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5 minute read

Bouncing Back From Retrenchment: How These S’poreans Did it

Facing job loss is never easy, but you can and you will overcome this. Today we reflect on the lessons from people who were once in the same boat as you were; find out how they turned their lives around and made it for the better.

Whether during a global pandemic or an economic downturn, the job market can face serious repercussions: people losing their jobs. Maybe you’ve lost your job too, or you know someone going through the painful effects of job loss. The aftermath can be shocking, stressful, and even confusing. How does one bounce back from getting retrenched?

Here, we explore stories of people who have experienced retrenchment and job loss in one way or another. They share important lessons that they’ve learnt from their experiences and how you can take a step forward to bounce back from this temporary setback.

Prefer to get personalised advice for your career? Register for a complimentary session with WSG’s Career Matching Services and get the support you need.

1. Use this time to recuperate and recharge

Ken Tan, a father of two primary school-going children, lost his job weeks before COVID-19 hit Singapore.

“I wanted to ease off from a hectic routine that had seen me put in almost 60-hour workweeks (including night conference calls and weekends) for several years. Now, I can fully recharge to be ready for the next chapter, both physically and mentally. This means exercising more regularly and catching up on recreational activities I didn’t have time for, such as reading, assembling plastic model kits, and solo motorcycle rides.”

The harmful effects of not taking a break have been proven time and time again by science.

Imagine a marathoner who doesn’t stop running or a car that drives at race speeds non-stop- they’re both bound to break down sooner rather than later.

Read More: “It Made Me Re-examine My Life. My Body Wants Me to Stop.” Young Singaporeans Share Why They Took a Career Break

A USC and MIT study showed that our brains aren’t idle when we take breaks — they are actually working hard to process our memories and help us make sense of what we have experienced.

You could take this time to engage in a helpful bit of self-reflection and see how you may be able to improve for the future. Here is a positive writing exercise you could try.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk about your problems

Dr John Lim, President of The Singapore Counselling Centre, has helped many PMETs get back on their feet through counselling.

“There is an average increase of 30% year-on-year of older Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) seeking counselling due to retrenchment. Remind yourself that one setback does not mean you are doomed to be at rock bottom for the rest of your life. Dealing positively with your emotions lays the foundation for personal growth.

Remember that you can and will get out of this cycle of emotions. If you feel overwhelmed by these emotions, don’t hesitate to speak with a qualified counsellor, coach or therapist. When one door closes, another will always open. Keep an open mind and an open heart – be receptive to new obstacles and opportunities that will come your way.”

Often, those who experience job loss will go through complicated emotions, such as:

  • Shock and denial
  • Anger
  • Depression and acceptance
  • Guilt
  • Acceptance and relief

Learn more about the five emotional stages of retrenchment and how you could better cope with these complicated emotions.

3. Strengthen your skills

Mrs Pauline Leow, a 44-year-old Singaporean who left her corporate job in 2016 and strike it out on her own to become a learning facilitator.

While Pauline wasn’t retrenched, she is a perfect example of how upskilling is equally important, whether or not one is employed.

There are plenty of SkillsFuture courses available for Singaporeans to upgrade themselves, but interestingly only 20% of the resident labour force in Singapore have utilised their credits.

Pauline was originally eyeing a baking course that piqued her interest but decided to instead train in skills that would take her nearer to her career goals.

She used her credits on an advanced certificate in training and assessment course and now teaches effective communications at Republic Polytechnic.

4. Seek out opportunities

Leong Yew Wah was made redundant at 55 but continued to improve and upskill himself.

Yew Wah is a perfect example of someone who understands the phrase “time and tide wait for no man.” Instead of waiting for a job to come his way slowly, he sought opportunities.

Launching himself into Workforce Singapore’s Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for 12 months, along with the help of WSG’s appointed Career Matching Provider AKG (formerly known as Maximus).

He eventually joined Modern Beauty Wellness Pte Ltd, an SME in the beauty and wellness sector, as a Management Operations Officer.

To see what WSG programmes can help you, register for a complimentary consultation with WSG’s Career Guidance team here, and get support through this trying time. 

5. Ask for help

Alan Tang retrenched from a 28-year management career.

For 15 months, Alan was out of work and at a loss for what to do.

Seeking an upturn in fortunes and help to move in the right direction, he approached a career coach at Ingeus, a career matching provider of Workforce Singapore (WSG). A career coach helps workers, including many retrenched individuals, find their footing and develop a game plan for their next role. This may include recommending career programmes, skills to learn, interview practice, and more.

With the advice and assistance provided by his career coach, Alan soon found employment in a new industry as a product and market development manager at StarHub.

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