Getting retrenched at any age can be a pretty traumatic experience. Many of us depend on our careers for a big part of our identity and can feel a sense of loss or purpose when we suddenly find ourselves jobless.
While we tend to think of retrenchments and layoffs as an “older person’s problem”, with COVID-19 still ravaging across the globe, the reality is many Millennials and Gen Zers’ job stability might be affected too. In fact, Singapore faces its highest unemployment rate in 10 years, rising from 3.2% to 3.5%.
But the “good” thing about being retrenched at a younger age is the ability to bounce back quickly. You’re likely to only be at the beginning to mid-way of your careers, and can even contemplate a career or industry shift. You’re also less likely to have huge financial commitments such as children or a looming mortgage.
If you’re currently facing unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis, and are in need of advice, we speak to Sabrina Ho, founder and CEO of Half The Sky Asia ®, a career and headhunting platform connecting female professionals with equal opportunity employers, on what are the next steps we can take.
Sabrina herself has had her own tough experiences with retrenchment and rejection in a volatile market. During the last global financial crisis in Hong Kong (where she was based at the time) she was retrenched three times in a year. She has since gone from strength-to-strength and is now currently the successful owner of her own recruiting platform.
Here she answers all your questions on what do if you’re dealing with this situation for the first time.
It's My First Time Getting Retrenched, What Should I Do?
Getting retrenched can be very shocking and you may feel like your world is falling apart. First things first, don’t blame yourself. The reality is, being retrenched is a very emotional experience and it’s very easy to blame yourself. But retrenchments can happen to anyone. It’s important to understand that letting you go was just as hard for the company. After all, the company spent years training and shaping you. Unfortunately, circumstances can be difficult at times and the unfolding economic crisisis an unprecedented one.
Secondly, give yourself some time to absorb what has happened: Do not make any big decisions. Wait until you are feeling calm, and composed, before deciding. Thirdly, review your termination letter and ensure you extract all the benefits that are owed to you. The majority of organisations will do the right thing, but there can be a few bad apples so stay on top of this.
It is now time for you to figure out your finances. One of the difficulties that you will face after becoming retrenched is the loss of financial stability. Hence, it is important to review your finances immediately and re-evaluate your monthly expenses and cut down any and all unnecessary expenditure. If you need financial advice, it is always best to seek professional help.
In addition, it is always great to check out government websites to learn about the employment support schemes you may be eligible for. Finally, it’s time to figure out your next step: talk to friends, family or network with career advisors/recruiters on LinkedIn to get some fresh perspective on your career and what you want to do next. Once you have figured, what you want to do next then it’s time to get to work on getting your CV ready to impress your next prospective employer.
If The Economy Is Bad, Is It Better To Take The First Job Offer I Get? Or Should I Continue To Wait It Out?
I would say it all depends on your financial situation as you may have family that is reliant on you, or you may have other financial responsibilities that do not afford you the luxury of being out of work for very long. If that is the case, then I would advise you to take the first thing that matches most of your requirements. If you can afford to wait then it’s important to evaluate job opportunities that are able to help you develop and get you where you want to be in your career in the next 18-36 months.
How Do I Stay Positive In The Face Of Rejection?
As an experienced headhunter, tech founder and former job seeker, rejection is always difficult to deal with. The reality is a job search can be tough – it is a process that takes time, effort and dedication. During the process it’s easy to lose your focus, get discouraged and want to quit. But the key to any job search is to do the work, as that’s how you’ll reap the rewards.
So, let’s talk about a few ways to stay motivated during the process. Firstly, we need to accept that sometimes, things don’t go the way we want. Rejections, especially during job searching in this economic climate is inevitable. It happens, and there are others who are going through the same experience. Secondly, looking for a job can be stressful. So, focus on the successes big or small, and having a positive mindset will help the process be less painful.
Finally, always remember as one door closes another will open. So many successful people I’ve helped in their career have all shared with me that the path to success was paved with many rejections. This gave them the opportunity to build resilience and to learn more about themselves. So, keep your head up.
Here is a pro tip: if you were rejected at any point of the job search process always ask what could you do to improve and enhance your chances. Take these pieces of information to mold your approach for the next opportunity that I have no doubt you will ace.
The Industry That I Am In Is Pretty Niche And It Might Take Awhile For Something Suitable To Come Up. What Can I Do If I Want To Pivot Into A Different Industry Altogether?
I would suggest to not wait for your industry to comeback as it may never do so. The world and business environments are undergoing unprecedented changes, and every industry is likely to be disrupted and unrecognizable in the next few years. So, it’s important to conduct a skills audit during this time.
How does one conduct a skills audit you may ask? Simple. List a set of core skills (for e.g digital marketing) on a piece of paper. Now list your soft skills underneath, (e.g communication and empathy) and on the other side, list the skills that you lack. Now compare them with the industry you are looking to enter into and list the gaps. Now you should have a clear map of the skills you do have and the skills you need to make a transition into a new industry.
You can also fill those gaps by undergoing courses to prepare yourself to transition into a new career.
What Are Some Of The Hiring Trends You've Noticed In The Past Couple Of Years?
Well, at its core it’s a shift towards digital skills. It may come as a surprise to many of you, but jobs such as social media managers weren’t around even seven years ago. The global economy is moving online — from ordering food, taxis to education. Almost every aspect of our lives will be mirrored online. Every employer, will therefore require you to have digital skills to be able to engage with customers and suppliers.
Clients also need tech developers to build these new exciting applications. The unfortunate reality though, is that only 20% of women worldwide are in the tech industry. So, if you’re looking for a new career where there are lots of jobs? Become a tech developer!
I have also noticed the shift towards digital collaboration where employers will require you to be able to work with teams remotely from all around the world, so it’s important for your mindset to think globally (not just locally) and be flexible on where and how you work.
You've Personally Gone Through Retrenchment. What Have You Learned From Overcoming That Part Of Your Life?
I remember during the last global financial crisis in Hong Kong I was retrenched three times in a year, now that must be a record! But seriously, it was a tough time. I remember having to queue up during job fairs of at least 500 people for one job at a newly opened hotel in the blazing hot sun in downtown Hong Kong. It was tough emotionally; it knocks your confidence and it makes you feel embarrassed and like a failure. But what I’ve learnt from going through a episode like that is that it builds resilience, character, adaptability and a “never say die” character — all attributes that have paved the way for me to have some success and be in a position to give back to those who may be looking for help now during this challenging time.
Qualifications Versus Experience — What's More Important? Does It Matter If I Don't Have A Degree But Have Years Of Experience In My Field Instead?
I personally value everyone’s qualities whether you have a degree or just experience. However, the reality is that it is becoming more and more difficult to get hired or to even get an interview if you don’t have the necessary qualifications.
If you are already in a career and have forged a position based on your experience, and want to move to the next level in your career, it will still be necessary to acquire the qualifications needed to help you make that next jump by merging your experience with formal qualifications.
So yes, it does matter in the long-term!
This article was first published in Cleo.
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