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Bouncing back from retrenchment

Originally published in Singapore Business Review.

The release of the Ministry of Manpower’s ‘Labour Market Advance Release 2016’ showed both slowing employment growth (an increase of 0.4%, down from 0.9% in 2015), and an increase in unemployment, creeping up to 2.2%. As has been well highlighted, Singapore is not immune from global trends and these results, in the global context, are not surprising. But it should also be noted, it is not all bad news.

Singapore’s burgeoning tech, ICT, and startup sectors are in expansion phases, and this means an increase in demand for both local and overseas Singaporean talent with specific education and experience. We are seeing a shift in the types of skills required in the new local economy. Hi-tech skills are only going to increase in demand.

But for many people looking to transition into new careers, either through redundancy or feeling pressured to look for a new role, the question is ‘where to from here?’ Education, especially in technology-related fields, is key (more on that later) but so is advice on how to take the next steps and give yourself the best chance of getting a new job.

Take stock, get over the shock

First and foremost, if you have been through a redundancy process, you will need to cut yourself a break. It is likely you have been on an emotional rollercoaster and the whole experience, no matter how long it has been, will have taken a toll on you. Reactions range from withdrawal through to throwing yourself headlong into a new job hunt.

Neither is right nor wrong, but it is important to reflect on how you are responding to the situation. It might be worth talking to someone or taking up meditation to help you get over the shock. And like any major change to the status quo, it takes time to reflect and recover.

Emotional recovering is vital because it has a direct impact on your ability to prepare, interview for, and get a new job. An interviewee who is angry or ashamed about leaving a previous role leaves the wrong impression and makes them a less attractive hire.

Treat looking for a job like a job

Finding a job requires hard work and dedication — just like, well, a job. Develop a routine — search, apply, network. All of these are important parts of finding the right role and organisation. Give yourself regular breaks and remember to take enjoyment from your family, friends, and opportunities the situation provides. Volunteering for a worthy cause looks good on the CV, but it is also proven to make people happier.

Be resilient

Resilience is a greatly underestimated skill, but it is one you are going to need searching for a job in a hard market. Talk to people, exercise, get out of the house, and network. There will be setbacks, applications will be rejected, and there will be bad interviews. It is important to learn from these experiences, but do not let it get the better of you.

Realise that a particular role may receive hundreds of applicants, and that recruitment agents and HR managers see thousands of people each year. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to be top of mind for each new role.

Get the details right

Love it or hate it, CVs are the first step in the application process. You would not believe the number of CVs we get with spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and even the wrong company listed in the text (a sure sign of a cut and paste error). Make your CV as good as it can be for each role. Identify the key attributes a job description is looking for, and make sure these are reflected in your work achievements and employment history.

The same should go for your LinkedIn profile and your general online professional identity. LinkedIn is a first step for background checks and it must align with your CV details. It is also a great way to connect with a wide range of people and organisations. Where possible (and realistic), try to turn online networks into real connections (be prepared to drink a lot of coffee). This can be especially the case if you are looking to move industries or sectors.

Create your own options

The good news is, you make your own luck. A successful job search comes down to perseverance and initiative as much as it does to finding the perfectly matched role. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help and advice (which is different from asking for a job).

With some industries struggling at the global level (think shipping, oil & gas, and banking), you might have to look at opportunities outside your comfort zone. If this is the case, you will need to demonstrate how the skills you have developed can be transferred and what advantages your ‘fresh’ views can offer. This means research… lots of research.

The silver lining on the redundancy cloud is that you’re most certainly not alone. In the current employment environment, retrenchment does not carry the stigma it did in the past. It is not a pleasant experience, and it can take a long time to recover from, but it does open up other opportunities and career paths.


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