Career

4 Steps Retrenched PMETs Must Take if They Want to Get Back on the Career Ladder

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Joanne Poh

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I have a few friends who hate their jobs so much they’re dying to get retrenched so they can take their severance packages and travel the world for a couple of months. Unsurprisingly, these people are all under 35.

Once you hit middle age, you’re going to start praying that your company never pulls the plug, because it’s that much harder to find a new job that matches your last drawn salary. If you’re a middle-aged PMET, the future looks even bleaker.

According to the latest statistics, 71% of the people who lost their jobs last year were PMETs, and while the average amount of time taken to find a new job was 2.37 months, a whopping 70% of the people who managed to do so were forced to switch to a different industry, and the majority of these ex-PMETs ended up working in wholesale and retail trade, or administrative and support services. That means these ex-bankers could be the people trying to sell you Strawberry soap at the Body Shop.

That’s a very scary thought for anyone who was brought up to believe that studying hard and clawing their way up the corporate ladder would bring security.

If you’ve been let go, know that how you deal with the weeks and months after your retrenchment can have a big impact on how easily you get back into the workforce. Here are four steps to take to raise your chances of getting back on the career ladder.

 

Get your finances in order and cut your spending

If the statistics are to be believed, after 2.37 months on average, many retrenched PMETs desperate to get into the workforce accept jobs as retail salespeople or administrative assistants. Now, 2.37 months strikes me as an awfully short time to throw in the towel and accept a job paying less than $10 an hour, especially when for many years you’ve been one of the country’s high earners.

I suspect one reason people are so ready to settle is the fact that they can’t keep up with their monthly expenses and are driven to take up random jobs out of desperation. The fact that there’s no unemployment insurance makes it that much more likely that people take up jobs that don’t let them utilise their skillsets. After all, when it comes down to it, hawking cosmetics at Sasa is preferable to starving to death.

An earlier news report quoted some PMETs complaining about how their financial obligations like housing loans and car loans made it difficult to stay afloat after losing their jobs. Surprisingly, none of the respondents were reported as having cut their expenses, sold their cars or taken their kids out of childcare after losing their jobs.

The first thing you do when you lose your job should be to get your finances in order and put your spending into emergency mode, meaning you only spend on necessities. Most families are dual-income these days, and in a best-case scenario a married couple can survive on one spouse’s salary until the other one gets back on his or her feet.

If you do not downsize your current lifestyle, it’ll be that much harder to concentrate on getting back onto the career ladder when you’re juggling shifts at FairPrice.

 

Tell everybody

Singaporeans hate losing face, which is why it sometimes seems like everyone on the island is trying to appear as rich as possible.

And while you’ll observe all manner of humble-bragging on Facebook, nobody ever posts about getting retrenched or losing their jobs.

Which is exactly what they should be doing! While humble-bragging will only cause people to resent you and secretly plot your demise, posting about a serious setback will not only result in an outpouring of sympathy, but also offers of help.

Even if nobody in your social circle has a job ready and waiting, news travels fast, and unless your work involves excavating ancient Egyptian mummies, someone you know probably has a friend who knows someone who can hire you.

Instead of lying low and hiding at home in shame, retrenched people who broadcast the fact that they need a job and make the effort to connect with their networks as much as possible will find getting a new job a zillion times easier.

 

Aggressively make yourself more employable

Skills upgrading and our wonderful SkillsFuture credit have been harped about ad nauseum, but it’s worth reminding you once again that even if you were told you’d been retrenched because of “restructuring”, there’s a good chance your skills just aren’t as sharp as they used to be, and you are now competing against candidates with youth, time and a more updated resume on their side.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to upgrading your skills, and let’s face it, for most retrenched PMETs, taking a single WDA-approved course isn’t going to help that much.

Now that you’ve got a lot more time on your hands (assuming your spouse hasn’t saddled you with childcare duties now that you’re at home a lot more), you need to work hard to turn yourself into the ideal job-seeking candidate.

Take an honest look at your CV and work experience, and then come up with a plan to plug the gaps. If you’re in a technical field, your skills deficiencies might be obvious; however, even those working in non-technical areas can usually identify some areas in which they’ve started to rely too heavily on younger colleagues or subordinates. Hint: there’s a high chance this has something to do with web/digital technologies.

 

Take care of yourself physically and mentally

Apart from the health and fitness fanatics, Singaporeans are generally lousy at taking care of their bodies and minds, especially when they’re focusing on work.

We are now the developed nation with the second highest proportion of diabetics, and obesity is escalating at an alarming rate, with experts blaming the fact that there’s a huge fall in the amount of exercise people get when they start working. And considering Singaporeans work such long hours, it’s not hard to see how the situation has gotten so serious.

Now that you no longer have a desk to sit at for 8-12 hours every day, use this as a chance to get yourself in shape physically and mentally.

You need all the resilience and mental clarity you can muster during this tough period. After all, nobody wants to hire someone who shows up for an interview looking tired and washed up.

If you’ve never been physically fit in your entire life, you might be skeptical about the difference it makes, but trust me when I say that eating well, exercising daily and sleeping enough can really make any challenge seem more surmountable.

Have you ever been retrenched? Tell us how you got back on your feet in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • hansc

    Job opportunities in Singapore are like an iceberg… Most of them will never rise above the surface. More than 70% of jobs never hit the market (i.e. job sites). Knowing this, it should be clear that building a strong network will help finding a new position quick. Building a good network starts before actually being fired. So.. better come prepared.