Many PMETs in their 40s and above have been let go over the past few years. According to the Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Market Survey, the most common profile of locals hardest hit by retrenchment are often those above 40, PMETs and degree holders.
Reading the stories of some of these older PMETs who were retrenched saddens me. Imagine working for an organization for so many years, staying for long hours daily, only to be let go when your role becomes obsolete due to restructuring, age discrimination or when the company decides to move your department elsewhere to cut cost.
At 40 years old, many also have heavier financial obligations such as elderly parents to support, children and other bills to pay. Health issues may also begin to set in and may result in unexpected expenses.
Based on the average re-entry into employment rate from Q1 to Q3 2019, an average of 36.1 percent of workers were not able to find a job after a duration of 6 months.
Retrenchment is a painful and personal process for the employee, and can take a toll on one’s emotional and family life. It is my hope that no individual would have to go through this process. For those who have been retrenched, here is a useful resource to help you.
I worry for my generation that when we age, we will experience the same situation as what the older generation is now going through.
And I know I am not alone – Based on the 2019 Deloitte Millennial Survey, unemployment was the second top most concern. A total of 3 out 5 millennials in Singapore believe that industry 4.0 — the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. They feel that this will make it harder to get or change jobs in the future.
No one can guarantee that they will never be retrenched. However, the advantage of being young is that we have the energy, freedom and time to take control of our future.
Here are some ways we can reduce our risk of retrenchment in our 40s.
1. Focus on building skills and avoid jobs that have tons of administrative work
For many graduates, a lot of what we’ve learnt in school is not that relevant in this 4th Industrial Revolution.
In a 2018 poll by Youth.SG, a portal supported by the National Youth Council, 70 percent of young adults were unsure or did not think the tertiary education they received in Singapore prepared them sufficiently to join the workforce.
Thus, one of the most important things to do during and after college is to build relevant skills.
One mistake I see young adults making is taking up roles where they have tons of administrative and paperwork to do such as updating excel spreadsheets and manually pulling data from various sources to make reports.
If the bulk of your time is being spent on doing manual work, how would you get a chance to build important skills?
This not only impact’s one attractiveness as an employee to other companies in the future, it also puts one at a huge risk of being replaced by machines one day. According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), estimates show about 24 per cent of work activities in Singapore could be automated by 2030.
Thus, I would caution against working for a company who does not innovate. It is likely that you will end up spending a lot of time doing administrative tasks which do not add value to your skill sets. You also miss out on learning how to use technology that are valuable for your career growth.
2. Invest in continual learning
Relying on your job alone to build skills is insufficient. New technologies are evolving more rapidly than before. To successfully keep up with these changes and stay relevant, we continually need to upgrade, upskill and reskill.
Failure to do so may render us obsolete. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report, 1 in 2 companies globally expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce, based on the job profiles of their employee base today.
How we can adapt as Millennials would be to make it a priority and a habit to constantly learn new things and stay updated on the developments in your industry. This will ensure we do not get too attached to old ways of doing things, complacent and can continually become more innovative and productive.
I personally make it a point to learn something new every quarter. This can be done through physical or online courses; workshops and panel discussions about trends.
For instance, last quarter, I completed an executive program on Digital Strategies: Leading the next generation enterprise by Columbia Business School. This quarter, I am brushing up my mandarin and knowledge of the Chinese Market by taking a business mandarin course.
The great thing about being born in today’s day and age is that we have access to so much information for free and so quickly. There is a wide array of free learning resources online. One example would be Salesforce Trailhead, a free, gamified, online-platform that empowers everyone to learn in-demand skills, earn résumé -worthy credentials and land a job that will thrive in the future of work.
3.Join a high growth industry and company
The Economic Development Board recently published an infographic sharing that a bulk of the new jobs created in Singapore were in roles that utilize digital technology such as Analytics and AI.
In addition to high growth industries, it is also important to look out for companies who had or possessed the potential to be market leaders.
As COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg shared, “Get on a rocketship… When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on. “
This is true. When companies grow quickly, opportunities surface everywhere whether it is to get promoted or make a lateral move. When they do not, opportunities are growth are limited and there is also an increased risk of retrenchment.
In his book “Earn What You’re Really Worth“, author Brian Tracy also pointed out 20 percent of the companies in any industry make 80 percent of the profits.
These companies have better leadership, better products and services, better technology, and a better future. These are the companies which you want to work.
This has to be an ongoing process. Don’t just join a fast-growing company or industry and stop staying updated on the growth trends. After a few years, if you start to feel your company or industry’s growth is stagnating, re-pivot and find your way to new roles.
4. Gain international experience
Singapore is a regional hub where many MNCs and startups locate their APAC Headquarters and leverage us as a launchpad to ASEAN and Greater China. This presents significant opportunities for Millennials. Taken as a single entity, ASEAN represents the world’s third largest market after China and India.
At the same time, due to our open market, our youths have to compete with global talent for jobs locally.
One of the ways we can compete is to build international experience as well. There are many ways we can do so such as doing an exchange program or interning and working abroad. Websites such as Youth Opportunities share fully sponsored conferences, workshops and activities abroad that young adults can apply for.
I have personally worked in Hong Kong as a journalist and also completed an academic exchange in Switzerland. When I graduated, I worked in regional roles covering ASEAN and Greater China for 4 years.
Beyond material benefits, overseas experience also offers opportunities for me to gain valuable experiences: Living without our parents abroad; learning what it is like to be a minority; figuring out how to navigate in an unfamiliar place – these are all valuable opportunities for personal growth.
Furthermore, a diversity of experience that can prepare youths for leadership roles in multinationals. If you take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of directors, VPs, CEOs in big MNCs. It is likely that these individuals have at least some international exposure in various big cities spanning regions like Europe, Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
5. Do not neglect relationship building
In my previous article, Important lessons I’ve learned in my first 5 years of work, I shared that building relationships at work is absolutely critical. When I first started work, I had no idea how much a boss could impact on how much you get paid, how rapidly you get promoted, and how much you enjoy your work.
In his book Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor, Jeffrey Pfeffer puts bluntly:
“The lesson from cases of people both keeping and losing their jobs is that as long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.”
For those of us who spent a huge bulk of our time in the Singapore education system, this doesn’t feel like meritocracy and feels unfair. However, this is reality.
To reduce your risk of being let go, it is best to focus more on building relationships internally and externally. Doing so reduces your risk of being laid off when hard times hit and can help you to quickly get transferred to another department when things are not going well. Doing so externally, would give you access to opportunities which arise elsewhere.
Most importantly, do not treat junior staff or even vendors rudely, or see them as insignificant. These people would rise the ranks and who knows one day, they may hire you when you need the job the most!
According to Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
To survive in the 4th Industrial Revolution, the key is really to stay adaptable and focus on building our skills and network.
I hope that this article has been helpful to you in your journey to future proof yourself in the upcoming years.