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#NewNormalDiaries: Making the Best of My 9 Months (and Counting) of Unemployment

Ms Ng Puay Kie is taking her job search challenges in stride by signing up for a course on digital marketing to increase her employability.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

This is perhaps the best way to describe Ms Ng’s circumstances.

50-year-old Ms Ng is a seasoned freelance advertising account director who found herself unemployed for 9 months and counting.

After leaving her last full-time job at an advertising agency in December 2019, Ms Ng took a short break from January to February before starting her job search.

Like many jobseekers, Ms Ng signed up for alerts on job sites. She also applied for a handful of contract and part-time roles related to her industry skills on MyCareersFuture, Careers@Gov, JobsDB and LinkedIn. Additionally, she tapped on her network to refer job openings to her.

While her efforts yielded some interviews, she did not receive any job offer. 

She attributes her job search difficulties to the challenging business climate brought about by the pandemic. For instance, one of the roles she applied for was put on hold.

“As a freelancer, when budgets get frozen, so do your opportunities. With increasing job losses, I knew it is going to be very tough to compete for a slice of a reduced pie.

After her helper returned home in September this year, Ms Ng took over all the home duties, knowing that it might be the new status quo. 

Spending time on what matters

When Ms Ng began staying at home full-time, her family members took some time to get used to it. 

“I think they (my children) had to adjust in the beginning, having me around to grumble at them about stuff. By now, they probably got used to having things done for them, so I think it works for us, to have me stay home.” 

As a mother of two boys aged 11 and 15, Ms Ng maintains a packed schedule.

“My time is spent minding my boys who are on school break, handling house chores, taking care of food supplies and preparing meals when required. I also spend at least 3 – 4 hours daily on my course which includes reading, watching videos, course activities, team projects (1 per month). Often over the weekends too,” she explained.

Yet, Ms Ng still sees the value in upskilling and makes the time to take online courses. Most recently, the course she is taking is the Skills Ignition SG – Grow with Google programme, a 6-month course on digital marketing which provides her with a monthly training allowance. As the course covers topics relevant to current marketing needs, she anticipates that this in-demand skill will enhance  her skillsets built through her long advertising career for future roles beyond 2020. 

“Upskilling is something I need to do to learn new things and ride through the uncertainty in the hopes of better possibilities when Covid-19 runs its course. At least I am giving myself more options job-wise,” she said.

Having a positive mindset

Given that many of us define ourselves by our jobs, being unemployed is a huge blow to our self-esteem. It is even harder to remain positive when one is jobless for a long time.

In Ms Ng’s case, she acknowledged that her self-esteem took a hit initially. But she soon realised that her unemployment is due to the pandemic affecting businesses, rather than a lack of experience. 

She also tries to stay positive by using her time wisely and maintaining a positive mindset.

Elaborating, Ms Ng said: “I think we make the best or worst of circumstances. If jobs are elusive due to the rise in unemployment and lack of in-demand skills, you make a choice – to stay home to refocus priorities on family (if finances permit), to upskill, to take any job or do nothing and wallow in self-pity.”

“Since I am home, it’s better to do something that will enhance my professional value for the days ahead. I hope the stay at home is temporary.”

Throughout the entire time, Ms Ng reminds herself of three key things.

“I remind myself to be grateful that we still have food to eat and can pay our bills. Secondly, to make good use of my learning opportunity and to persevere for my benefit. Lastly, there is a suitable job for me, I just haven’t found it. But I will.”

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