5 Ways To Stay Employed During A Recession


A friend told me recently that his pals who are PMEs have either been retrenched or are already anticipating retrenchment to happen. A number of them have started businesses on the side, signed up for investment courses, or are otherwise planning for their imminent exits from their respective companies. We have all heard about how important it is to actively plan for retirement (thank you, NTUC Income) but what many have forgotten to mention is how crucial it is to proactively plan for retrenchment! My pal even told me that he knows the current skillset he possesses will be obsolete in a few years’ time! If you want to stay employed during a recession, here are 5 things you might want to consider:

#1: Find Ways To Become Indispensable

Linh Tran Hai became the CEO of Lenovo Vietnam at age 23. In a nutshell: He had graduated from NTU in Singapore, was unemployed for 6 months, joined Lenovo’s Singapore office, got transferred back to Vietnam, and got the CEO position after the CEO and the subsequent temporary CEO had both been fired. A Vietnamese blogger who had spoken with him went on to blog about his story and how “He found ways to make himself indispensable”. Read it here. And that’s how you rise up the ranks when everyone else is being booted out of the office!

#2: Get A Green Job

You’ve heard much about “white-collar jobs” and “blue-collar jobs” but you may be new to the term “green-collar jobs”. There is an ever-growing need for green-collar jobs as global economies shift towards energy efficiency, conservation, and green technologies. And it is here that you might be able to find your next secure “dream” job. If you don’t already know, Singapore has signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, pledging to “reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels“.

Energy consumption is always on the rise, and clean, renewable and sustainable sources of energy are becoming especially crucial. Companies like Unilever and Hyflux are looking for people to fill green-collar positions so why not apply for these jobs? Perhaps become a Chief Sustainability Officer?

At a recent Green Jobs Symposium organized by Young NTUC, we were told that this ‘green economy’ added some 60,000 jobs in 2011. And there are many PME jobs available in the solar energy and water industries.


Photo: Darryl Wang

Darryl Wang, 34, a senior engineer with REC, designs solar panels which are commercially-viable and affordable. His team developed a black solar panel module for home-owners in Europe and US who wanted dark-coloured panels to aesthetically fit into their traditionally darker rooftops, to generate their own electricity for household needs.

His colleague, Kang Jen Wee, 38, switched industries from semiconductor to green energy. He encourages companies to adopt green energy solutions, such as the installation of solar panels on Asia Pacific Breweries’ roof to brew Tiger Beer using the sun’s energy.

*To check out green jobs and network with 15 water companies in the water sector, register for Young NTUC’s upcoming Careers@SIWW.

#3: Improve The Right Kind Of Skills

I believe that SkillsFuture was born out of good intentions, and we get to choose which courses we want to apply for (that’s excellent). However, knowing which skills will be relevant in the future requires more than a fair bit of foresight. Correctly identifying those skills will mean that you’ll hit the career lottery. Otherwise, you’ve just gotten ‘free money’ from the Government to spend on learning something you are interested in but may not end up building a career around. In the book ‘Born For This’, bestselling author Chris Guillebeau (who also wrote ‘The $100 Startup’) shares that the right kind of skills would involve writing and speaking skills, negotiation skills, improving one’s ability to follow through and follow up, and also about being comfortable with useful technology. Take some time to think about which skills would be relevant in Singapore’s future, and which would give you the best chance of success in your chosen career.

#4: Be Involved In PME Events And Workshops

Get yourself acquainted with what NTUC and e2i have to offer, whether it be workshops, career fairs, training or networking sessions. For instance, there’s a Future-Ready Careers Event for PMEs by NTUC on 2-3 July 2016 where you can explore better job options and hear from speakers from Google and Stanchart on being future-ready.

PME Centre

Picture: NTUC’s U PME Centre

Even if you are not actively looking for another job, networking sessions can prove to be very useful later on should you suddenly find yourself out of a job. Also, you get to keep your finger on the pulse of the economy and the job opportunities out there. I believe networking should be done when you are not desperate for a job. Just like when searching for a potential life partner, desperation is very much a turnoff. Why not attend networking sessions while you are still happy in a job, and just consider other options? Some of these people you meet might also end up offering you a job later on, or better still, join you in starting a business on the side!

#5: Become Rejection Proof

Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

I love Jia Jiang’s book ‘Rejection Proof’ in which he shares about what he learnt from his ‘100 Days of Rejection’ project. Some of the things which Jia Jiang did to build up his ‘immunity’ towards rejection may not be things you’d actually want to do, such as driving up to a stranger’s home and asking the person to take a photo of you kicking a football around his backyard (that’d probably get you arrested in Singapore for trespass) or heading to a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop and asking for 5 doughnuts to be linked like in the Olympics symbol. But how about walking into a random company and asking for a job without any prior appointments made? How about asking for a pay raise? Or to take on another project you are eyeing but have not been assigned to? Instead of fearing rejection, we can learn to embrace it and the multiple opportunities that doing so offers. 🙂


I’ve always said that “job security” is nothing more than a false sense of security, and that traditional “iron ricebowl jobs” no longer exist (stop kidding yourself!) BUT I would agree with anyone who says that some jobs are just more secure than others. And a few of these ‘cool’ jobs probably didn’t even exist a couple of years ago. I do believe that you can not only keep your job, but THRIVE and get promoted, even when the people around you are getting fired left, right, center. If you have the necessary hard and soft skills, you might be able to make your job the new iron ricebowl job. To survive in tough economic times, we will all have to learn to be resilient, adaptable, and even open to considering jobs which may not have existed during our parents’ employment. Green-collar jobs, anyone? 🙂