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Recruiter's tips on bouncing back after being retrenched

This article is more than 12 months old

It is important not to blame yourself, conduct a skills audit and take courses to prepare for the next chapter

Getting retrenched at any age can be a traumatic experience. And while people tend to think of retrenchment and layoff as an "older person's problem", with Covid-19 still ravaging the world, the reality is the job stability of many millennials and Gen Z workers might be affected too.

But the "good" thing about being retrenched at a younger age is the ability to bounce back quickly.

You are likely to be at only the beginning to midway of your career and can contemplate a career or industry shift.

You are also less likely to have huge financial commitments such as children or a looming mortgage.

Ms Sabrina Ho, founder and chief executive of Half The Sky Asia, a career and headhunting platform connecting female professionals with equal opportunity employers, has weathered her own tough experience with retrenchment and rejection in a volatile market.

During the last global financial crisis in Hong Kong where she was based at the time, she was retrenched three times in a year.

She said: "I remember having to queue up during a job fair (involving) at least 500 people for one job at a newly opened hotel, in the blazing hot sun in downtown Hong Kong.

"It was tough emotionally; it knocks your confidence and it makes you feel embarrassed and like a failure.

"But what I have learnt from going through an episode like that is it builds resilience, character, adaptability and a never-say-die character - all attributes that have paved the way for me to have some success and be in a position to give back to those who may be looking for help now during this challenging time."

So if you are facing unemployment because of the pandemic, here is Ms Ho's advice on the next steps to take if you are dealing with this situation for the first time.

It is my first time getting retrenched. What should I do?

Getting retrenched can be shocking and you may feel like your world is falling apart.

First, do not blame yourself.

Retrenchment can happen to anyone. It is important to understand that letting you go was just as hard for the company.

After all, it spent years training and shaping you. Unfortunately, circumstances can be difficult at times and the unfolding economic crisis is an unprecedented one.

Second, give yourself time to absorb what has happened. Do not make any big decisions. Wait until you are feeling calm and composed before deciding.

Third, review your termination letter and ensure you extract all the benefits that are owed to you. The majority of organisations will do the right thing, but there can be a few bad apples, so stay on top of this.

It is now time for you to figure out your finances.

One of the difficulties after getting retrenched is the loss of financial stability.

Hence, it is important to review your finances immediately and re-evaluate your monthly expenses and cut back on all unnecessary expenditure. If you need financial advice, it is best to seek professional help.

In addition, it is always great to check out government websites to learn about the employment support schemes you may be eligible for.

Finally, it is time to figure out your next step: Talk to friends, family or network with career advisers/recruiters on LinkedIn to get a fresh perspective on your career and what you want to do next.

Once you have figured that out, it is time to work on getting your curriculum vitae ready to impress your prospective employer.

If the economy is bad, is it better to take the first job offer I get? Or should I continue to wait it out?

It all depends on your financial situation as you may have family that is reliant on you, or you may have other financial responsibilities that do not afford you the luxury of being out of work for long.

If that is the case, then I would advise you to take the first thing that matches most of your requirements.

If you can afford to wait, then it is important to evaluate job opportunities that are able to help you develop and get you where you want to be in the next 18 to 36 months.

How do I stay positive in the face of rejection?

As an experienced headhunter, tech founder and former job seeker, (I would say) rejection is always difficult to deal with.

The reality is a job search can be tough - it is a process that takes time, effort and dedication.

During the process, it is easy to lose focus, get discouraged and want to quit.

But the key to any job search is to do the work, as that is how you will reap the rewards.

So how does one stay motivated during the process?

First, you need to accept that sometimes, things do not go the way you want. Rejections, especially during this economic climate, are inevitable. It happens and there are others who are going through the same experience.

Second, looking for a job can be stressful. So focus on the successes big or small, and having a positive mindset will help the process be less painful.

Finally, always remember as one door closes, another will open. So many successful people I have helped in their career have all shared with me that the path to success was paved with many rejections.

That gave them the opportunity to build resilience and to learn more about themselves.

If you were rejected at any point of the job search process, ask what could you do to improve and enhance your chances. Take these pieces of information to mould your approach for the next opportunity.

The industry that I am in is pretty niche and it might take a while for something suitable to come up. What can I do if I want to pivot into a different industry altogether?

I would suggest to not wait for your industry to come back as it may never do so.

The world and business environments are undergoing unprecedented changes, and every industry is likely to be disrupted and unrecognisable in the next few years.

So it is important to conduct a skills audit during this time.

List a set of core skills (like digital marketing) on a piece of paper.

Now list your soft skills underneath (like communication and empathy), and on the other side, list the skills that you lack.

Compare them against the industry you are looking to enter into and list the gaps.

Now you should have a clear map of the skills you do have and the skills you need to make a transition into a new industry.

You can also plug those gaps by undergoing courses to prepare yourself to transition into a new career.

What are some of the hiring trends you have noticed in the past couple of years?

At its core, it is a shift towards digital skills.

Jobs such as social media managers were not around even seven years ago.

The global economy is moving online - from ordering food, to taxis, to education. Almost every aspect of our lives will be mirrored online.

Every employer will therefore require you to have digital skills to be able to engage with customers and suppliers.

Clients also need tech developers to build these new exciting applications.

The unfortunate reality though is that only 20 per cent of women worldwide are in the tech industry.

Looking for a new career where there are lots of jobs? Become a tech developer.

I have also noticed the shift towards digital collaboration, where employers require you to be able to work with teams remotely from all around the world, so it is important for your mindset to think globally - not just locally - and be flexible on where and how you work.

This article was first published in Cleo Singapore (