Losing your job due to company down-sizing can be both dramatizing and depressing. Indeed, with the rise of machine-learning and artificial intelligence, thousands of jobs are being made redundant on a daily basis. What this means is that many skills are becoming obsolete. However, the topic of retrenchment is seldom discussed in Singapore because of the social stigma. Recently, when I touched on the SPH retrenchment exercise, a reader questioned my agenda and even condemned me for being anti-government. I wish to use this article to set the record straight.
Building this blog from zero had been both challenging and at the same time, rewarding on a personal level. I have gained useful knowledge that readers have shared in this blog. Over the years, I have received numerous compliments from readers through emails and Facebook messages. Yet at the same time, this blog had also attracted a fair share of criticisms from detractors and critics questioning my agenda and intentions for sharing my articles.
Perhaps, critics who denounced my blog may not have spent time reading the articles that I have shared freely over the years. If they did, it would be clear to them that this blog is about promoting financial literacy and helping others to make better decisions. This blog is not about fear-mongering nor attacking government policies. Instead, SG Wealth Builder is all about empowering fellow Singaporeans to make sound financial strategies and choices.
I don’t claim to be any sort of guru because I am also a fellow wealth builder struggling to achieve financial freedom. But if given a choice, would you prefer to walk this journey alone or together with people of like-mind? Sometimes, building wealth can be a lonely journey. Sometimes, it can be scary too.
Through raising awareness of the rules and regulations pertaining to financial matters, I hope Singaporeans can avoid common pitfalls. It is not my intention to effect changes to the rules and regulations because I am not a politician. This blog is also political-neutral. Fundamentally, the aim is to share articles that add value and enhance quality of life. In the process, I hope to form solidarity among Singaporeans, and build a community.
Job security is one of my favourite topics because I believe effective career management is part of building wealth too. In the initial stage of our career, we would need to work for money before making money works for us. For many of us, a job is more than a job because it not only enables us to make both ends meet, but it gives us identity and social status. In fact, most of us spend more waking hours at the workplace than at home, so the office is like a second home. Thus, it is understandable that when people got retrenched, they feel a deep sense of betrayal and bitterness.
In my perspective, it is perfectly normal to be depressed and angry when retrenchment struck. Unless you are a zombie, you are likely to feel emotional. To be frank, it is almost impossible to stay cool and think objectively when your service is terminated.
But in all fairness, it is important to note that when you are being laid off, it has nothing to do with your job performance. Most often, the actual reason is because your job has become irrelevant to the market. And the culprit is not competition from foreign talents, but technology. I think once you can comprehend this, you would feel much better because you have a clearer picture of who your real enemy is.
In today’s context, technology can improve the quality of our lives. But it can also destroy many, many jobs. Machine and computers can replace jobs which require repetitive manual tasks and volume of work. Thus, to survive in this new age society, Singaporeans need to acquire new skill sets and competencies in areas which computer or machine cannot replicate. In SPH case, those staff who were retrenched probably lost their jobs to technology. Today, journalists cannot just know how to write Queen’s English. They need knowledge in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), online marketing and graphic design to survive in the digital age.
Disruptions caused by technologies are pervasive. In my current role, my job may also become redundant one day as a result of disruptive technologies. In aviation industry, unmanned aircraft, additive manufacturing and robotics would replace many of the repetitive tasks required for aircraft maintenance, design and production. Thus, I am also worried about my losing my job to technology and have taken baby steps to brace myself for the day of being laid off.
I have often asked myself what am I going to do with the rest of my life if I am retrenched from my current job. If it really did happen, I guess I may not want to continue working in the aviation industry anymore because I have found my passion in life.
A few years ago, my ex-boss had determined that my forte is in research writing and he encouraged me to build on this strength in my job. His advice gave me strength to pursue my dream and provided the impetus to start this blog.
Blogging has given me the clarity of thoughts and provides me the perfect platform to air my views on issues relating to financial matters. In my workplace, the opportunities to raise my opinions are limited because the culture is very much top-down. But in this blog, I am entitled to express myself freely. You may agree or disagree with my articles. At the end of the day, this is my blog, my little heaven where I can seek solace and sometimes solidarity.
I have plans to monetize this blog in the long run but at the moment, SG Wealth Builder will still remain a free-to-access website. I used to believe that it is impossible to make a living with a blog. My thinking has since shifted because unusual times require unusual approach. It is true that a mediocre blog cannot bring enough food to the table. But a great blog with useful value can offer opportunities to earn a decent living. And this is the goal which I hope to achieve in 10 years. But then again, who knows? Maybe after 10 years, blogging may not be in vogue.
One thing about machine learning is that artificial intelligence (AI) is extremely good at doing jobs that are voluminous and repetitive. But when it comes to tasks that require creativity and innovation, machines cannot match human beings. That is why SPH journalists’ skill sets are not entirely obsolete because we still need writers to produce unique content that are engaging. For them, it is a matter of adapting to a new form of delivering the content to audience and not so much of what to deliver.
The following is a checklist to prepare myself for retrenchment:
- Allow myself a period of time to feel bitter and angry after being laid off. After that, I must pick myself up and evaluate whether to continue working for others or build my own business. No matter what, there will be bills to pay so I must move on with the grieving. With a family to feed, I cannot afford to let my wife and children down.
- If I wanted to continue working for others, are my skill sets still relevant to the market? In the aviation industry, there are skills that are considered ever-green while there are jobs that are susceptible to redundancies. Ultimately, it is not a matter of securing the next job but what I can offer to my prospective employer.
- If I could not find a job in Singapore, another option is to find overseas jobs. Singapore job market may be too competitive and saturated. There may be more job opportunities in Middles East or China where demand for aerospace engineers are high. I often tell myself that if foreign talents can come to work in Singapore so easily, why should we be so afraid to venture overseas? We should not be too complacent and should strive to break out of our comfort zone.
- Being an entrepreneur is one of my dreams and being a full-time blogger is a possibility for me. I have strategy to fulfil this dream of mine but now is not the right time. But what I am trying to highlight is that being retrenched is not the end of the world. In fact, it provides an opportunity for one to pursue his dream or hobbies full-time. It is possible to develop a second career after being retrenched. In life, never say never. Keep an open mind.
- To leverage on my network, I tried to help friends and colleagues at work. As the saying goes, you scratch my back and I scratch yours. Sometimes, you need to give first before taking. At the moment, my level of network is still very feeble and I trying to build on it. Hopefully I do not need to bank on my network to find jobs in future.
- Getting my personal finance in order is important so that in the event of retrenchment, my family would not be wretched by the loss of income. This is an area which I am quite excited because it has been an enlightening experience. Previously, I have shared my strategy of using CPF savings to finance my home loan for the next 15 years. What this means is that I don’t have to worry about housing debt in the event of losing my job for 15 years. My car loan would be fully paid off next year. Thus, for the next 15 years, I can focus on building retirement nest.
- Being a full-time investor is also a possibility but this is an option that is feasible only when my passive income can supplement my active income. If I really cannot find a job in Singapore or overseas, another possibility is to be a full-time investor and blogger. I think both endeavours can complement and reinforce each other.
In conclusion, retrenchment can happen to anyone. Unless you are your own boss, don’t assume that your job is immune to redundancy. Our society is undergoing structural changes and this resulted in huge mismatch in skill sets. For example, there are huge demands for information and communication technology, cybersecurity and IT audit but many Singaporeans don’t have such skills.
To stay ahead of the curve, you need to assess whether your skills are still relevant. If not, what is your game plan?
Always remember this harsh reality: nobody owes you a living but you owe it to yourself to stay relevant and earn a living. Enjoy the ride.
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