SINGAPORE: It can be stressful if you suddenly find yourself unemployed. It affects your finances and you may just have too much time on your hands and not know what to do with it.
While Singapore’s overall unemployment rate remained low at 2.2 per cent last year, the figure amounted to about 80,000 people looking for work.
Apart from tapping on the new job-matching portal MyCareersFuture.sg launched on Tuesday, here are five tips to make the most out of this career transition from those who have experienced being between jobs.
LOOK FOR TEMPORARY WORK
Job searches can be frustrating and seem endlessly long. A good way to use this free time is to work part-time or take on freelance gigs.
Former process engineer Amin Ismail joined a newly-founded non-profit company and applied his IT experience to help the growing company. “They did not have a proper system (yet) so I was called in to help them set up their system such as data migration and integrating the systems used by different departments,” Mr Amin said.
“I’m applying what I’ve learned in my previous company and I understand that they are unable to pay me as much as my previous employer,” he said. It’s a win-win situation because he’s able to apply his skills while the non-profit company receives technical help, Amin added.
Huang Pei Shi, who was unemployed for seven months, worked a few part-time jobs which were unrelated to her preferred industries before landing a permanent contract at an events company.
“It helped me understand the job market in terms of knowing where the opportunities and demands are which can help in the job hunt,” Ms Huang said.
Some believe that telling your interviewers that you spent that period between jobs working or reskilling also helps.
“The employer will definitely ask you what you were doing and if you say that you are just searching for a job for six months or one year, that doesn’t reflect well,” said Kamaliyah Abdul Marzeethu, who tutored part-time after quitting her job in the early childhood sector last year before landing a new job in a marketing department.
Quantum Leap recruiter Alvin Ang said job seekers might just get away with not doing much during their job hunt. “It depends on how you express it," he said.
He suggested this response if interviewers asked about the time spent while unemployed: “I’ve been looking at different courses and rethinking my life about new possibilities, and I look forward to them.”
But this response: “I’ve been trying to find the suitable job for me,” makes the candidate sound picky.
Employers look out for indicators that demonstrate the job seekers have spent their time meaningfully rather than waiting for the perfect job.
WORK ON A PERSONAL PROJECT
Job seekers can also channel free time into hobbies or start a personal project. Assistant editor Leia Xin got around to building her own website to showcase her brand and work, a goal that she put off when she was busy with her previous job as a writer.
“I finally published my own portfolio site and started building the foundation of a possible freelance voiceover career by researching and purchasing equipment, recording myself doing various types of reads and sending out auditions,” Ms Xin said.
Simon Oh, who was laid off last year from his job in the oil and gas industry, engaged a career mentor who gave him the advice to build an online footprint.
"I worked with my mentor and joined groups on LinkedIn. I spent my time building up my personal branding on social media and brushed up on skills that will enable me to rejoin the workforce," he said.
Transferable skills like communication and networking were especially highlighted, and Mr Oh used his time to master those skills.
While he’s waiting for callbacks, Ms Huang said that the understanding from her family helped greatly. “They understood my plans and not pressure me into accepting any job offer just for the sake of being employed,” she said.
And if you are feeling down, do what Ms Xin did. She gave herself a treat once in a while so that she feels better about herself.
Human Resources Institute's Erman Tan said rejections are common and part and parcel of the job hunting process. While it can be depressing for the job seeker, it’s important to look at the rejection critically to see how they can improve and do better on their next try. If there's a need to shift your position, consider doing it.
“They have to learn to put their ego aside and be more patient when things don’t go their way. Sometimes, the rejection could be due to them asking too much. So they will have to adjust. If they start lower and do well, this will tell their prospective employer that they have potential,” said Mr Tan.
GO FOR CAREER COUNSELLING
Both Mr Amin and Ms Kamaliyah attended career guidance sessions offered under Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Career Connect programme to help them strengthen their position as job seekers and clarify their career goals.
Mr Amin found out about the programme last November, almost a year after he quit his engineering job. His career coach told him that his resume was “completely outdated”.
“He told me that I needed to update it and to include keywords because that’s what HR does these days, they make use of algorithm to read your CV and pick up on keywords. I was so surprised to hear that because I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t consulted the career coach,” he said.
Ms Kamaliyah also attended many WSG workshops on different training topics ranging from e-branding to interview skills.
“I tried to make use of my time gaining new skills. When you attend the workshops, you also meet a lot of people in similar situations and you feel encouraged and confident. They can also give you insights from their industries,” she said.
MAKE A PLAN FOR TIME AND MONEY
Much of the uncertainty that comes with unemployment is related to having little money and too much time, job seekers Channel NewsAsia spoke to said. It’s easy to lose track of time and your finances when not working, so implementing a daily schedule and a budget can keep you in the green. Mr Amin started to record and reduce his expenses.
Ms Xin said that time management was the toughest part about being unemployed. “Waking up in the comfort of your home without a schedule or concrete goals to accomplish is a great way to waste valuable time,” she said.
Ms Huang and Ms Kamaliyah said the other benefit of finding other temporary working arrangements also helped with their expenses.
“The biggest challenge was my income because I was running out of my savings but was still quite reluctant to take up anything anyhow. You need to pay your bills but you also need a good job,” said Ms Kamaliyah.
“If they need the income support, then they can take up a job to let that income flow in. Then the rest of the time, they can focus on attending courses as well as continue their job search,” she said.
“I lived by the earning of my part-time job because the job I was looking for would be my first full-time job after graduating from university, so I had little savings. It was tough to work and job hunt at the same time but it was necessary so I pushed through,” Ms Huang said.