Unemployment and entrepreneurship in Singapore

Hi Gerald, Can you comment on the following: 1) How do people in their 40s find jobs in this day and age? (This being 2014) 2) How do you start a business venture with zero or very little (say about a SGD$1500) capital? 

Thank you. 

I received the above queries from one of my readers and it coincides with an article I read in Yahoo Singapore recently about underemployment rate of local graduates.  To me, this is a timely topic for me to dwell on because in a few more years, I will hit the forties bracket. Sooner or later, I may face the predicament or prospect of being retrenched from my job, so I think it is worthwhile to reflect and examine this issue now before it really impact me big time later on in my life.

To put things into perspective, the Singapore employment landscape has changed over the years. In the 80s and 90s, if you had tertiary qualifications, you would unlikely be fearful of the word “downsize” in your company because back then, there were not so many graduates with 10 – 15 years of working experiences in the job market. But times had changed. Nowadays, the market is glutted with graduates from local and overseas, private and public universities. To make matter worse, foreigners are competing with local Singaporeans for white collar jobs as well. So given the stiff competition, it is not surprising that people in their 40s encounter difficulty in re-employment.

It is stupid to advise those who are retrenched from their jobs to chin up and remain optimistic. Obviously you would feel a little bit of depress initially and start to doubt your capabilities when you are laid off, especially during the mid-career stage. But it is important to remind yourself to get out of the rut as soon as possible and stop feeling sorry for yourself for too long. You would realize that the longer you procrastinate, the more difficult it is to secure a new job. Always tell yourself to stop the rot immediately and end the vicious circle. But does that means pressing the panic button and starts sending hundreds of resumes every week? In today’s context, that would not work and it would likely be a waste of your effort.

You need to be focused in your job search and zoom in on job openings that have fewer competitors. Of course, you need to do reality checks and be honest with yourself whether you can meet the job requirements.

Ask yourself whether are you mentally prepared to re-learn new skills and switch careers in your 40s? Currently, the major sectors that need manpower are the service, construction and oil and gas industries. These are perennial industries shun by Singaporeans because of the tough working conditions and long hours of work. You would likely be able to secure in these sectors if you are prepared to adjust your mindset, moderate your salary expectations and pick up new skills.But what if you are picky and decided that you are better off staying within your industry?

Then you might want to tap on your network. Many studies have revealed that up to 50% of the job vacancies are not advertised and that most of the positions are filled up through internal staff’s referrals. Never underestimate the power of connections in this society because ultimately, it is not what you know, but who you know that matters. In fact, I secured my 2nd job through referral from one of my ex-colleagues. So always make sure that you invest in your workplace relationships and offer help (when possible) to colleagues in distresses. You should view your deed as paying it forward as you never know when you need favors from them in future.

It is possible to start a business with no capital but you need passion to sustain the business model. For example, if you are a subject matter expert in gold bullion, you can start a blog on this topic. Over time, when you built up your online reputation, there might be job opportunities from vendors who wished to engage your services to promote their products. Setting up a blog is free and you can write as and when you like. But to be a successful full time blogger, you must have discipline and the diligence to publish quality articles.

If you don’t have a flair for writing, then another option of starting a business with nil capital is to be a consultant. If you work in an industry for at least 10 years, you would have accumulated enough experiences to know the ins and outs of the industry. Being a consultant require minimal start-up costs as you don’t need a office nor employ staff to support your business. It is essentially a knowledge business but in order to grow your business, you need to be proactive in selling your expertises.

As mentioned above, there are many ways to be re-employed, even when you reached 40s. It is not the end of the world when you are laid off. You just need to be targeted, innovative and think out-of-the box in your job searches. Good luck in your job journey.

Magically yours,
SG Wealth Builder

4 thoughts on “Unemployment and entrepreneurship in Singapore

  • October 30, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Agreed with you that when come to re-employment, network/connection is very important. I changed job at the age of 40 through connection of ex-colleague.. 😉

  • October 30, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Hi Gerald

    If I may just add on regarding the second point.

    The user can have limited capital, but he/she needs to have an amazing idea to work on. Write down a proper business plan and present it to potential investors. That’s where all the private equity firms are hunting when they are looking for a great entrepreneurial business. This is where you get big if you are really successful.

    If you are just venturing around some simple entrepreneurship, it could be from as simple as providing service/consultant advice to doing low capital entrepreneurial such as photoshop, photoblog and so on.

  • October 31, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    To be honest, its tough to seek funding from VCs and angel investors. Furthermore, the ecosystem in Singapore just don’t support technological start-ups. I have a friend who told me that he had to instruct his lawyer in Singapore on how to draft his product IP! What a joke. Singapore can never be Asia’s Silicon Valley.

    Gerald Poh

  • October 31, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Wow, changing job at age 40 is not easy.
    I trust that you are doing well at the same company?

    SG Wealth Builder

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