In 2016, 16,810 permanent employees in Singapore were retrenched. In addition to a bleak world economy, digitalisation became one of the main factors that led to layoffs. Valerie, a senior executive, shared her experience of being retrenched in September of 2016.
“Those who work in the same industry as me would have been aware that there was a decline in the global demand, due to technological advancements. In a way, I would have known that the industry was affected, but I wasn’t aware that the company was carrying out a cost-cutting measure,” she recalled, “it was quite a surprise how it was carried out. We were informed to attend a meeting with HR, and that was when the retrenchment was announced, with immediate effect.”
In addition, the retrenchment took place at the end of the year, which is a period where most companies do not hire new staff. “Based on the seasonal hiring trend, you can’t find much job opportunities at the end of the year because everybody’s waiting for their bonus, so I took a break,” Valerie said.
Keeping a positive attitude during unemployment
It was a bold step for Valerie to take a sabbatical, despite having elderly parents to support. She was also unsure of what her next career steps would be. “I was able to take some time off with my parents and send them for health checks and appointments,” she added, “we also went for short breaks around the region. That was when I started to do some self-reflection.”
"...more jobseekers were taking a longer time to find work. Total employment contracted in the third quarter of 2016... Job seekers continued to outnumber job openings. Recruitment and resignation activity remained muted..."
The time away did not make her forget about the grim job market. Valerie’s wake-up call happened after Chinese New Year, when an increase of hiring activity usually takes place. But she observed the very opposite. “It was very quiet, some of my friends from other industries were also getting retrenched. It made me start to realise that it was something more serious than a seasonal problem.”
During that period, it was also reported in the Q3 Labour Market report by MOM that jobseekers were outnumbering job openings, and that recruitment activity was muted.
Reaching out for support
The bleak job market and long-term unemployment did not deter Valerie from giving up her job search. While the downturn was at its worst, she kept up with labour and manpower news.
This eventually inspired her to sign herself up as a union member, and that was how she had received information on career guidance services at the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i). “I wanted to meet up with someone from e2i and find out more about how I could leverage on the services for Singaporeans.” she explained.
Valerie met Simon, a Principal Employability Coach at e2i, who shared, “My role is like a pacer in a marathon, to motivate jobseekers and give them a sense of hope. During my first coaching session with Valerie, I sensed that she had great potential.”
Simon referred Valerie to the "Develop Your Executive Edge" (DYEE) Programme. While e2i's Executive Workshop/Employability Camp seeks to equip jobseekers with the right attitude, skills and knowledge of job search, DYEE is a 3-day in-house programme that focuses on senior level PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians).
The workshop consists of one-on-one coaching sessions to identify developmental needs, strengths and build resilience, interview coaching, navigating the senior executive job search market, and networking opportunities to form new professional connections.
“When I meet with jobseekers like Valerie and hear their stories, I feel compelled to give them the encouragement,” Simon Sim, Principal Employability Coach, e2i
At the start of the workshop, participants gain insights on areas for development using a profiling quiz called the Hogan assessment. This assessment is globally recognised by HR and senior management for selection and development and will help reveal competencies, potential derailers, career values, reasoning skills and leadership characteristics.
Valerie recounts, “The assessment helped me to regain some insights about myself, such as what kind of role I would like to get involved in. I had to be realistic about my take-home pay and be passionate in my work. That’s when I asked myself: what do I really want?”
The Hogan assessment gave Valerie a profound knowledge about herself, which helped to refine her job search.
“It helped me to frame up what type of company I’m looking for, what kind of colleagues and bosses I would like to work with and what is critical to me. I changed my job search methods by doing more research in the company, understanding their corporate culture, visiting websites like Glassdoor to read existing staff reviews, and also reading the job description, understanding what are the skills and experience required,” shared Valerie.
Aside from seeing potential in Valerie, Simon also reassured her about her situation. “When I meet with jobseekers like Valerie and hear their stories, I feel compelled to encourage them,” Simon explained, “It is important to let them be aware that there are other people who are also facing similar situations.”
When asked about the coaching experience at e2i, Valerie shared, “Simon was not just another consultant fulfilling his duties but was more like a friend who constantly told me that it’s a difficult time and I need to stay positive, be confident, attend training, look for something that I am interested to do and spend time with my family.”
Aside from the Hogan assessment, Valerie also found the networking session in DYEE to be useful. “In the networking session, we had three Industry Mentors from various industries.” She recalled, “they were very open to share about challenges they went through, and how they overcame them. The mentors also shared about the current jobs and industries that they are in and what it is like to work in their company or industry.”
Continuing to up-skill and paying it forward
Eventually, Valerie found her new job through networking. While her job search days are over, she is looking into skills upgrading to stay relevant. “I’m interested to learn digital marketing and public speaking. So far, I have attended a two-hour workshop by NTUC U Future Leaders. I have not signed up for a full class, but will do so when I am more stable with the current role.”
She has also expressed interest to be a volunteer coach at e2i, should the opportunity arise. “I learnt that training will be provided before I can become a volunteer coach,” she says, “I’m interested to pick it up. It requires interpersonal skills, and I can apply my experience to it.”
Interested in industry mentoring or volunteer coaching? Click here.
Story by: A. Zainotdini
(Valerie's job position and industry has not been mentioned to maintain confidentiality.)