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How to Bounce Back Stronger After Retrenchment

You've been praying that it won't happen to you, but the inevitable has unfortunately taken place. Doesn't matter that you've been loyal to your company for decades, or that you've made countless sacrifices for it, or that you're a better worker than others who have not been laid off. With the Circuit Breaker over and the government wage support falling from 75% to 25%, businesses without strong cash flow and reserves will just have to embark on brutal cost-cutting measures and reduce their headcount. It's not your fault. Do not feel guilty. Sometimes, shit happens and it can happen to anyone.

No one is indispensable to a business. The sooner you come to terms with it, the better it is for you. The last thing you'd want to do is to have an emotional outburst at your boss and blow your chances of obtaining a glowing reference letter for your upcoming job search.

You've cried your eyes out, chain-smoked a pack of cigarettes, and downed a bottle of wine, so what next? If you're feeling lost and disoriented, I hope the next 10 steps will help you find your bearings again.

No. 1: Inform your family of your retrenchment.

It's a very heavy burden to carry on your own, so the sooner you let your family in on your predicament, the better. The support from your family will be the greatest comfort you can get during this tough period, as you're all in the same boat together.

Do not keep your family in the dark, and have them think it's ok to continue spending the way they've always done. Adjustments will have to be made to reduce expenses, and you need them to work together with you on these. Your wife may need to take on a job to help make ends meet, your daughter may need to re-look her plans to further her studies overseas, and your son may need to drop his tuition lessons for a while.

No. 2: Find out if you qualify for government support schemes and apply for them.

The government had announced several support schemes to help Singaporeans and Permanent Residents tide over this difficult period. Find out what these schemes are, and if they apply to you, submit the relevant documentation before their respective deadlines.

One of the schemes I read about is the COVID-19 Support Grant which provides a grant to certain individuals who've been terminated, put on no-pay-leave or suffered a 30% or more paycut. The deadline for applying for this grant is on 30 September 2020.

No. 3: Update your Resume, CV and LinkedIn Profile.

It may have been years since you last looked at your resume, CV and LinkedIn Profile. It's time to update them with your latest contact particulars, photo, experiences, skills and achievements.

Watch out for typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors as you make those changes.

Review your online profile and postings, and remove anything unfavourable which may jeopardise your recruitment chances.

No. 4: Start looking for a new job.

Have a look at the list of job search portals mentioned in the 3 posts below. There may be a few more portals not mentioned, but these 3 posts pretty much cover most of them for Singapore.

No. 5: Prepare yourself for a job interview.

Read my article on How to Get Ahead in a Job Hunt and I hope you'll find some of the tips there useful.

No. 6: Come up with a plan to reduce expenses.

Even if you've other streams of income and 12 months of emergency funds stashed away, it's only prudent to take appropriate belt-tightening measures too. No one knows how long this pandemic will last, with no clear indication of when a vaccine will be available worldwide and flare ups suddenly happening in cities where the virus was previously contained. It is not inconceivable for the economy to remain subdued for the next 1 to 2 years, unless a vaccine suddenly becomes widely available.

In the circumstances, it would be best to sit down with your family to map up a clear plan on reducing expenses. It may be necessary to let go of the family car, the domestic helper, the children's tutor etc. These are just examples of recurring bigger ticket expenses for a regular household. I raised these issues and a few other suggestions in my article on How to Recession-Proof Your Household.

No. 7: Apply for deferment of mortgage payments.

As part of government measures announced earlier this year to help Singapore homeowners tide over this crisis, applications to bank and finance companies for deferments of mortgage payments till December 2020 can be made. The scheme covers mortgage loans and property equity withdrawal loans for owner-occupied and investment properties.

Although kicking the can further down the road will ultimately lead to greater interest payments, it will be worthwhile for those who suddenly find themselves without their main source of income and have difficulty staying afloat in the immediate term. Application procedures can be found in the websites of various banks and financial institutions.

No. 8: Do not make risky investment decisions now.

You've been reading about investors' dividend-generating stock portfolios and coupon-paying corporate bond ladders, and are salivating at their impressive returns. You've also been reading about traders making fast bucks from the roller-coaster stock market. These alternative sources of income suddenly pique your interest more than ever, and you're tempted to try your hand at the same.

No investment is without risk, especially now when dark cloudy skies are hovering over even the strongest of companies. Whilst very astute traders are capable of making big profits in such a market, the odds are stacked against one with little to no experience. It would probably be best not to roll the dice and gamble with your savings in a market where you can potentially lose your shirt when you're already without a stable source of income.

Ringfence what you have to ensure you can pay for your roof over your head and any other mortgages you may have when their deferments come to an end. An emergency fund of 6 to 12 months may not even be sufficient in the circumstances.

No. 9: Do not fall for get rich quick and other scams.

A friend of a friend has a potentially lucrative business looking for additional shareholders, and you've been invited to join in. Pump in S$50K for a minority stake and you can call yourself a shareholder. Inject S$100K and they'll even give you a job as a "Creative Director" paying you S$3,000.00 a month. You can have a job and call yourself a shareholder and director, and not lose face in front of your relatives. Sounds like an ace idea! But they don't tell you the business has yet to turn any profits, that there's no exit strategy for a minority shareholder, that your S$3,000.00 per month is coming out of your S$100K injection, and that they plan to shut down the business soon after collecting sufficient cash injections.

Another friend of a friend tells you about this fantastic company he's in where he's making thousands each month doing easy work. Buy S$50K worth of products from the company, and you get a cut of the earnings of others whom you recruit to join the company, who similarly purchase S$50K worth of products each. Ordinarily, this might sound just like any other multi-level marketing scams which are illegal in Singapore, but this acquaintance convinces you that it is not and you suddenly feel so lucky to be included in his circle.

It's no coincidence that now that you're out of a job, "golden business and investment opportunities" are suddenly knocking on your door. When we're at our weakest and most vulnerable, our mind naturally seeks out glimmers of hope for us to latch onto to bring comfort to ourselves. We commonly turn to religion and any other beacon of guiding light in our most vulnerable state, even when we ordinarily would not. Whilst we normally would condemn and laugh at people for drinking cow's urine to cure their ailments, when told that we've last days to live and cow's urine has worked for someone before, we'd probably gulp down several tall glasses without batting an eyelid!

When one is jobless and feeling desperate, one may not have the clarity of mind to decipher what is or is not a scam. Our usual questioning mind and sense of skepticism may be displaced by a greater need for a sense of hope. So be careful, take a big step back, talk to someone mature and sensible you know, and think through matters carefully before committing yourself to something which may or may not make matters worse for you and your family.

No. 10: Eat healthy and exercise to keep fit.

Now more than ever is the time to get yourself out of bed to do your keep fit routine. Nourishing yourself with healthy food and working out will make you look better, feel better about yourself, and keeps your brain active and alert.

Staying positive and maintaining social contact in times like these are very important. When one allows himself to sink into depression, his life might spiral out of control and clawing back might never be possible.

Losing one's job is like hitting the reset button. It's up to the individual to make a better life for himself or herself. This pandemic is not just a test of everyone's physical well-being, but mental well-being as well. If you look beyond the current fog, there'll be light at the end of the tunnel, and it might well be rainbow-coloured.


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