Since returning from Sydney, I have been meeting up with jobless readers at my office but none impresses me so much as Bruce, a 40-something sole breadwinner who spoke articulately and is full of confidence in his skills and work experience.
Retrenched less than three months ago from a banking job as a IT specialist, Bruce gave up a more than $10,000/month salary against his will and is back on the drawing board now looking for work.
Bruce’s situation is made more acute as he is the sole breadwinner and his wife is a homemaker all this while. He has two teenage sons and they are still dependent on him – at least for the next 5 to 7 years.
He is defnitely worried about his $3000/month mortgage repayment and will make the decision to sell his prized condo when the situation gets into dire straits and downgrades into a HDB resale flat.
Bruce has willingly agreed to answer our questionaire on his job search experience.
Transitioning: First of all, thanks Bruce for allowing us to interview you online and can you provide us with some background information on yourself?
Bruce: Hi, I am a late-40s IT executive who has had over 20 years of experience. Began my career as a programmer in the IC Manufacturing industry.
Thereafter, I moved to a Software house providing services to deploy and upgrade applications to our Banking clients. With that experience, I was then headhunted to join the banks.
I have been working in Banking IT since then (over 15 years), providing Treasury support and then moved on to Systems Administration, managing support teams.
Transitioning: What was your last occupation and you have told me that you were unemployed for a few months, can you tell us about your job search experience and also more about this?
Bruce: My last role was that of a Project Manager to deploy IT infrastructure in APAC. However, due to a department re-structure, my role was made redundant.
Since then, I have been looking for opportunities both in and out of the banking and finance industry.
Some of the challenges I faced are because being so long in banking and finance, the headhunters are more willing to look within the same industry. For the other industries that did reply (which were very few) they mentioned that having industrial experience was key. So, it looks like switching industries mid-career is next to impossible.
Worse were the Internet applications (job sites). Of the hundreds that you send out, I had a < 1% response. Even if they do, they were for more junior roles.
Transitioning: You have told me that you are currently jobless for more than three months, what did you do in order to survive? Did you also approach the CDC for assistance?
Bruce: It has not been three months yet, but yes, I did approached the CDC for assistance. They were very helpful when you were there. However, after that, there was no follow up. No calls, no emails, nothing! Feels like a “black hole”.
To survive, we depended on our savings and cutting back on unnecessary expenses. In short, it was a changed lifestyle.
Transitioning:Did you attend any interviews during the past few months and why do you think you are unsuccessful so far?
Bruce: I had 2 interviews, but it seem that they were secured through contacts/personal referrals. The headhunters seem to be drawing a blank. Worse still, Internet applications didn’t get any response.
It seems that there is either a lack of jobs for mid to senior level IT execs/managers or it is just within banking and finance.
Transitioning: Tell us abit more about what you have learnt from your jobless experience and how it has impacted your family.
Bruce: A lifestyle change is imminent, so reduce cost. There are some fixed cost that are necessary, so cut your clothes according to your cloth!
Transitioning: What do you think you could have done to shorten the unemployment period?
Bruce: I don’t know! I have not been there yet!
But I can say, stay positive, be prepared to take the drastic measures (that you have discussed with your family.
Transitioning: Do you think that Singapore is now a more difficult place to make a living?
Bruce: I think cost in Singapore has gone up faster than salary.
So cost of rentals has gone up too. Thus, businesses in Singapore have a high running cost that will be a deterrent to many would-be entrepreneurs.
A person being a sole-breadwinner may not want to take that risk too as that would mean eating into the savings and forgoing that savings for the children’s education – which has not gone down either!
Transitioning: What do you think the government can do to alleviate the current employment situation?
Bruce: With the influx of foreigners in the Singapore market, there are many roles with could have been prioritized for Singaporeans and I do hope that policies will be put in place to protect the locals.
Transitioning: Many people have blame foreigners for competing jobs with us, what is your view on this?
Bruce: As mentioned in Q8, there should be some priorities for the locals. I do believe that there are many jobs, IT or non-IT that some locals don’t want to do. These jobs can be opened to the foreigners. Even jobs that the locals do not have relevant skills, these should also be opened to foreigners, however skill/knowledge transfer should take place to build these knowledge and skills locally (if not already being done).
It also doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. NS (or reservist duties), this seems more of a disadvantage to the locals. Why would a firm hire a local when he can get a PR, with a same/lower package and work more days in a year?
Transitioning: Lastly, what’s your advice for those who are still jobless and feeling down?
Bruce: Discuss the plans with the family; they should all buy-in to help reduce cost.
Keep your close friends close and if you have someone to help you through the journey, that’s better!
Continue to build your networks, and upgrade your skills.
Thanks and end of interview.
Editor’s Note: We have extended our career coaching service to the reader.