SINGAPORE: My retrenchment, when it came, was all very sudden.
I was in human resources — talent acquisition — with a software company, and I thought everything would be fine and dandy. But there you go.
That was in September. I was about eight months in the job and wasn’t given any retrenchment package — not even a prorated portion — because you needed to have served for at least a year.
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I remember being given the news that day. My boss had his personal assistant bring a box for us to pack our stuff immediately. I asked, could I stay a month or two to work things out?
I’m sorry, we have to walk you out of the office, they said.
Here I was, holding a box of my stationery and waiting for the lift, and what was going through my mind was: How am I going to break this news to my family again?
You see, I had been laid off 10 months earlier by my previous company for business reasons.
I didn’t say anything when I got home. And the next day, when the alarm clock went off at 6am as usual, I told my family that I was working from home.
It took me a week to tell them the truth. I broke down a bit — I couldn’t control my tears. My parents said, “Malcolm, don’t be sad. The economy’s going through a tough time; you’re not the only one who’s lost his job. We understand. Hold your chin up, pick yourself up.”
But as I told them, the expenses were going to hit us hard from the next month. My wife had also been retrenched; she was in retail, which was among the first businesses to be hit by the pandemic.
So the whole family was depending on me.
About three years ago, my dad underwent a triple bypass operation, and since then he’s been very weak.
He’s also gone through three knee replacements. My mum is in a wheelchair now; she’s got osteoporosis. And they don’t have insurance.
I had HDB loan payments and some insurance that I needed to put on hold as well. So I had to do something and do it quickly.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to sign up for the cybersecurity track in the IBM SGUnited Mid-Career Pathway Programme. That’s where my interest lies.
I had been in the tech industry for five and a half years, so I’d done courses to upskill in IT — and I got two certificates in cybersecurity. I did want to move into cybersecurity.
Looking at how Singapore and the world was changing, I didn’t want to be left behind. I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and make sure that I benefit as well.
The people who designed the course told us that there was no guarantee of a job placement, but that they’d help us — people like us who were making a mid-career switch, who didn’t have hands-on experience but had value we could bring to the table.
They wanted to see at least half of us get job placements. But they also told us that people who want to go on this course need a certain amount of savings to see them through.
It’s a six-month programme, and the allowance is only S$1,500 a month. It was tough — my wife and I had to make a lot of adjustments.
I used to have three meals a day, then I just had one. I cancelled my gym membership. Every sacrifice I made went towards making sure that my parents had their three meals a day, and that my mum got her physiotherapy every week.
I guess I saw a light at the end of the tunnel through the programme. Being laid off was, in some ways, a new chapter for me — to look for something different, something more in the digital space.
But after being in that course, I asked, what had I got myself into? It didn’t go into a deep dive on the cybersecurity aspect. It just scratched the surface, like an introduction.
And when you keep sending out resumes, applying for jobs and then keep getting rejection emails, those are dark moments. Financially, it was draining; I was getting worried.
Thank goodness I’m now with Workforce Singapore as a senior career consultant in the ICT sector.
It was my career coach who approached me and told me there was a position open. So I didn’t finish my cybersecurity course.
I think they saw my genuine passion for helping my fellow Singaporeans in need. Also, I’ve been through retrenchment twice in the last year and in 2019. And they saw that this person has got the soft skills lah.
I can really relate to job seekers. Some of them are even in their 60s.
I dealt with two females who were 67 and got laid off last year, and I helped them to be employed again.
A lot of my ex-course-mates are a bit concerned now. I’m helping some of them, and a couple have secured some interviews already. That’s job satisfaction for me — helping them to gain employment.
A lot of people who are retrenched think, “Oh, so I’ll just apply for the jobs and wait.” But let’s not — you have to meet people.
My contract is for one year and is renewable for one year after that. All I can do is hope, after that.
I’m still very keen on cybersecurity. You never know, because within the government, there’s the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. That’s one thing I could explore too.