Mid-career switching is fast becoming a common practice for many workers.
After all, if you no longer see a future or are passionate about your current job, you may be doing yourself – not to mention your employer – a favour by taking the plunge sooner rather than later.
However, moving away from something that you have grown accustomed to and have developed the expertise for can be a daunting task.
Not all experiences and skills you have acquired may be transferable, and starting from a lower salary may not be ideal for many – especially if one has significant financial obligations or family to consider.
But with some support, you may be back on track way sooner than you think.
Never Giving Up
If first you don’t succeed, try again.
This is pretty much the mantra of 37-year-old Nawfel Maricar.
A go-getter, little has stopped him from reaching his objective once he has set his mind on something.
The father of two first tried his hand at film production after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications, media studies and journalism in 2015.
However, the industry was not quite what he had envisioned. Shortly after, spurred on by close friends in the currency exchange business, Nawfel decided to one day establish his own money-changing business.
He shared: “I just wanted something for myself. It was easier for me to move in this direction because I had the connections and people who were willing to teach me.”
As part of the licensing process, he first started as a dealer in a small money exchange firm. From there, he moved on to become a general manager in one of the largest money changers in Singapore before setting up his own business in less than two years.
He recounted: “It was a struggle at first because I was on my own. But then I got help, hired some people, and yes, business was good.”
Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19 nearly two years later took a toll on his business. Nawfel held on for as long as he could before finally cutting his losses almost four years after establishing his company.
He did not let the setback put him down. He started trawling career sites such as mycareersfuture.gov.sg and chanced upon a sales and business analyst role with Koomi [formerly Novitee] – an omnichannel F&B solutions provider.
Though it was a junior position, Nawfel had always been open to working in an IT-related company.
“The ad wrote ‘no experience needed’, so I just tried my luck,” he laughed.
Since joining the company in 2022, Nawfel now leads the support division with Koomi, managing over 1,500 point-of-sale systems in Singapore.
He also supervises a team of 10 support specialists, both locally and in the company’s international offices found in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines – to name a few.
While he admits that the experience was not an easy one, he shared that the support he received on several fronts made the journey bearable and worthwhile.
Support from Friends and Family
To familiarise himself with the business, Nawfel invested much time in his new role. Working long hours soon became part and parcel of his weekly routine.
While his friends were supportive of his new career move, his wife was initially hesitant about his choice to start over from scratch.
“She was like ‘why are you working such long hours? You should have gone for something of the same level; this is a step down from what you used to do,’” he reenacted.
“But after a while, she figured I had already set my mind on this path and decided to go with the flow. It is just that it was such a drastic switch for her – me starting back as a ‘freshie’.
“When she started seeing the growth, the improvement, and when she knew I was enjoying what I was doing, that was more important for her. From then on, she was behind me all the way.”
Support from NTUC’s e2i
As Nawfel had no prior experience in IT or the F&B industry, he was hired under the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) – an initiative that Koomi had partnered NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) with.
He shared that the CCP provided him with a structured learning process, putting him under the direct mentorship of Koomi’s top executives, CEO Benjamin Yang and CCO Andrew Tay. The institute regularly followed up with him on his progress.
“From my previous experience, before I opened my money-changing business and when I worked for a different company, you don’t get that much support. Everything was like, ‘You go figure it out’ – there was no step-by-step process.
“But e2i worked closely with my company to ensure that everything was pre-planned for me so that I would be able to make the switch faster.”
He added what would have normally taken any new person up to a year to grasp, he managed to do it within six to seven months, thanks to the CCP and a lot of online self-learning.
A Supportive Work Culture
Probably most importantly, Koomi was able to provide Nawfel with a supportive work environment, one where colleagues were always keen to share and look out for one another.
“The culture of the company is such. It is very open, very welcoming, and we are pretty much family here. Everybody is helping each other in one way or another.
“You won’t see anyone suffering on his own here. The moment we see someone in a predicament, we will divide the work and try to get them out of that fix.”
Advice from a Mid-Career Switcher
For anyone looking to make a career switch, Nawfel has three points of advice – to have an open mind, set goals, and be willing to grind to achieve those goals.
He shared: “You need to have an open mind if you are going to do a career switch. You may have been someone in your previous field, and you may have progressed to a certain level, but now you are looking at an entirely new switch, so you need to keep an open mind.
“You cannot have a closed, pre-conceived idea that you will go in [to a new company] and become somebody straightaway within management – it just doesn’t work like that.
“You have to be willing to set goals and grind towards them for you to be somebody in that field that you are trying to switch to.”
Are you looking to make a switch? Find out more about e2i’s Career Conversion Programme.