Seven Ways To A Better Transition After Retrenchment
Written by: Gilbert Goh
I have being receiving regular emails from our retrenched PMETs and some of the stories were heart-wrenching.
Many would have read of the matured engineer who used to earn $100,000 per annum but went jobless for 20 months. He was retrenched from the sunset semi-conductor industry. His wife is the current breadwinner now and I am sure that the family dynamics have totally changed after that.
He is now thinking of starting a small engineering business.
Globalisation has totally changed our economy nowadays and jobs are decreasing as many organisations seek to merge with one another to save cost. Employees also need to multi-task alot these days as companies try to reduce manpower.
Many PMETs are put out of work permanently as the jobs created are reserved mainly for the service sector. Traditionally, such work is performed by foreigners who are favoured by employers because of the cheaper cost factor.
The future does not look bright for our working population.
With this in mind, I decided to write this article to assist our PMETs transit better after retrenchment.
1. Adapt and adjust to survive
These are very tough times and only the fittest will survive. Sadly, the good old days of our PMETs having the luxury of a buffet of available jobs to choose from are now gone.
Globalisation has revealed that our worse competitor is not from our own local citizens but most likely a well-qualified cheaper foreigner globe trotting around for jobs. He is able to compete better due mainly to the lower cost factor.
Moreover, the fixated mindset of our matured PMETs to depend on others providing them an income based on services rendered has seriously blunted our entrepreneurial acumen.
We have all along depend on a stable income to help us pay for our mortgages, maid, children’s education and year-end holidays. It has enslaved us into a comfortable cocoon of which we are reluctant to come out of.
Singapore is one country in the world that provides the best incentives to start a business but not many locals are capitalising on that advantage. Instead, we see many foreigners coming in to start all kinds of businesses and many locals are now working for them!
I have received alot of emails from displaced PMETs but so far could recollect only five of them seriously considering starting a business to make ends meet. We may be too conservative and risk-averse for our own good.
Perhaps, a lack of solid planning way may have prevented the PMET from earning an income using the business route. Many stay in their comfort zone when they are gamefully employed and suffer a suddent jolt when they are retrenched.
Planning after retrenchment may be a tad too late if you want to start a small business as it takes a lot of market research and experimentation. There is also the unwillingness to take on more financial risk when you are jobless due to a lack of income and family pressures.
Doing it slowly when you are employed may be one of the better way as you can experiment with the business model without the pressure to succeed. When the opportunity arrives, you can simply transit to the business full time with confidence.
For those who are very business-averse, taking on a job that is totally out of our comfort zone is key to our survival as the retrenched IT manager will no longer be able to get back the same job in the sunset semi-conductor industry. He may also need to be retrained for the new industry.
I subscribe to the motto that having a low-paying job is better than nothing at all. Working is also good for our own personal esteem and it keeps us alert and alive.
We are also constantly in tune with the working community and opportunites abound when we touch base with other people working alongside us.
2. Decide what you want – early
Most frantically applied for jobs in the same industry thinking that their experience will enhance their employability.
For sunset industries like the semi-conductor field, this strategy will not work as such jobs are already gone . Even if it is available, there will always be a huge supply out there going for a very niche small market.
Of course, the next natural thing many would do is to start slashing their expected salaries and apply for lower-level positions. This looks like a trend in this tough economic time.
A better strategy is to plan ahead for you next career - when you are still gamefully employed.
Don’t leave the planning until you are hit with a retrenchment – that will be too late.
Your mind will be clouded with uncertainty and you do not have the luxury of time on your side especially if the next career needs you to be retrained.
A soon-to-be-retrenched PMET who wrote to me recently said that he wanted to start a government-sponsored course in the healthcare radiology career.
The course lasts three years and he will be paid an allowance of $1000 a month during that period.
He was recently retrenched with a neat severance package and his last day of service will be Jan 2011.
I thought that he has planned well in advance as he:-
- Knows what he wants for himself – career in the healthcare industry
- Knows the time frame of his course – 3 years
- Knows how much he will receive – $1000 a month allowance
- Knows he has prep his family adequately before retrenchment – a feasible plan laid out
Sadly, he is one of the very few whom I know who has a realistic well- thought- out plan and more importantly knows where he is heading after retrenchment.
So, for those who are still floundering in post-retrenchment blues, take some time to plan ahead. Once you have decided what you want to do, stick to that plan as there will always be detractors and obstacles while you go about executing your plan. Always persevere and you will succeed.
For those who are employed now, my advice is for you to stay prepared and plan well ahead as retrenchment can come like a thief silently. You won’t have the luxury of time and a clear mind to plan after that.
3. See a career coach
I find that our PMETs do not take to seeing a career coach readily for career mapping advice.
Maybe, there is a lack of professional career coaches in our human resources arena.
Some may even link seeing a coach for career advice to being a personal failure!
Most career coaches charge a small fee to cover their expenses – around $100 – $200 per session for an hour of face to face consultation. Many also prepare a comprehensive package of around 4-5 sessions and this can set you back by $800 to a few thousand dollars for the top-notch coaches.
A good career coach can help us to focus on our core strengths and suggest improvement on our weaknesses. They will be able to suggest improvements on our resume and even do interview trial runs with us if necessary.
More importantly, most coaches have extensive connections to headhunters and some can even quickly link you up to potential job offers as many jobs are unadvertised openly.
Many coaches have useful career tracking tools to help the executives find out more about the kind of career that better suits him based on his personality, work experience and qualifications.
Transitioning.org offers free career coaching only to the unemployed community and you can email me at email@example.com to find out more.
4. Plan a sabbatical trip alone
I encouraged those who can afford to plan a life-changing trip on your own especially if you have a good severance package to fall back on. Set aside a small budget for the well-deserved sabbatical rest.
Remember to bring no one along but yourself.
Of course, you have to prepare your family adequately so that they don’t think you are deserting them!
Many matured PMETs worked all their life and have never taken a trip on their own to rediscover themselves. Many plough on doggedly, like a robot, to provide for their family but not really asking themselves if thats what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
Retrenchment provides the middle-aged executives the opportunity to take some time out and get recharged during the period when the midlife crisis phenomenon will have taken centre stage.
Physically we are no longer at our fittest and career wise we are also going downhill.
People in this age group also begin to question their fundamental reason for existence and always ask what will make them tick so that they can live life more purposefully.
Money making may not be their foremost agenda now compared to younger days and they are looking for a noble vocation to serve out their remaining years.
That is the reason why many matured PMETs joined the teaching or social service profession after being retrenched when they are in their forties.
A good long sabbatical may be the prelude to a resurgence that you may need for the next lap.
Remember to return home though after the trip and always seek your family blessings when you decide on that purposeful trip.
5. Take good care of your family
Many retrenched PMETs neglected their family in their desperate search for work.
The retrenched executive now stops performing the routine staff for his family as he wallowed in depression and self-pity.
Psychologists have all along advocated that those who have lost their jobs should try to live their lives as normally as possible.
Moreover, it is a good distraction when we stop focusing on ourselves for a while by doing something beneficial for our family members.
More significantly, we need the support of our family when we are down and out – they are the reasons for us to live on meaningfully.
Losing their support at this crucial period will further worsen the situation for us.
Never neglect your family – they will also appreciate the extra efforts put in by you to spend time with them however down you may be.
6. Network network network
Busy working executives make the mistake of not networking at all and paid the price of their inertia by aimlessly starting to call up all their contacts pleading for help when they are being laid off.
Our over reliance on online social networking websites such as facebook, twitter and blogging have also deter us from the conventional form of face to face meeting.
Nothing beats a person-to-person chat over coffee compared to the current faceless formless mode of communcation. You can feel connected with the person when he laughs, nods his head or frown. I rather spend an hour with a friend face-to-face over coffee than ten hours online.
Social networking has to be done regularly and if people see that you are sincere in relationship-building, they will respond when you are in need as you have taken time before to build the bond with them.
Networking needs time to nurture and relationships are not built over a short period of time.
The motto of reaping what you sow is very true in the area of networking.
Essentially, networking means getting to know more people and showing that you are a sincere person who cares for others.
Simply going round and collecting namecards may not be effective networking. You need to put in the efforts to meet up with them and find out how they are doing.
7. Focus on the positive in spite of
Always look on the bright side of things even though the world is crumbling round us.
You can focus on the negative aspect of your jobless state or learn to look at the positive side of things.
There are always two sides to a coin and its up to you to see which side you are on.
I used to be very negative and this is the first impression that people have after knowing me for a while.
Its like a tag permanently stick on to my personality! “Negative Gilbert”…aw!
After staying jobless and depressed for a prolonged period, I decided to apply positive mental attitude (PMA) to my life as I saw that Iwas going nowhere.
I was forever miserable and even consider suicide as an option.
It was initially tough as my mind is forever switched to the negative mode – its like a TV that is always tuned on to channel 5 and you can’t change the channel.
I decided to make it a point to think positively whenever my mind is switched to the natural negative mode.
For example, I have just missed the bus and my mind would automatically switch to the whining negative mood: “Oh no, I have miss the bus and I need to wait another fifteen minutes for the next one! What a drag.”
Now, I would try to see the positive side of the situation: “Oh I have miss the bus – its ok anyway I can take the time to browse through some magazines at the nearby bookstore,” which I did.
It takes a while for me to practise PMA and I have not always being successful.
I still sometimes fret when I am faced with an adverse situation.
However, my mindset has now changed alot and it is not always tuned to channel 5 – I have alot of channel 8 in me too!
The unemployed PMETs need to apply alot of PMA in their life as joblessness is always linked to negativity and insecurity.
Learn to look at things differently from now on and treat unemployment as part of life’s journey that one has to go through so that we all can be better husbands, wives, fathers or mothers.
Its also in adversity that w can better appreciate the finer things in life and not to take things we use to have for granted.
I hope that I have provided some useful tips for the discouraged retrenched executives to have a smoother transition. Never give up!