October 10

Your Cheatsheet to Finding Good Paying Jobs in Singapore




Come on. Don’t lie to me, or yourself.

You secretly hate the friend who’s quietly flexing his wealth. Driving a new car, or showing off his watch, or talking about his new 20k investment in a house.

You hate them.


That’s why you’re here.

Good paying jobs in Singapore, are not hard to find, if you know where to look, and how to ask. Gone are the days where you don’t know what the market rate for your position is, or what competitors are offering.

And with the rise of Google, you can find insights on how to negotiate a higher pay, from the countless articles online.

Here’s a cheatsheet to the good paying jobs in Singapore, written with the experiences of others we’ve interviewed in the course of writing our book ‘Vault’.

In this article, we will share the principles that will apply across industries.

Rather than asking you to switch to the hottest paying jobs, we want you to thrive where you are. If you’re constantly hopping, you may not find yourself necessarily growing your pay.

How important is pay to you?

Before finding good-paying jobs, you should ask how important pay is to you as a factor in choosing your next job.

Why are you entering the job? (Credit: Bruce Tulgan)
Why are you entering the job? (Credit: Bruce Tulgan)

Above, you will see the various reasons for entering a job. Sometimes, if you’re looking to go for a passion gamble, you may want to take a job that pays less.

But it may give you the chance to try out your dreams, regardless of how outlandish it sounds.

For example, in 2021, I quit my social worker job to run business, full-time. I earned $3690 as a social worker.

When I quit, I earned a paltry $700 in my first month.

Whilst I didn’t earn as much as I used to in a fulltime job in the first 3 months, it gave me time to try my hand at running a business, and seeing if I really wanted it.

It was three months later that I saw how important having a sense of control over the outcomes were in regaining a sense of joy in my work.

Don’t make the mistake of choosing passion over pay

Don’t learn from me. In choosing my first career, I thought passion and purpose was more important than the pay I would get.

It’s not a dichotomy, where it’s either pay or passion. It can be both.

You shouldn't think that profit, passion and purpose is a false dichotomy.
You shouldn’t think that profit, passion and purpose is a false dichotomy.

It’s a misconception to think that just because you’re doing good, you can’t earn money.

Most social service jobs are underpaid because they tend to be delivered by charities (here in Singapore), which have more restrictions around how they use the charitable donations. After all, how do you explain people’s hard-earned donations being given to the worker, rather than the client?

I’ve heard many people in the social services talk about how money is not important to them. But then you will see them griping about the long hours, and how they are not paid enough.

Passion does not need to come at the expense of one’s pay.

You shouldn’t downplay the importance of money in your life.

Having money gives you options. Who doesn’t like having luxury, and nice food? Whilst that may not be the most important things in life, those can help you raise your quality of living.

Singaporean SMEs generally don’t pay as well

If pay is that important to you, don’t look at SMEs in Singapore. Due to the stage of their development, their revenues may not be as stable or high.

They generally do not pay as well, and may not be as well-developed in terms of their pay and progression structures.

Singaporean SMEs may not pay as well
Singaporean SMEs may not pay as well

I spent my first job in a Singaporean SME, which struck me as being more like a family run business, than something run with much rational thought. For example, people who were promoted were those who had stayed there for a longer time, rather than those who had shown their value.

Singaporean SMEs can sometimes have traditional Confucian values tied to them, which would entail pay practices such as:

  1. Promotions based on age, not merit
  2. Pay based on age, rather than merit
  3. Pay that’s not tied to performance

There were people who were paid 50% of the market average.

If you want to look for the better paying companies, look at those MNCs. I’m not referring to Government-linked corporations (GLCs) who may have overseas offices, which have ties to the Singaporean wealth funds.

But I’m looking at those who were first established outside of Singapore. These can tend to use more progressive pay practices.

Include progression as part of the pay

There are some jobs which pay poorly, but which may end up being accelerator jobs to the icon jobs. As Kara Owens, the British High Commissioner to Singapore once shared at a networking event, there are two kinds of jobs.

There are the accelerator jobs, such as Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. These are the jobs that would place you in prime position for the top icon jobs, due to the exposure you get.

That’s the second type of job. The icon job is the job many people yearn for. It may be the CEO job. Or the director role.

Including the chance of progression in your role, can also help you to offset the lower pay you may get.

Find those recommended by others, or respected by industry

A simple question to ask others before accepting your next pay package, is to ask others who have worked there before.

What's in a great place to work? Find those that are highly regarded.
What’s in a great place to work? Find those that are highly regarded.

I didn’t.

In accepting my first pay package, I went for what was convenient, rather than asking people about progression within the company.

I thought that saving money on transport mattered more than the culture of the company.

Reading up on The Great Places to Work list can also help you determine the better companies to work for. These industry awards do show that the companies are respected by other players, and would likely have better pay practices than those at the bottom of the pay ladder.

Good pay, is many things, but not everything

You can now find anything, and everything online. But what you may not find is what's important to you.
You can now find anything, and everything online. But what you may not find is what’s important to you.

Whilst good paying jobs are inevitably important in determining a large part of your happiness, what you also need to understand is what drives you, and what you want.

If money is what’s most important to you, you may find that the initial money will drive you forward, but not onward. There comes a point in time where money is more than what you need to survive. When that comes, maybe it won’t be money you chase after in a job. What then will it be?

Only you can answer that.


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