With Covid wreaking havoc in our economy, it’s inevitable that some employers have resorted to retrenchment exercises, to keep their company viable. Among the big names who have resorted to laying off staff are SIA and Resort World Sentosa. And with no end in sight for the Covid-19 crisis globally, it is likely that retrenchments will continue to make headlines in the months ahead.
Hence, if you are worried about facing a possible retrenchment, you are unlikely to be alone. What’s more important though is to know how to cope, if the dreaded axe were to fall on you. And if it had already fallen, the details outlined here will be all the more important. I should know. Why? Because in 2012, I too was retrenched.
Coping With Retrenchment
For many of us, our job is our only source of income. Losing one’s job can thus be a very devastating experience. Some of us may feel bitter, resentful or even victimised. Others may blame company politics for their predicament. It’s common to experience a mixture of feelings, most of which can be predominantly negative. It’s important never to give in to these feelings, let them drag you down or fall into the trap of questioning your self-worth to the point of blame yourself for the retrenchment. Your company may have made the decision to let you go – that’s their prerogative. But always remember that no one can take away your dignity and sense of worth if you do not allow them to.
Now more than ever, you must accept their decision and make your own plans to move on. Whatever your future plans are, your interest will be better served if you are in the right state of mind to make your next move. A positive mindset is important; without one, you can easily fall into the trap of depression, making it all the harder to move on.
Work Out Your Budget
When we are gainfully employed and earning a nice salary, we sometimes do not think too much about splurging on ourselves. Unfortunately, such habits cannot go on. The last thing you need is a mountain of debts piling up before you, drawing you deeper into helplessness and depression. It is therefore important to start budgeting and planning out your daily expenditure, to ensure that whatever little you have, can last for at least the next 12 months.
Begin by looking at your regular expenditure and asking which of these can be trimmed. Perhaps it’s the money spent on cigarettes or entertainment. Or maybe, you can start taking the bus or MRT rather than taxi? You can also eat at home more often, now that you do not have to report to work everyday. You’ll be surprised how much you can actually save, just by carefully scrutinising your regular expenditure.
It is usually helpful to go through the above process with your financial planner. He should be able to guide you through the budgeting process and may even be able to point you to important sources of funds (eg loans against your insurance policy or government relief funds that you are eligible for) that you may not know about.
With proper budgeting, you should have no problems funding your living expenses for the next 12 months. This is especially so given that you will also be entitled to retrenchment payouts in the event you are laid off.
Explore Your Options
With your finances sorted out, your next move should be working out your future career options. Should you remain in the same industry or try out something entirely different?
When laying out all your options, do take into account the following:
- Is your current industry severely impacted by Covid-19?
- Is it still relevant in the post Covid-19 world?
If it’s not, you will likely be better off looking for a job in an entirely different industry. But then again, how portable you are will depend largely on the skill sets and experience you have accumulated prior to retrenchment. Are these skill sets still relevant to employers outside of your current industry?
If the answer is again no, you will need to consider the option of learning new and relevant skills. Explore those skills that are more sort after in today’s economic landscape. Consider as well, the timeline required to master the new skill, as your goal should be to become economically active again within the next 12 months.
In 2012 when I was retrenched, I was the only Chief Agency Officer out of job. Those holding a similar portfolio to mine in other Singapore insurance companies were still on their job and I knew immediately there were no vacancies for me. I had a number of enquiries from head hunters, all asking if I were open to overseas posting in countries such as China, Australia and Malaysia; I was not. I had a young family with school going kids then and I was not about to uproot them.
I knew immediately that to survive, I’ll have to carve a future for myself outside of the insurance industry.
Do note that you’ll have no time for nostalgia when making this decision. Prior to my retrenchment, I had worked 18 years in the insurance industry. It does not matter and so, do not dwell on it. It is time to move on and you must muster the courage to do so.
Learning a New Skill
When deciding on a new skill to pick up, it is important to consider your strengths and weaknesses plus your interests and hobbies. At least, that was what I did, when I faced my own crossroads in 2012. It’s your chance to carve a new beginning for yourself and the last thing you’ll want is to trap yourself in a new job you dislike or have no inclination for.
Since my school days, I’ve been stronger in science related subjects than the arts. I’m also more logical than visual in the way I process information. Skill wise, I wanted one which can pave the way to bright prospects.
I identified Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as the new skill I wanted to master. I’ve always been intrigued by how Google and other search engines ranked websites and I suspected then that SEO, being more a science than an art will suit my strengths fine.
I began reading books from published authors on SEO. Most of these books were as thick as my university textbooks but I loved reading them. More importantly, when I tried building my own websites, I realised I almost always had no problems getting them ranked. The more I dug into SEO, the more I love the subject. And it was mastering SEO that allowed me to be economically viable again within my 12 month deadline.
Today, I make a decent living by offering SEO as a service to local business owners, as well as teaching Web Design, eCommerce and SEO courses.
I enjoy what I do tremendously and most importantly, have lots more time to devote to my family compared to the days when I was Chief Agency Officer of HSBC Insurance.
Don’t Rush In to a New Job
When at work prior to my retrenchment, a usual complain I’d hear from friends and colleagues is the lack of work life balance. Now that you finally have time on your hands, it is important too to make time for family and loved ones. Sure, you may not have the means to travel on a luxurious holiday, but hey, with coronavirus circulating around, travelling may not be the wisest thing either. Instead, take the time to bond with your family, accompany your spouse or girlfriend and make time for your parents as well.
Such bonding time will help you relax. And the best decisions in life are usually made when we are relaxed and can think things through carefully. Your decision moving forward will affect the next chapter of your live and that of your loved ones; don’t ever rush into it.
If you have read other articles on coping with retrenchment, mine may appear somewhat different. It’s because I had previously lived through a retrenchment. Much of what I’ve penned is from my personal experience and not something i read out of a textbook.
For me, the most important takeaway is this…
Most people view retrenchment negatively; don’t! Instead view its as a chance for a new break. Seize it with open arms for it may never come again. Do not rush into any decisions. Work out your budget first and stick to it till you become economically active again. Thereafter, take your time to work out your options, consider the potential prospects of each option vis-à-vis your interest and personal strengths. Learn a new skill if necessary and once you are ready, make a new start with all the enthusiasm and gusto you can muster. Retrenchment is not a death sentence; if you handle it well, it can be the start of another exciting chapter in your life.