betty August 10, 2021

It’s been some months since you got the dreaded goodbye handshake from your previous company. The initial shock has faded into resigned acceptance.

Bruised but not defeated, you dusted yourself off and began firing off applications to jobs similar to your last role – only to draw blanks. What now?

It’s probably time to consider other options. But for mature job seekers in their 40s and 50s, starting afresh is often an even more daunting prospect than sticking it out in the same, if challenged, industry.

Right now, you’re faced with many questions: Which new role and industry should you go for? Will you have to start from scratch? What about pay?

One 54-year-old job seeker who worked in the semiconductor industry for decades approached Workforce Singapore (WSG) for advice after he was laid off. He asked: “If a career coach recommends a job or career path that I am not interested in, then what do I do next? How much of a salary cut must I expect if I move to a totally new industry and a different role?”

Another retrenched PMET lamented about the common refrain older workers receive when they are rejected. “Potential companies told me I am over qualified, even though I am willing to accept lower-paying jobs,” he said.

How to move on: Take targeted action towards your goals and keep an open mind

If you have been out of a job for months or even years, self-doubt inevitably creeps in.

But here’s the thing: The longer you procrastinate about what your next step should be, the longer you are going to be stuck in a rut. Break that vicious cycle today and kickstart your job search in a fresh new direction, advise career coaches from WSG.

First things first, here are some critical questions to ponder: What job roles interest you? Do you have the skills, competencies or attributes to carry out the role? Do you have any skills that can add value to the hiring company?

Then, seek out friends or acquaintances within that industry or who are in similar roles to learn more about what’s needed to score that job. Ask your immediate network to introduce you to their connections, and don’t be shy to reach out to people on job networking sites such as LinkedIn.

Besides gaining insight into your targeted job or industry, you might also learn of job opportunities that are not advertised.

You probably also already know this, but it bears repeating that you should be prepared to accept a pay cut when switching to a new role or industry, since you’re starting from a lower level or even from scratch.

Take proactive steps to help your job search by reaching out to friends or acquaintances within the industry, or to connections on job networking sites such as LinkedIn. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Keep an open mind as you give yourself a chance to discover a new calling. You might be pleasantly surprised to realise that in the pursuit of a new passion, money may not be everything.

Learn from those who’ve gone before you

Ms Choa Wai Sim, 56, quit her sales role at an ingredient supply company in December 2019. As the pandemic unfolded, she applied for more than 100 jobs, mostly in sales and customer service, but all in vain. At one point, she turned to gig work such as temperature screening.

“There was no point in feeling negative and defeated. I was better off using the energy to make things go right,” she says.

Ms Choa also signed up with WSG’s MyCareersFuture and, four months later, landed an opportunity at fresh food importer Aries Fresh via the job portal. But first, she had to enrol in a Professional Conversion Programme training stint to learn online marketing know-how as well as hone her presentation skills, both virtual and face-to-face. The mother-of-two gamely accepted.

Now a digital sales executive, Ms Choa says starting a new career is empowering. “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Ms Noraini Misrom, also a mother of two, was let go from her administrative officer job in August 2019, after 22 years with a courier services company. Two months of fruitless, albeit proactive, search for a job later, she went to Careers Connect for assistance.

Senior career coach Judy Yap advised the 52-year-old to overhaul her “generic” resume. “When recruiters look at your resume, they essentially want to know what you have to offer their company and how you have contributed to past employers,” Ms Yap says.

Ms Noraini’s original resume listed all the courses she had attended over the years, but did not home in on one quality that would have helped her stand out. “Previously, Noraini was quite good at tracing lost parcels, so I added that she was good at ‘investigative solutions’,” adds Ms Yap.

Ms Noraini eventually landed a job with TG25, a company that provides lodging for foreign workers, in June last year through a lead from Careers Connect. These days, her responsibilities as a data controller include checking workers in and out, as well as various administrative duties.

The job pays only half of what she used to make, but Ms Noraini is very happy with it. “The work is different but definitely within my capabilities. I have also made many friends and am very thankful to WSG for helping me land this job.”

Next topic: What to consider when you’re thinking about making a mid-career switch?

If you’re keen to know more about how to navigate a changing job landscape or have advice to share with others on preparing for a career switch, write in to WSG here.

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