There is an “illness” called UNEMPLOYMENT.
Based on my past experiences in dealing with other unemployed people including myself, it’s not too far fetched to regard unemployment as a “illness”.
Because if not handled correctly, unemployment can cause you to go into continuous depression, be confined at home or destroy relationships with loved ones.
In a fast paced society like Singapore, the norm is to be gainfully employed, going to work everyday, getting a paycheck monthly.
Your work place is like your second home, your job title becomes your identity, your colleagues become your friends.
Then unemployment hits you.
Everything disappears suddenly.
Your friends, your financial security, your second home and more importantly, your identity and self worth.
What you’ve carefully built up is taken away from you. If you were discharged inadvertently, the impact of the loss is even more challenging.
Where do you start picking up the pieces?
Given the potential severity of unemployment, I decided to pen this article to help you know how to manage unemployment.
1. Accept your Unemployment
Firstly, you need to know that you are not alone!
Based on Ministry of Manpower(MOM) statistics from their Labour Force Survey 2014:
You should be open with your family and loved ones because withholding your unemployment status will prolong your misery and force you to lie to them.
I have seen unemployed men dressing up and pretending to go for work everyday for 6 months.
They don’t feel good about lying and their lie only sinks them deeper each day.
So when you share your unemployment with your family and loved ones, explain to them how the unemployment came about, express how you feel and share your intended next step.
This is a test of how strong your relationships are.
While some might understand and help you cope with your loss, be prepared for some who won’t.
They will give you pressure or deflate your esteem further, making you regret your choice to tell them. In such cases,
In such cases, give them time to accept and cope with your unemployment because it’s also not easy for them, especially if you had been the sole bread winner.
Throughout this period, you need to remain positive!
Talk to your friends who have been unemployed before.
Treat your unemployment as the closure of an old chapter but the opening of new phase to pursue new opportunities, your passion or long time dream.
2. Work Out your Employment Plan
With more time on your hands everyday, it is easy to waste it away, doing non productive things.
The truth is every day you waste away increases your unemployment duration and reduces your chances to get back into employment!
Not forgetting you have bills, loans and a family to take care of.
Your family will also hope you become employed again soon.
So what can I do?
You need to develop your own employment plan.
An employment plan will help you make full use of your time and effort to guide your job search.
More importantly, developing your plan keeps you positive by giving you something to work towards everyday.
Start doing your plan by establishing your goal.
A good goal should follow the SMART abbreviation (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Relatedness).
For example: “Secure an accountant job paying at least $XXXX, in the XXX industry / company within 3 months from today”
Should I just aim for a similar job to the one I last held?
Be open minded about your career options when setting your goal!
Don’t just fall back onto what you have always been doing, why not try out new industries, new areas of work based on your interests and passion?
You may want to speak to the professionals mentioned below to help you with this.
Using your goal, you can identify and list out sub-tasks that help you achieve your goal.
These sub-tasks will be your action items that keep you engaged everyday as you work towards your goal.
Some sub-tasks could include:
- Going for courses to learn new skills or get certification
- Doing online research on vacancies and learning about industries
- Meeting up with friends who could help refer you into a job
- Attend networking events
- Drafting your resume
- Updating your social media (eg. LinkedIn, Facebook) profiles
- Get advice from others on professional grooming, interview skills.
I will digress here for a bit – networking and catching up with friends really helps open doors to jobs.
Based on MOM’s Labour Market Report, word of mouth and referrals are effective ways to secure a job!
Lastly, to ensure you carry out your sub-tasks diligently, you can share your plan with a trusted friend or a close family member and make them your accountability partner.
Having to update someone else on your progress will keep you more focused and diligent to follow through your plan.
3. Prepare for the Long Wait
“Life is so unfair! Why won’t employers give me a chance!”
“The government should give me a job! It is my right as a citizen to be given a job!”
“I applied for 100 jobs but not a single one called me for an interview!”
You may have accepted your unemployment status and have followed through on your employment plan BUT still don’t have a job or even a job interview!
Frustration boils within you, you are angry and start to feel hopeless again.
The road to employment could be long and filled with rejection.
This could be because you have been looking in the wrong places for jobs or you have used an ineffective job search technique (eg. poor resume, poor performance during an interview).
Based on MOM’s figures, the median time taken for unemployed people to re-enter the work force is about 2 months.
However, for people who are older, more educated and who were holding high or senior positions previously, the likelihood of them securing employment is harder.
The odds are stacked against you and most people become stuck at this stage.
However, you can make some adjustments to sustain you for the long haul.
4. Turn to your family, loved ones and your faith
Family support has been stressed throughout the entire article and it is really that important.
Their love and understanding of your situation will comfort you and keep you going.
Turing to your faith will also help pull you through the darkest days because faith brings about hope.
5. Stay healthy, exercise, rest well
A healthy body will keep you fresh and alert in your job search.
Endorphins produced in your body through exercise also help you feel good about yourself.
Keeping your body fit will also impress potential employers because who wants to employ someone who looks ill and unable to contribute to the company?
6. Volunteer or do an internship
With your spare time, you can get some work experience through volunteering or through an internship.
Don’t underestimate these efforts!
They allow you to gain new experiences and meet new people, contribute towards your resume, help open new doors and possibly new jobs!
It does not hurt if they can pay you a token, any amount of money helps when you are unemployed.
7. Relook your debts and loans
You need to make your finances last you longer so the only way is to reduce your debts, cash in on your assets.
When I was unemployed, the first thing I sold was my car.
It relieved my monthly expenses by $1,000 and also gain some cash from the sale of the car.
Renting out a room to earn some passive income, downgrading my flat to a smaller one were other steps I considered.
This is a very painful step and it will also affect others like your family.
However, you need to make the right call to survive.
Explore your options with your family and proceed upon consensus.
Remember, money can be earned back!
8. Get professional help
You can sharpen your job search efforts through private and public sector agencies that provide help in job search, career coaching.
For example, Workforce Singapore has Career Centres island wide that provide coaching and job search help to locals.
Through them, you can access workshops that teach you how to job search, ace your interview and groom yourself to impress. Another similar agency is the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) operated by the NTUC.
The Government has been doing a lot to assist unemployed older professional workers back into the workforce. They rolled out a slew of initiatives in Jul 2015 so do make use of them!
In the private sector, there are many recruitment agencies helping with job placements.
Along with the government’s focus on Career Guidance, several companies have also sprung up career guidance services here in Singapore.
With so many resources out there, don’t wait too long before seeking their help!
Unemployment is something tough to handle and could result in real damage like depression and broken family relationships.
However if you can manage it well and overcome it, you will have gained a life experience that made you stronger than what you were before.
Pass on your experience to others who need it.