Record retrenchments in Singapore

On 13 June 2016, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced a surge in the number of workers being made redundant. Overall, 4,710 workers were retrenched by their companies, representing a record level of retrenchments in Singapore for first quarter layoffs since 2009.

The MOM data is not surprising as it tallies with the ground situation for the employment landscape. In fact, there are many recent articles of Singaporeans struggling to find work after being given the retrenchment notices by their employers. Many of them are actually qualified professionals with many years of relevant working experiences in their industries. Hence, it is understandable that they feel bitter and resentful.

Being fired or retrenched from the workplace can be the worst thing that can happen to an employee, possibly even worse than been passed by for promotion. This is because losing your job is more than just losing your income, it can be extremely damaging to your self-worth and ego. Understandably, you may feel emotional and victimized. The “why me?” will definitely pop up in your head and you start to demonize your ex-bosses or colleagues. But as a wealth builder, you must pick yourself up quickly and move on from the self-pity stage. After all, you still have bills to pay and you simply cannot afford to waste time nursing bruised ego.


For those who got retrenched, the biggest challenge is moderating their expectations. Many Singaporean job seekers expect to find similar job titles and salaries in their job hunt but they failed to realize that they don’t have the bargaining chips. They need to wise up and understand that without a job, it is difficult to negotiate with prospective employers because they have the upper hand and so it will be a “take it or leave it” approach.

The problem with many Singaporeans is that we are not willing to adjust and adapt. Many of us are unwilling to take up jobs in small and medium enterprises due to the perceived lack of prestige and low salaries. Many of us also refuse to do shift works because we all want work-life balances. In addition, re-locating to third world countries like Vietnam and Cambodia is a big “no-no” for many Singaporeans because of the low standards of living. Indeed, starting from zero is difficult and not many people, including myself, can accept it. But this is the harsh reality of our society and sometimes it is inevitable we bite the bullet for the sake of survival.

Many Singaporeans blame the government for letting in so many foreigners and accuse the foreigners of stealing their jobs. I don’t disagree with such sentiments but can an alternative government do a better job and solve the employment issue? I honestly doubt so and beyond this, have Singaporeans really done their parts in ensuring their career longevity?

In today’s context whereby the only constant is change, we need to keep re-inventing ourselves in order to stay ahead of the game. We cannot afford to have the mind-set that our years of work experiences and paper qualifications can enable us to find jobs in Singapore. The employment landscape has changed drastically and coupled with shorter business cycles, Singaporean workers need to gain skill new skills and knowledge that are relevant to the new economy in order to avoid the fate of being retrenched in Singapore.

Take myself for example. I have been working in the aviation sector for more than 10 years but have been learning about investing and personal finances since I started my job journey. Along the way, I have made money mistakes but I learned from my mistakes and keep improving my knowledge on building wealth. My competency is in aircraft engineering but through my blogging adventures, I gained new knowledge on investing through my partners. Currently, I am taking a course on IT audit and hope to professionalize myself in this area because cyber security is going to be the next big thing in Singapore. I don’t know if I will be retrenched in the future but I am prepared to take on a second career if that happened.

Indeed, to be unable to making a living in Singapore can be a very distressing experience. But then again, if you happened to fall into this category, there could be a flaw in your job search strategy. Many Singaporeans simply underestimate or ignore the power of networking when it comes to job hunting. Actually, many well-paying jobs with good prospects are not advertised in the mainstream media or online portals. Usually, bosses will fill up strategic positions through referrals from their existing employees.

Thus, if one day you are retrenched, don’t panic and send out thousands of job applications. In today’s context, this kind of strategy will not work. Instead, keep calm and try to find employment through your network.

Many people scoff at the idea of networking probably because they have the wrong perception of networking. It is not about going for expensive lunches with colleagues or building relationships through attending industry seminars. My view of networking is building your brand and reputation in your workplace. Along the way, you extend help to others. When your profile grows, people around you will recognize your capabilities and over time, when people move, they will remember you and refer you to their bosses.

I don’t like to give hollow career advices but the matter of fact is both my wife and myself had gotten jobs through networking over the years. So, networking is definitely not a myth but a reality to find employments in today’s job market. Singapore’s market is very, very small but you are competing against thousands of job applicants. To get ahead, you must differentiate yourself. Of course you don’t just build up your competency, brand and network overnight. All these take time but you need to start building your career now or never.

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Magically yours,

SG Wealth Builder

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