Ex-cop training to be restaurant manager
Ex-cop training to be restaurant manager with support from Workforce Development Agency initiative
A smile from a customer is enough to make his day.
And for that reason, Mr Mark Chin, 29, a former cop, decided to follow his passion - he made a mid-career switch to the food and beverage (F&B) industry.
He left the police force last April, after serving for eight years. He is now a manager-in-training at Soup Restaurant.
"I love to eat, especially Chinese cuisine. My parents love Soup Restaurant and we are regular customers.
"So when I first joined, memorising the menu was easy because I had already eaten more than half of the items," said Mr Chin, whose family recently visited the restaurantto celebrate his father's birthday.
Mr Chin, who works at the restaurant's newest branch, at Raffles Hotel, is part of the company's first batch of Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) candidates for the food services sector.
The PCP is part of the Workforce Development Agency's (WDA) Adapt and Grow initiative, which provides greater support for mid-career professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) job seekers.
When he was in school, Mr Chin had part-time jobs in the F&B industry.
But he signed on with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in 2007, after completing an electrical technology course at the Institute of Technical Education.
While with the SPF, he studied part-time and obtained a business degree at a private university here.
After resigning last year, he took a year to explore other jobs while busying himself with giving tuition and working as an Uber driver.
"I wanted to try something new. But at the end of the day, I would still be searching and applying for F&B jobs on the online job portals," Mr Chin said.
In May, he was hired by Soup Restaurant. He was recommended to join the six month-long PCP while being paid like a normal employee.
It has been a tiring but fulfilling two-and-a-half months learning on the job for Mr Chin, who has to work eight hours a day, six days a week.
"(The job is) tiring and the hours are long. But when you give people good food and service, a simple smile or a 'thank you' can brighten your day," he said.
"F&B gives you the platform to learn not just about service and food, but also values such as respect, understanding and empathy."
He added that his current job vastly differs from his days as a cop, saying: "The nature of the jobs are so different. At the SPF, I had to be firm and stern. But at Soup Restaurant, I can go all out to serve people and make them smile.
"If customers like your service and food, they will come back again. But people will not want to come back to the police station."
But Mr Chin admitted he was initially apprehensive about leaving the force.
"(Being a cop) was a childhood dream of mine and I could not bear to leave.
"But a bigger part of me knew that I belonged somewhere else. I had to step out of my comfort zone," he said.
Coming from a different line of work, Mr Chin's main concern was whether he would be able to start from scratch in the F&B industry.
However, he managed to pick up the necessary skills a month into the job.
He said he is blessedto be able to make a mid-career switch as he has the support of his family and girlfriend. But he has encountered his share of naysayers.
"Some friends told me, '(Why) police don't want to do, become a waiter?'," he said.
"I am not ashamed to tell people that I am here (at Soup Restaurant) because service is my passion. But I also have friends whose first reactions were, 'I'll come eat at the restaurant to support you'."
His mentor, Mr Ivan Ng, said Mr Chin's background as a cop meant he had experience dealing with people from all walks of life.
Mr Ng, 46, is the chief operating officer for the Soup Restaurant Group's F&B brands. He said: "Mark's a hard worker who makes it a point to come earlier and leave later.
"F&B is not an easy career. You need to be versatile because you are exposed to all sorts of people."
Mr Chin's training will end in November and he will be deployed as a restaurant manager to one of Soup Restaurant's outlets here.
Mr Chin shared a recent incident where a customer sent a dish back to the kitchen multiple times as he found it too salty.
But the potential complaint turned into a compliment when Mr Chin acceded to the customer's requests.
The man later approached Mr Chin to thank him, even acknowledging that he is a difficult customer to please.
Mr Chin said: "Customers always want to eat something nice and I know that a particular dish cannot cater to all people so I will change it until they like it.
"I have found my calling and I am prepared to stay for a long time."
If customers like your service and food, they will come back again. But people will not want to come back to the police station.
- Mr Mark Chin, who left the police force to join the food and beverage industry
About the initiative
The Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) under the Workforce Development Agency aim to provide support for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) job seekers looking to make a mid-career switch.
Since the launch in 2007, more than 7,000 PMETs have taken part in the programmes, which span 11 sectors including healthcare, social services and international trade.
Four sectors, including food services, were introduced in June.
Like manager-in-training Mark Chin from Soup Restaurant, candidates are given support in re-skilling themselves to embark on a new career in a specific industry.
In June, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Sayannounced that a total of $40 million per year would be available to fund course fees and salary support through PCPsup to the middle of next year.