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Navigating Uncharted Waters: What to Do If You Are Retrenched

7 min read

Lazada’s abrupt New Year layoffs, cutting 100 jobs on the popular online shopping platform, left employees shocked. The unexpected move, devoid of prior notice, cast a shadow over post-celebration optimism. The tech sector’s unanticipated downsizing added an unsettling dimension to the start of the year, catching many off guard. (Channel NewsAsia, [04 Jan 2024])

But should we be surprised by this? 

In 2023, Singapore’s economy experienced a slower growth rate of 1.2%, compared to the 3.6% growth recorded in 2022. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong conveyed in his New Year’s message on January 1 that the country successfully “avoided a recession” in 2023. (Channel NewsAsia, [01 Jan 2024])

With this slower growth, there were 11,120 retrenchments in 2023, as reported by the Ministry of Manpower, indicate a notable increase compared to the figures recorded in the whole of 2022 (“Retrenchments, Unemployment in Singapore Up in Q3, But Job Market Continues to Expand,” The Straits Times, [26 Oct 2023])

With a slowing economy, facing retrenchment is undoubtedly a challenging and disheartening experience. Whether it comes as a surprise or you’ve seen it looming on the horizon, the uncertainty it brings can be overwhelming. However, in these trying times, it’s essential to focus on proactive steps that can help you regain control and pave the way for new opportunities. 

We have compiled a guide (one of many) and interviewed three Career Coaches on what to do if you find yourself retrenched (Click to expand).

The emotional toll of retrenchment can be significant.  

The initial shock of being retrenched can cloud your judgment. Many people tend to react emotionally. Take a moment to breathe and objectively assess the situation.  

Donus Loh, Coaching Psychologist, who has years of experience coaching the retrenched to bounce back successfully, strongly recommends practicing Mindfulness at this stage.  

Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully paying attention to the present moment without judgment, fostering a heightened awareness of thoughts, emotions, and surroundings.

“It is indeed very natural to be very upset upon being retrenched and one can experience serious levels of depression and anxiety.  There are many factors that could put one more at risk of mental health problems. When dealing with their shock, it is important to consider the life stage one is at, availability of social support (and the quality of it), and one’s personality.”

Donus Loh, Coaching Psychologist

Corporate HR professional and Career/Life Coach Jennice Ong, shares that among the many individuals she has worked with gets into a panic mode, and seeks comfort in taking action (to find re-employment quickly). 

However, the downside of this is they may not be mentally or emotionally ready to jump into a new job or start the job hunt right away. 

Imagine securing an interview with a prospective company; however, if the interviewer perceives bitterness and excessive anxiety from a candidate who appears unsettled by past retrenchment, it diminishes the likelihood of the hiring company seriously considering the application due to the lack of confidence displayed.

One of the common mistakes, according to Life Coach Mr Jace Tan, is that many people have an unnecessary lavish lifestyle. They splurge on things more that they would need without considering a rainy day. Many of these serve only for their instagram stories rather than for functional reasons. 

A common observation of the retrenched are in a denial about their finances. 

His advice is to start by asking yourself if you need to carry these financial burdens while trying to navigate a path out of your career pit. 

Outline your monthly expenses and identify areas where you can cut back temporarily. Explore options for debt consolidation if needed and contact creditors to discuss flexible payment plans.

The Singapore government has been proactive in aiding retrenched workers. Options include SkillsFuture courses for upskilling, Workforce Singapore’s career matching services, and the Adapt and Grow initiative offering training and job placement support, showcasing a commitment to mitigating unemployment challenges with comprehensive solutions.

As you engage in this process, be prepared to consider the prospect of reskilling and transitioning to a different industry. Frequently, there is data indicating sectors with increased labor demand, eager to recruit individuals open to adapting their skills and exploring new career paths.  

More information can be found here.

Don’t stay at home behind your screen. Instead, reach out to your professional network for support and job leads. Attend industry events, webinars, and workshops to expand your connections. Consider joining online platforms and forums related to your industry to stay informed about job opportunities.

As you embark on the job search journey, ensure your resume is up-to-date, highlighting your skills, accomplishments, and experiences. Additionally, optimize your LinkedIn profile to make it attractive to potential employers and recruiters.

If you have difficulty networking and seeking support, read up on our article(s) regarding personality.

If traditional employment seems elusive, explore freelancing or consulting opportunities. Many companies are open to hiring freelancers for specific projects, providing a potential income stream and valuable experience.

The changing nature of work, propelled by technology, has facilitated a global marketplace where individuals can easily connect, collaborate, and engage in short-term, project-based work. 

This shift is characterized by a departure from traditional employment structures, offering flexibility and opportunities for both freelancers and businesses to tap into a diverse pool of talent across borders. 

As technology continues to advance, these gig platforms underscore the transformative impact of digital innovation on the nature and structure of work in the contemporary era.

Donus Loh says “Staying resilient is most critical during this transitional period.  By applying various resiliency tools, one will succeed in overcoming this challenging time and move on constructively .” 

Resilience is the capacity to bounce back, adapt, and thrive in the face of adversity, challenges, or setbacks.

A positive and resilient mindset is crucial during this transitional period. Job searching can be a lengthy process, but staying resilient and persistent is key. Celebrate small victories, stay organized, and continuously refine your approach based on feedback and experiences.

With each individual and group, Mr Loh uses IDENTI3 profiling to measure their resiliency and help customize approaches and skills to coach one in upping their level of resiliency.

Individuals with distinct personality traits, such as high planning, low flexibility, and heightened emotional tendencies like affection and attachment, may find the impact of career changes more profound. 

The uncertainty and shifts in routine associated with such transitions can be particularly challenging for those with strong planning preferences and lower flexibility thresholds. 

Moreover, individuals who invest a significant emotional attachment to their work may experience heightened stress during career upheavals. In such cases, seeking guidance from a career coach becomes invaluable.

Dealing with retrenchment – essentially, a sudden loss of a significant part of your daily life – should be approached delicately and with care. 

Mentally, you may still be in a state of panic or confusion, your confidence level has taken a hit, and even your self-esteem may be challenged as you start spiraling down a series of self-doubts. 

This may lead to poor performance during interviews, creating a vicious cycle of feeling like a failure and making it hard for you to pick yourself up. So, take your time. Take the time to recalibrate your interests and passion, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and find your way to a renewed sense of purpose. Be at peace with the situation to come to a state of acceptance. That will allow you to open your mind and yourself up to new, perhaps even better, possibilities and opportunities ahead.”

Coach Jennice Ong

Another crucial piece of advice emphasizing the importance of patience is that rushing through the job search process could make you susceptible to job scams, a growing concern in recent times. When bombarding job portals, employers, and headhunters with numerous resumes, you risk having your information intercepted by scammers who might present seemingly harmless job opportunities.

Taking a more measured approach can assist you in maintaining clarity about the individuals you are interacting with, as suggested by Life Coach Jace Tan.

While retrenchment may seem like the conclusion of a chapter, it simultaneously unveils opportunities for new beginnings. 

By taking proactive steps, staying positive, and embracing change, you can navigate these challenging waters and emerge stronger on the other side. Remember, your journey doesn’t end with retrenchment; it’s merely a stepping stone to the next phase of your career.

In our upcoming blog, we will narrate the tale of an individual who faced retrenchment but ultimately discovered his dream job.

Appreciation to: 

Donus Loh, Coaching Psychologist 
Jennice Ong, Career/Life Coach
Jace Tan, Life Coach  
Reis Koh



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