Like any other countries, Singapore too was affected by Covid-19. Businesses are tightening their belts in order to survive this recession. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has revealed that retrenchment in Singapore has risen by 108% from 3,220 in the first three months of 2020 to 6,7000 from April to June.

Even before the world was hit by Covid-19, uncertain conditions have already threatened many mid-to-late career executives. Transformative technology, globalisation and the rationalisation of roles have made many highly paid jobs obsolete. Coupled with the ongoing crisis, the most senior employees are often the first to be relieved of their duties.

How do you bounce back?

Very few bounce back but senior executives who were retrenched in middle age often struggle to re-enter the workplace despite having years of experiences behind their back. According to MOM, in Q3 2019, only 61% of PMETs, 76.5% of clerical, sales and service workers, and 72.8% of production and related workers had found a new job within 6 months after being retrenched. On the other hand, about 40% of workers aged 40 and more remained unemployed after 6 months of retrenchment.

Many experienced executives are confident that if they were to be retrenched, they can secure a position of similar pay grade through a recruiter or by applying via job postings online. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. Based on my observation, 80% of senior executives find new roles through networking.

There was this one executive that I had the pleasure of knowing who applied to nearly 100 positions after being retrenched and all those efforts came to nothing. He had an impressive resume and years of experience in his field but he still failed to get a job. One day, he went cycling with a friend and later found out that there is an appropriate position at his friend’s company and he could put in a resounding referral as well. To no surprise, he got the job.

This is what I meant by the power of a strong network. A network is not something that you can come up with overnight. You need to put in the time and effort to solidify your network. I’d like to see it as physical fitness; in order to stay healthy and in good condition, you need to exercise before your health starts to fail you. If you start exercising only after your condition has worsened, it could be too late.

Networking as a career lifesaver

Unfortunately, those who believe that they have a job for life in today’s economy are gravely mistaken. There are still a large number of top executives and leading professionals who overestimate their employment security or they thought that they can easily find a new job if they were to be let go.

The thing is, the relationship between leaders and their peers is invaluable. It allows them to learn from one another, overcome any hardships together and thrive during periods of prosperity. Similarly, the networks that you built can prove to be lifesaving when you are faced with unemployment. Sending your resume to a recruiter won’t probably result in anything but tapping the shoulder of a group of trusted associates might.

Keep in mind that we are dealing with a pandemic that currently doesn’t allow us to meet face-to-face. However, it is not too late because we are lucky enough to have numerous digital communication and social networking tools at our disposal. There is a Chinese proverb that goes “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” If you have yet to build your network, start today.

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