How to Survive a Career Transition

Back in September 2017, I ended my first job and was hoping to start the next in October, when I realized the new place might not be a good fit. I decided not to go through with the job offer, and was clueless on how to find another job within 30 days.

The thing about Singapore’s law, is your work pass must be applied by your employer, and the moment you leave the company, you are on 30 days visit pass. You have to return to your home country before the 30th day.

I was worried as hell on the first week, frantically applying for jobs days and nights. On the second week I started going through the five stages of “loss-of-job grief”:

Denial Monday- this cannot happen to me!

Anger Tuesday – I’m so angry at the other company (although it was me who decided not to take up the offer, I still felt angry)

Bargain Wednesday – if only I didn’t throw my resignation letter so fast… If only I waited until I got the approval from Manpower Ministry…

Depression Thursday – this is damn sad, I tried so hard, I went so far, but now I gotta pack my bags and go??

Acceptance Friday – time to move on.

Saturday and Sunday of course were for me to celebrate that acceptance.

On the third week, a miracle happened. I got my first interview in weeks, after sending a bunch of CVs around. And by the end of the week, I got the job! I was saved at the last minute, and boy how relieved I was.

Fast forward 8 months later, I was so comfortable with my job I started to plan things for a year later, my department was restructured.  My nightmare is happening all over again. Yet this time, I’ve come prepared.

Three things I took away from this sudden situation, are accepting with grace, listing out your options, and how to turn over a new leaf.

Accepting with grace

There is very little you can do once you are on the list of redundant position. Most of the time, restructuring is the business decision that came from the high-level management, it has nothing to do with your team lead, your supervisor, even your department head. So try not to direct your frustration there, but understand that sometimes, a company, an organisation, will do what they have to do for business purposes.

It is unfair, yes. It is unacceptable, yes. But it is inevitable and unavoidable if it is decided as part of a whole company business strategy. You may have been with the company for 20 years, yet it won’t guarantee you a forever position. The faster you can accept it, the quicker you can bounce back.

It is also a good experience for me since I’m still young. This makes me realize how easily anyone can be replaced, and how day-to-day work should not be my only source of income, and my only life purpose. Yesterday I had a job, today I don’t. It’s a scary uncertainty, but it is a serious wake-up call for me to understand: life is what happens to you when you’re busy making plans. Are you prepared yourself enough?

“Here’s a rule of life: You don’t get to pick what bad things happen to you”

― Rory Miller, Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence

Listing out options

One of the reasons I was so obsessed with finding a job to stay in Singapore for the first time I was unemployed, aside from obvious practical prospect working in the most developed South-east Asian country, was because I couldn’t bear having a long-distance relationship. Although it is only a two-hour flight from my country to my partner’s, I was not ready to work that out. I failed once, maybe it wasn’t the right person that time and I was different back then, but I don’t want to risk it.

However this time, I feel more ready. Because we both are serious about our future, I feel like we are willing to compromise. Once I got that emotional obstacle sorted out, I began to list other choices I have, and to prepare myself by listing out options.

If I go back, there are plenty of other opportunities back home. Lower pay yes, but it isn’t a complete disaster. I would still survive, could still earn a living without paying for rent. I would live with family, can meet up with friends any time I want. I can even consider working with successful acquaintances, to learn from them and to enhance my practical skills (if they would have me, of course).

We hold on to one thing, believing it to be the only choice we have, because there is an emotional attachment. But if we take a step back, take a look around, look up and down, look left and right, we would be free from the cage of choices we invent unconsciously. Remember, we always have different choices, depending on how we look at the situation.

The difficulty isn’t the issue. The real issue is our attitude to the difficulty.

“Your strength doesn’t come from winning. It comes from struggles and hardship. Everything that you go through prepares you for the next level.”

― Germany Kent

Facing the storm with positive attitude

Unlike people who have real skills like designers, engineers, accountants, bankers, financial advisers,… I don’t have a lot of choices in terms of applying for jobs. I admit the moment I knew our department’s fate was decided, I have had my resume ready to be sent to basically anywhere. I started to reach out to all acquaintances, friends, those I believe can see my potential and can lead me to the right directions.

the sky full of stars

When you lose your job unexpectedly, it will take a while to adjust to the fact that you now need to find another job, but it takes time to find something that is interesting, suitable that you are capable of doing. In my case, with time limitation (I only have 30 days after contract ends), lack of professional skills, and the constraint of Singapore’s rules upon foreign workers*I searched up and down the job listing sites and applied to all possible positions that I’m capable of. It is exhausted and tired, demoralized even, because I was worried and felt like nothing could save me.

I managed to slow myself down, with the help of my partner that it would be alright; my family who assured me not having a job in Singapore wasn’t the worst case scenario, from my friends (all over the world) who constantly cheered me up. They made me realize, it wasn’t the end of the world, it was just one thing ends and make way for other things to begin.

From there, I just focus on finding the type of jobs that I’m most confident in, that spark in me an interest and belief that it will be worth the effort. I stopped myself from worrying too much, since it doesn’t help and doesn’t benefit my state of mind. And prepare for all the interviews I could get. I only have one shot to prove myself.

It is important to have the right attitude. How hard it may seem, try to find a silver lining and look on the bright side. Even if you have to fake the positivism, optimism, just do it and you would see the whole thing under a new light, where it is much more bearable and solvable.

Another essential note: you can hardly do things all by yourself. Reach out to all of those you trust and ask for their advice and support. You will find lots of useful insights to apply to your current situation, and you may even see different options to prepare and adapt. It just takes a few calls, messages or emails – but it helps you ease your mind and make it see things clearer, rather than dwelling too much on the negativity.

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