customers and beat the competition. With innovative marketing, he was the one who clinched a deal with POSB to install its first ATM machine.
Today, the corporate veteran certainly knows how to relax when he’s off work. He enjoys a good game of golf at Keppel Club with his regular kakis. His other hobbies range from catching up on current affairs and watching documentaries and sit-coms on TV, to reading sci-fi novels. He also loves karaoke singing.
Q & A with Aik Saw
CCE: Aik Saw, you rose through the ranks in IBM and have also worked with SMEs. Now you bring with you to the coaching table years of enriching managerial and training experience in many key areas: sales and marketing, HR, administration, training and operations. What really sets you apart from the other coaches?
Aik Saw: As a career coach, I tell it like it is. My clients would know if my approach has been effective after a few sessions. The groups I coached from the national initiatives can testify to that. My years at IBM and the SMEs have moulded me to be an astute observer, with a keen eye on quality control and process re-engineering. It helps. In coaching, I developed a system that helps me analyse my client’s strengths and in turn, increase his/her chances of securing a job. If he/she is employed, it could take him/her to the next level at the workplace. But let me add that there is no fixed template to it.
CCE: What exactly is your forte?
Aik Saw: In terms of industry skills, my expertise is culled from experience in key corporate functions. Even before embarking on this profession, I had long been coaching and training peers and subordinates at IBM and SMEs. My forte is in enhancing employability skills, regardless of the industry my client is in. I am also happy that my strategic approach has apparently worked for my clients! In fact, the system has worked well since I tweaked it after the first few sessions.
CCE: Please briefly size up the profile of your clients. What approach did you adopt while interacting with them?
Aik Saw: Most clients have had years of work exposure and needed little prompting. Some were slow to respond. There were a few quiet ones but it was not a problem getting them to speak up. I would start with small talk to put them at ease. Coaching sessions are one-to-one; they can get personal. Some clients can be sensitive, even to the point of calling off a session midway! Thus, the coach has to be wary of his choice of words.
CCE: Where does the really challenging encounter come from?
Aik Saw: You may be surprised that the real challenge comes not from the quiet or reserved clients. It is from those who are adamant and not the least convinced on what career coaching has to offer. Some of them may have been very senior managers. They seem reluctant to lower their expectations. As coach, I had to be practical and realistic to win over this particular group – for instance, not to force-feed advice to them but to gradually draw them out. Once the coach gains their respect and confidence, they are more open to the coaching experience.
CCE: How have such trying sessions affected you personally as career coach?
Aik Saw: Such encounters can drain the coach too. Mind you, the mental and psychological strain goes well beyond the one-hour coaching sessions! So as coach, I have to embrace positive thinking and act on it, and prepare my approach to gain traction over the rough spots.
CCE: Could you please fill us in with just a peek at that strategic approach of yours?
Aik Saw: I would ask for a copy of my client’s resume. I would study it, analyse each word, line by line, and then give my critique at the next meeting. I would delve into the nitty-gritty details of its contents with my client, suggest a better way of writing the lines, and offer the rationale for it. I would work closely with my client on restructuring the CV and help give it that extra edge over other job applications.
Written by Harry Tan
Harry began working on his passion for writing with a leisure weekly. He then picked up copyediting and proofreading skills, working on college textbooks, annual reports and travel guides. Currently, he offers freelance editorial services. A Peranakan Singaporean, Harry enjoys small talk and long walks. He loves planning train-bus journeys and has gone on several DIY road trips to Japan, Britain and Germany. Harry is a RACE graduate.