Singaporeans have been enjoying a wonderful economy after bouncing right back up from the 2009 global recession. Our market was all sun and roses until 2016 finally hit; the eclipse that cast a shadow over us. Over the CNY weekend, friends and relatives were all talking about the coming economy downturn. Some of them who were thinking to change jobs have decided to stay put, and a few even fear losing their jobs. Mind you, they work with MNCs and big banks. So don’t think retrenchment only affects workers on the factory floor, PME jobs can be made redundant too.
More than a handful of banks in Singapore, including Barclays, Standard Chartered, UOB, DBS and OCBC, have been giving hundreds of employees the culling axe – removing them permanently from their ranks.
Let’s take the example of Barclays’ first wave of retrenchment. Barclays does not have any more need for sales and trading, and convertible bond trading businesses across all Asian countries (due to the Asian market recession) So, regardless of your rank or position, if you were in the above-mentioned department, you got the axe.
“Whining is talking about a problem without giving a solution”
Ask yourself if your job is easily replaceable?
As consumers, we have already started seeing or reading about robots being deployed to do cleaning services or even serving work in restaurants. Tablets are used in restaurants to take orders and supermarkets have begun setting up automated check-out counters. Travel agents are getting cut out when smart-booking sites like Agoda, TripAdvisor and Airbnb started springing up. In our latest news, Taxi drivers are facing immense competition ever since private hire vehicle services like Uber and Grab came disrupting the industry.
So first and foremost, always be on the lookout for new technology within your area of work, and also new ways of doing things. Be paranoid and be constantly asking yourself if you are still valuable enough to your company, or if your work can be automated or outsourced. Put yourself in the shoes of your boss or management, see it from their perspective.
Secondly, if you can smell a rat and can tell that we’re facing a slowdown and recession might be impending, and your job can possibly get replaced or cut off, we list 4 practical ways to safeguard yourself against future recessions and protect your bread-and-butter income.
4 Practical Ways To Safeguard Yourself
1. Be Agile, Be Adaptable, and be Multi-talented.
Labour MP Desmond Choo has it down pat. He said very succinctly that talent will be the game-changer, and that agility ad adaptability are the keys to success.
In this era where a worker is very likely to outlast his job, or even the company he works for, we cannot afford to be someone who does ONE job. Technological and market disruption are happening at such breakneck speed that it is hard to keep at one job in our entire lifetime. A single innovation can wipe out an entire product line.
Have you heard about the severe shortage of engineers in Singapore? Guess where many of them have landed up? Yes, finance-related jobs in the banking industry? As a finance major graduate, you are fighting with graduates from different majors for the same job and the same roles. If you only have knowledge in one field that is extremely competitive, how then do you stand out?
Go learn a language. Every Singaporean is able to speak English and their mother tongue. If you are one who can speak French, Spanish, Japanese or any other major language, it gives you that additional chance to be able to work for foreign departments and potentially get deployed overseas even if your company starts losing faith in Singapore’s market (or Asian markets for that matter).
Learn other disciplines. Take up a course in IT if you don’t know it yet. Make sure you’re proficient in Microsoft Office. Do you know Photoshop. Have you ever considered getting certified with ACCA and CFA? Show your employers that you can have that extra edge by performing well in other departments. You could have a department switch instead of a retrenchment.
Well, you will need to be different from the rest, and be able to bring more to the table. Other than technical skills, softer skills like experience in global or regional markets, critical thinking skills, complex problem-solving skills, people as well as project management skills are also important. (Check out what other job skills are needed for the future here.)
Have you received your SkillsFuture Credit letter? Why not use it to upgrade yourself? Or pick up something that you have always wanted to learn? In fact, if you’re a NTUC union member, you can even double-dip and draw on the $250 UTAP
Don’t say you’re too old or too busy to up-skill, re-skill, second-skill or third-skill. Even PM Lee’s regular radiographer, who is a whopping 81 years old, has been attending courses!
2. Be part of the industry network, be in the know.
“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know”
Depending on your personality, you may have to get out of your comfort zone for this one.
Always. Be. Networking.
Pro Tip: For a less painful way to stay connected, check out U Associates by NTUC, where you can join professional associations depending on your area of work. So far, they have already signed up with over 20 bodies, including the fields of engineering, human resources, advertising, housing agents, and many more.
Alternatively, if you’re a PME, you can also follow NTUC’s for tips on how to future-proof yourself. It’s also a good way to have your voice heard so that the industry leaders and NTUC can help convey ground voices to the policymakers. Did you know that even though Barclays is still a non-unionised bank for now, NTUC had contacted the bank immediately after it got wind of the layoffs to offer support and help to affected employees?
Patrick Tay, the Labour MP who primarily speaks out for PMEs, has advocated various good proposals during his Parliamentary speech last month, and these are all done after conversations and exchange with the industry people.
3. Start considering Self-Employment, or freelance and have a side-gig!
Have a long forgotten dream? Perhaps this is the time to bring it back to life again.
Find out your interests and hobbies, and work at mastering that skill so you can end up coaching people or helping them out with your skillset and be rewarded for it. Hold on to your day job and have a side-gig. Who knows? Eventually you may get so good at it that you can pursue it full-time and be your own boss! Lots of people invest in courses to pick up on things that they are interested in, and eventually leave their day jobs to pursue their passion full-time.
4. Treat Investment Seriously
“Never take your job as your main source of income” – Warren Buffett
Seriously. If everyone spent some time taking investment seriously, the gap between rich and poor would not be so wide.
Do you know that if average inflation rate is approximately 2-3% every year, and you do not do anything with your money, it’s actually losing value over time? We were all able to afford a bowl of noodles for 10 cents back in the past. Now the minimum price for noodles is S$2.00. Inflation pushes up prices of your everyday normal goods, making your money worthless over time. Granted, the 10 cent coin today is still the same 10 cent coin in the past, but it was worth so much more back then!
Your savings account gives an interest rate of 0.05% which is negligible, because even if you have “saved” S$100,000, you’d only get back S$500 a year.
You don’t have to attend expensive seminars or workshops to learn investing. There is a whole fountain of knowledge available at bookstores with self-help guides and there are also financial blogs online. By investing a portion of your income into investment channels, you start to create a second source of income that pays you every year, be it in dividend payouts, interest returns or stock market growth. Once you have hit a significant amount of investment, a retrenchment exercise would not be as stinging because you are living on passive income.
Lastly, always save 6 times your monthly salary in your bank account. This is because the average lead time to find another full-time employment is 6 months. Do not keep spending until there is no emergency fund left to feed yourself or your family, when the retrenchment exercise suddenly strikes.
Getting through recessions will always be difficult and there’s never an easy way out, however, learning the 5 steps will add value to your life not just for the sake of employment, but an overall wellbeing to improving your financial and social status as well.
We never said it would be easy to push out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it in the end.