1. Career

10 tips to make your job search in Malaysia easier

Fresh out of college and on a job search or thinking of a career change? If the answer is yes, and if you’re an Other Expat, go ahead and capitalize on the things I’ve learned as an Other Expat myself.

I’ve been on both sides – in my previous life job, I interviewed candidates, many of them foreigners, for various positions in the company, and I’ve also done the job hunting circuit as a “skilled” worker and foreigner.

Here are some tips to make the entire process less daunting for you.

Job hunting 101 – identify your skills or strengths

Before setting out to do your job search, do a thorough update of your CV – highlight your unique selling points and how you have contributed to the companies you’ve worked for.

PRO-TIP: It’s not always a case of racism or sexism if you don’t land a job interview or offer. Sometimes, employers just don’t see you as skilled enough, or they aren’t convinced that you can contribute to their company more than a local hire to be worth the hassle of a foreigner’s Employment Pass. So this is very important.

Remember that you are also screening them

I’m assuming here that you have the luxury of searching for a good job that you really want (as opposed to just finding any job to be able to survive, which also happens! More on this later!). If you do have this luxury, always remember that your job interviews are two-way: you want to work in a company whose values align with yours, where you can contribute substantially but also learn and become a better version of your professional self.

PRO-TIP: Do your homework and learn about the organization as much as you can, but also don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their core values, their future plans, their challenges and how they intend to overcome them. The best companies would be happy to discuss these with you.

Excellent communication skills are key

Most Malaysian companies have a quota of foreigners they can employ, and the process of sponsoring you for a work visa (called an Employment Pass in Malaysia) is typically tedious for them.

PRO-TIP: MSC-status or ICT-status companies are more likely to have an easier time sponsoring Employment Passes. These are companies that are registered with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) or Multimedia Super Corridor Malaysia (MSC Malaysia), usually tech-related. And you’ll know this because they will have a logo of either one on their websites when you do your job search online.

Because of this issue, you really have to stand out from the other candidates, who may be other foreigners or locals. This is easiest when your verbal and written skills in English are excellent.

PRO-TIP: Knowing Bahasa Melayu is a big plus, but not a requirement in most workplaces (that hire foreigners). But English is.

Prepare a cover letter

A cover letter helps you show off your excellent communication skills (as mentioned above). And also indicates to the companies that you took the time to consider their job posting, as opposed to just mass-sending your CV to every Malaysian company that has an email address.

→ PRO-TIP: Mention that you’re a foreigner so that they know they (might) have to sponsor your Employment Pass if they hire you. This way, you don’t waste time – both yours and theirs – if they’re not able to hire foreigners.

The response rate is up to 5 weeks (sometime even more)

After you’ve sent in your application to companies, if they find you interesting, they typically take 1 to 5 weeks to respond.

PRO-TIP: If you’ve been invited to a face-to-face interview, it’s usually the first one. And if they really like you, they’ll invite you to a second one, with a higher-up person this time. This could take another week.

Take this duration into consideration when you plan your job search, especially if you can’t afford to be unemployed for a long stretch of time.

Consider going for an “easy” job

For us Other Expats, there are options if you really need to get a job – any job. Obviously, these might not be optimal: they may not be “fulfilling” or what you’d consider your dream job. And the pay could be quite low (around RM1,500 to RM 2,500 per month), but they are always looking to hire. They’re also likely willing to sponsor your Employment Pass for a minimum of one year.

These are jobs at call centres where you can work as a customer service agent (and work your way up!). Or at language or educational institutes where you can be an English instructor (if you are a native English speaker).

PRO-TIP: Freelancing as a creative is also an option you can look into. But this would only work if you already have a resident visa in the country. It’s illegal to work as a freelancer if your visa is sponsored by a company.

Check out the company’s photos

A quick way to gauge if a company is hiring foreigners (and also to see if their company culture would be a fit for you) is to check out (real) photos of their staff, whether it’s on their website or on their social media accounts.

PRO-TIP: LinkedIn is one of the best places to do an online job search, as they are comprehensive, and in my experience, more likely to respond. Do note though that this is also probably a more competitive platform, so you really need to stand out (as mentioned at the beginning of this article).

Here’s a useful link to an article about where to do your online job search.

The average salary range is between RM3,500 and RM9,000

Huge disclaimer: This isn’t official, and I only came to this conclusion after working here in Malaysia as a writer for 4 years and having information from other expat friends and companies offering jobs to foreigners. Obviously, salaries are different and are a case-to-case basis, but I’m saying this just to give you an idea.

It can go even higher, depending on your experience, expertise, and skill, obviously, but as an Other Expat, you can expect to be offered a salary within this range.

The common benefits are medical insurance and a minimum of eight days paid annual leave (this is the lowest number, but some companies can provide up to 21 days minimum depending on how long you have been with them).

PRO-TIP: You may be asked to pay for visa expenses incurred by the company. Most companies shoulder a majority of your visa expenses, and in some cases, all the expenses. But clarify this with the company before you start working, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

You’ll (probably) have to pay for your own accommodations

Unless you’ve got a great offer, as there are some companies that do pay for part or all of your housing expenses. But typically, they won’t. Factor that into your monthly expenses.

You can bring your family here as your dependents

Whether it’s your spouse, kids, or parents, you can bring them to Malaysia to live with you as your dependents. They won’t be allowed to work without their own Employment Passes, but only if you’re earning more than RM5,000 per month.

Here’s a useful link on this topic

So that’s it! Good luck with your job hunt, and let us know about your job search experiences.

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