Editor’s note: This article first appeared here on 21 Jun 2009.
Should you grab any job that comes along?
Written By: Gilbert Goh
Should you grab any job that comes your way after being retrenched? Many I know will try to go back to their same profession and some even seek out the same position they last held with similar pay scale without any consideration for other position that they are unfamiliar with. So what should the unemployed do here?
I guess this is a personal issue and also largely depend on how long the person has being unemployed. Some have a large sum of savings and can hold on for many months whereas others could not even go unemployed for a month. Depending on how desperate you are, you are the best judge of the situation.
Those who held senior position before seem to take much longer time to find employment. Senior management staff and chief executive officers tend to find it harder to find their next job especially in a very depressed job market even though their salary request is much reduced. I have seen senior managers earning $5,000 to $6,000 during the 1997 downturn turning to driving taxis to make ends meet. Their sacrifice and humility earn my utmost respect and I salute them! They are role models for the many unemployed people who may still be fussy about their job selection.
Easier To Land Part Time Work
Generally blue collared and clerical staff will find it easier to get employment as firstly such jobs are in demand and secondly their salary request is within market range. Many will be able to find work if they are not too choosy. However, this is all so personal and what is gem to one may be trash to another. I have known some members here who are doing telemarketing for $7.00 an hour happily of which some will shy away from due to various reasons best known to the individual.
So should you take up any job that comes along regardless of the salary and job scope just so that you can go back to being employed again and lead a normal life? Our government has asked us to lower our expectation and just work first so that we are out of the misery. There is some truth there as the longer one stays jobless the worse the situation will become unless one has alot of backup funds. Even with an attractive severance pay out, many retrenched executives lost alot of self confidence as they sit at home doing nothing. Their family members also have to cope with daddy suddenly hanging around their neck 24/7.
Yet for others, the retrenchment may come at a wonderful time especially for mothers. A transitioning member gladly took out ten months of severance pay out and spent precious time at home now tending her two young kids. After knocking off at 9pm daily for the last ten years, she found meaning in her life again with new found freedom at home. Her kids are also happy that mummy is finally at home now waiting for them instead of the maid. She may need to readjust her work philosophy having find so much meaning in life after staying at home for the past few months after being retrenched.
Personally, I find that we all need to lead a more balanced lifestyle in busy Singapore. Too many of us have worked too hard in our jobs and this have cause us to lose touch with our family members and even ourselves. We all need to work less and live simply so that we can find meaning in our existence. Many have told me that they felt they are merely robots living meaninglessly in our stressful society. I agreed with them.
On another note, some may want to just take up any jobs for the money. This is a practical society that we live in. Bills need to be paid and the home mortgage has to be paid on time.
Financial advisors have advise us, as a rule of thumb, that one should set aside at least six months of living expenditure for emergency use. However, speaking from my experience, a minimum sum of twelve months to eighteen months seem reasonable as one can stay jobless for one to two years against one’s choice. There is no fixed unemployment term unfortunately. Some I know have stay jobless for more than two years. Others longer.
Others may also ask if they can strike out on their own if they have some capital set aside for such a purpose? I say why not? Retrenchment always provide us the opportunity to try something new and we may succeed. The only caution I give is that if the business venture fails (which it may) what is your next option? Many who have dumped all their savings or severance pay into starting a new business venture get themselves burn and end up worse off than before. I would advise one who is keen to start a new business venture after being laid off to also set aside at least twelve months of expenditure sum so that there is something to fall back on in the event that the business really fail. We don’t plan to fail but if we fail to plan for contingency we are in for real trouble. It is good to be kaisu sometimes.
What about a total career change? Again why not? I speak from experience again. I was working in the financial sector for around 5-6 years earning around $60,000 a year on average before going away. As I was all along keen in the social service sector, I thought I was ready for a career change. However due to the extremely low salary range I put it off my priority job search list as I realise that I could not maintain my lifestyle with the kind of salary I am getting. For a start, social workers are paid less than $2,000 a month and quotes of $1500 is not uncommon.
Nevertheless, after many months of unemployment and an recurring interest in that sector, I decided to plunge right in starting at $6.50 an hour as a part time worker in a family service center. After several months as a part timer, I was offered full time contract employment with a starting salary of less than $1500. I stayed with the center for less than a year before venturing out to another welfare organization managing to acquire a salary of $2500. Though it was less than half of my previous pay as a financial advisor, I was able to pay my bills and manage a reasonably decent lifestyle. What lessons have I learnt here?
Firstly, I should not have wait so long for the right job and salary to come along. By waiting, I wasted precious time and potential lost of income. The mental stress that I have acquired from the wait far outweighed the real loss in income and status of the new job. If I can do this all over again, I will follow my heart and seek out those jobs belonging to the social service sector. As such jobs do not pay well and many people shun them as dirty jobs, Singaporeans have a lot of choices if they don’t mind the salary range. Many people who are retrenched in the 40s and 50s are all doing well in the social service sector.
Secondly, it gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that my job creates an impact on someone’s else life. Accountants and lawyers have known to throw away their five figure salary and spend their time in the social service sector. The job satisfaction they get far outweigh the huge loss in income and social status. Many have not regretted the big sacrifice and some even have to downsize their lifestyle in order for them to survive on the meager salary they are getting as social workers.
Commission Paying Jobs
Many people I know went into the commission-based industries such as property, insurance, stockbroking and multi level marketing (MLM). Many have done extremely well and regained back their self esteem. Some are smart enough to even go for taxi licensing first in preparation for any economic layoff – more like a backup plan. To these people, I saluted them as they are more prepared than others who can only watch when it is their turn to get laid off.
I remembered I went into the insurance business in 1994 and was making a reasonably decent living till 1999 before I ventured out for my study abroad. The income I made during those five years was equivalent to my ten years of service with the government as a civil servant. So if you are jobless, commission-based job is worth a try and you never know if you can do it or not without trying first right?
As commission-based jobs do not have a base salary one needs to ready for at least three months of no income as industries such as insurance advisors need to clear a few certification courses before they can start to sell. For property agents, the wait for the first paycheck may be a good half year down the road as clients only pay up when the deal is officially closed. There are also marketing advertisements to pay and other industry-related necessary cost to bear. Those with big backup finances have an obvious advantage here.
So, it is good to try out new opportunites but going in with eyes open is equally important. It will be disastrous to try out for a year without really making any headway in the full-commission industry and ending up worse off than before.
Nevertheless, there is no gain without risk here.
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Sir Edmund Hilary