Ep 62: 3 Job Hunting Hard Truths in tough times

3 Job Hunting Hard Truths in tough times

Some of us are doing fine, some of us have barely started, and an increasing number of people are struggling with job losses, underemployment, or pay cuts today. Tough times are here and there are some realities about the job market during such periods that we cannot hide from.

In today’s episode, we explore:

  • The inflow of talent vs demand
  • Who are the people job hunting during such times?
  • Should one just take any random job?
  • How can we rise above the markets?
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podcast Transcript

Okay, welcome back! And today we’re going to talk about a topic that can be a little bit hard to talk about, because there are a lot of people losing their jobs at this moment in time, or certain sectors are getting very depressed. So, people are on furlough and job cuts are coming in. I’m sure you’ve seen the numbers and more and more people talking about it.

And there’ll be a whole bunch of you guys that are graduating into a depressed job market where you have to have a lowest starting salary, or you will have to essentially join a different sector, right? Maybe four or five years ago, you decided to embark on aviation engineering, and today you look at what’s happening right? Or four to five years ago, you decided to learn hospitality management, and then you look at what is happening today.

So, the reality of the market is tough. We’re just going to talk a little bit about some of the hard truths of job hunting and in tough times. Hopefully it helps you get a better picture and strive better.

Good morning, everyone! I welcome you back to another day with The Financial Coconut. In our podcast, we’ll be debunking financial myths, discovering best financial practices, and discussing financial strategies that fit our unique life. You get it. Ultimately, empowering us to create a life we love while managing our finances well.

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And today we’re going to talk about three hard truths of job hunting in tough times. Welcome back!

Okay, so I’m sure you know, the world is going crazy. Things are going a little nuts. But all those things sometimes a little beyond us, in a sense that we cannot really control the pandemic. We cannot really control how the economy is moving. But in our day-to-day lives, it trickles down.

So, there are a lot of people that are going through essentially job cuts. They’re going through pay cuts, they’re going through furloughs, and some people just lose their jobs. And for the many of you guys that are young, vibrant, just graduating into a depressed job market, I think that is the reality of today.

It’s a heavy topic yeah, but it is what it is. We always hope for good times, but the reality is, it is not a good time now. So, if it’s not a good time now, then we still have to make things work; we still got to do what we can. So, while we continue to complain, we continue to say government not good, or whatever.

Some people do that a lot. I think the reality is the reality, and we need to work with it. So, let’s do what we can. And today I’m going to just shave you some hard truths because many of you guys have mesmerized the idea of going to work, and after university, you committed so many things, and then you come out, and then tada, things happen and you know, not so good.

And some of you went through training, like I have a friend, I have a few friends who have went through training a year or two to become a steward, and then barely a year into flying, they lose their jobs. So, these are things that we cannot control, but there’s some things that we can, and I’m going to try to give you some reality check in terms of how do you then find a job in this period.

I know when things are so… for a lack of a better way to put it… so tough lah! And yes, before we go into today’s topic, I want to share with you guys, this book that I read called “The Up Side of Down: Bouncing Back in Business and in Life” by Megan McArdle.

Sorry if I butchered your name, but yes, some of these content that I’m going to share with you today are actually… She inspired me to talk about, because she wrote about a lot of things like how to embrace mistakes and how punishment is very powerful and impactful in nurturing your habits and all this kind of stuff.

I think those are good. But a few things that she talked about really revolves around job hunting, because one of the biggest downsides is that you have no job lah, right? So, she went through the whole period of 911, when the whole World Trade Center came down and the U.S. was shook.

And she was just kind of priced out of the job market for an extended period of time. So, she has some thoughts and I actually resonate with her thoughts, and I’m going to share with you what I learned through the book. So, definitely recommend you to check out the book. I think it’s written very well.

The stories transit very, very well, so enjoy the book. And today, we’re going to start with the first point of hard truths of job hunting and tough times is that honestly, there are many more applicants that are probably more capable than you. So like or not, during normal times, most people that are fired or most people that let go of the company are really quite the bottom tier. Maybe they really don’t fit their company’s culture, or they’re just not capable enough to feed the company’s expectations.

But during tough times, more people are let go for a wider myriad of reasons, not just about their abilities, it’s not just about their experience, but a lot on costs. There can be a whole team that gets let go, that gets kind of chopped off. And there can be a whole department that gets restructured and people just go.

But these people are very capable and under normal times, they may not be the top flyers (or maybe they are, you never know). Under normal times, they will not be let loose because when under normal times, you’re let loose because of your performance. But in bad times, everyone gets let looser.

There’s a wider myriad of reasons. So in that sense, many people are vying for the jobs that you are vying for. And many of them may be a lot more capable than where you are. Just because of the situation, just because of the scenario lah. So from an employer’s perspective, now that there are so many applicants out there, and they are so capable, or at least relatively much more capable than on normal days; but there are lesser hirings, lesser openings because some sectors are growing and those growing sectors will hire, but many other sectors will not. Right. So when there’s lesser openings, more capable applicants, then companies will be very, very specific and they will try to create more filters to filter you through.

Which is kind of why it makes their lives easier. I mean, if you think about it, before maybe they can handle like 50 applications. But now, because of 500 applications, they’ll be a lot more specific as to what they’re seeking. So they may raise the minimum number of years of experience, they may raise the kind of skill sets that you need to have.

They may be very specific that they only want someone, like social media is one thing, but social media management for Facebook groups – that is like very specific, right? So, all these skill sets become more and more funneled down because companies will then need to create all these filters.

Not because they don’t want you. But not because they don’t see the potential in you, but just because there are more people out there vying for the same amount of jobs, for easy processing, they will just have to essentially amp up the filters. And for all of you who have not checked out our Facebook page, definitely head over because one of the videos that we did during the COVID lockdown period or the MCO period, we just wanted to have fun and just spend some time, now very sian at home.

So we spent time with this lady called Katie, a recruiter from Mind Valley. And she shared with us how they actually do it from the insider’s view.

So how to improve your chances of being hired by them? And it’s pretty interesting because they use things like keyword search when they look at your resume. So when they write the job description, they have all these different words in the job description. And the more you use the same words in your resume or your cover letter, it increases your chances of being picked up by them because they use keyword search, and the more keywords that come out…

Then ta-da, that that is one of the realities that HR people do. Of course, they want to be able to see the person beyond their resume and get to know the person.

But the reality is because they have so many people out there trying to apply, especially during tough times, they will have to use things like keyword searches. And one other thing that she shared with us was that if you really want a job, then you should just go to LinkedIn and find someone that is working in the same company. Ask them how they did it.

Best is the same department, or talk to the HR people directly on LinkedIn. What they’re looking for, and to see how to craft your cover letter or your resume to fit what they’re looking for. At least get to know them personally, because that is probably the one of the best ways to know what do they want.

And with social media, with LinkedIn today, you could just connect with people. I think many people are very happy to connect with you. So don’t be stuck in a silo, trying to write resume, and going through all the job search job portals, and then be very sian, because it is true.

It is very sian. I get it right. So, head over to The Financial Coconut Facebook page to go and see the video. I think she has a lot of things, but if you are too lazy to go, one is to definitely use keywords that the job description has, and the other one is to connect, directly connect with people that are in the company that you’re trying to work for and try to understand how are things like, how do they do it, so that you can increase your chances of being hired by them.

So I strongly recommend you watch the video. And that is point number one, where the reality is not that you are not good, it’s just that other people are better lah. So relatively, there’s only one job out there, or there’re only a few openings. Lesser openings, more people. We got to be a little bit more tactical lah, that’s the hard truth of job hunting in tough times.

And point number two. Very, very likely. Point number two is very likely, you need to switch a sector. I think many people are so used to a certain sector, and they don’t feel comfortable switching. And I’m going to share with you more about this, after a word from our sponsor.

Okay, truth is some of you guys may have picked up aviation engineering or tourism management, or learnt finance, or you’ve been working in aviation for years, or you’ve been working in tourism for years. You’ve been working in shipping for years and some of these sectors are going to get disproportionately affected.

And that is the reality. So what does that mean? It means that the chances of you finding the same job in the same sector is very, very low because most people are just firing. So you have to be open to the idea of switching a sector. And I get it, it is tough and it is not simple. And sometimes you know all these people already, you spent so much time, and you love the sector that you work in, and all the connections, all your friends, they’re all in the sector.

So I get it, I got a lot of friends in tourism and they mesmerize about the times that they worked in tourism, which is cool, which is nice, but reality is 你要吃 (nǐ yào chī fàn). Reality is you need to get a job and this market is just not hiring. So you’ve got to go somewhere else.

And that is the hard truth. There’s no other way to put it. You have to go into another sector and in this process of switching a sector or even switching a department, but more likely switching a sector, it is grueling for sure. But I think there’s some things that you can do to help you through this process.

And one of the things is to recognize your skill set independent of the sector. What do I mean? Being able to serve the customer needs and resolve their anxiety is not unique to tourism. But it is very common, right? Very common when you work in the hotels or you work in the call centers, that you are always solving people’s problems. And when they call in, they are very anxious, very emotional, and essentially, they want to just to get their problems solved lah.

They don’t care that you are actually not the cause of the problem. Because to them, you are the solution, and one part of the solution is they will get very emotional. Of course, not all customers, but there is the reality for some customers, especially my mum. But anyway, what is important is to recognize that your skill set of managing customer’s anxiety and solving their problems is transferable and that is a skill set, not unique to the sector.

So, this is something that you need to understand. Every sector wants people that can solve people’s anxiety and solve problems. Listen to customers’ needs. Tech sector needs it. Other sectors also need it. Every other sector also needs something like that. So, don’t funnel your thought that you only know all these things, because a lot of skill sets are actually transferable.

So let me just give you some examples. Essentially, some of the engineering sectors that are getting affected, like aviation engineering, Rolls Royce has a very huge factory here. And of course, nothing’s going to really happen because you know, essentially Rolls Royce set up the factory to supply Boeing.

And ain’t no shit going happen, man. It’s like, there’s nobody flying. So, no planes out. So, you may have spent years, working in Rolls Royce and working in the engineering line, and innovating on that. But nothing’s going to happen. So, what can you do? You can take your same engineering skillset, of course the application is different, in a sense that you may need to transfer to another sector, let’s say automobile, or let’s say precision engineering, or something else, or join a innovation company and provide them that understanding of the engineer’s view of the problem, because engineers have a very interesting way of looking at things.

They look at the processes, they break down step by step and they put in every single thing that they know to get from point A to point B. So, the engineering way of thinking is very interesting lah. If you talk to engineers, you know they have this very structured step-by-step way of thinking.

So, while Rolls Royce may not be hiring, or the aviation sector, aviation engineering is not going to work, you can always shift your capacity somewhere else. You may need to take a pay cut because you don’t have relevant understanding in the other sectors, but why not? Because you just need to go somewhere else in a sense, and your sector is not hiring.

So, take your skill set, recognize your skill sets and go somewhere else. And for many other people that are, let’s say in the service sector, I think the service sector is the most hard hit, right? Like if you work in hotels, you have experience managing all these people, managing all these difficult clients, or different, different, ways of interacting with people.

I think a lot of co-working spaces, incubators, and a lot of these kinds of community places will want to have you, right? So you can always apply as a community manager in, let’s say WeWork, in one of the coworking spaces, or you can apply to join an incubator and be the people manager.

So there are many other things that you can do. Of course, there’s so many things I cannot be everything specific, but what I want you to know is to recognize that, what are the skill sets that you have, and how has that been applied to your current sector? And don’t mix it up to say that, “Aiya, I only know to serve customers mah.”

No, that’s not the truth, because managing customers, everywhere also got customers. So, recognizing your skills and recognizing your sector, that’s the difference, and take that skill, write it down, and see how you can transfer that skill to another sector and go somewhere else to get a job, because your sector is probably ain’t going to hire man!

So go there, see something else, see a whole new world, open up your mind, okay? And the third hard truth of job hunting is tough times is, you honestly just need to get something done. If not, the chances of you falling into the abyss of unemployment is quite serious. So, what is the abyss of unemployment?

Of course, Megan McArdle has talked about it in her book, I also experienced it when she was writing, when I was reading a book, I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah! I agree! I agree!” So, the abyss of unemployment is a very real thing. And how does it work? It starts with you not having anything to keep you going.

All right, so many people have a day-to-day process, right? You wake up, you brush your teeth, you shower, you change, you go to work, talk to your friends, go for that 9:30 morning breakfast tea thing, and then come back to start work. You know it’s okay lah, I know a lot of people who do that. And then you do whatever you need to do.

You go for lunch, you come back. So the cycle repeats and repeats, and you have a five day work week, two day off, not everybody loves it. But like it or not, it has kept you going. And because there is a system, there’s a process, you just run, you just keep going. You don’t sit down and think.

Which is not great, I got to say, that’s not great. You’ve really got to sit down and review, but that aside, that is something that we need to work with. But the reality is because there’s such a system, it keeps your life moving. And you learn new things and you gather resources, like it or not, conscious or not.

It just keeps going. But when you lose your job, you lose that process. And when you lose that process, what’s the next reality? The next reality is you don’t make money. And when you don’t make money, you essentially socialize less. And that’s what I’ve experienced. When I do not have money, I just don’t really hang out with my friends as much.

I feel like my friends are doing so well. I feel inferior, I have this complex that aiya, you know everybody doing so well, I dropped out of school, and then now my business is shit, I’m broke. And then I become more and more “in”, I just don’t want to socialize lah. And then I feel inferior and I don’t go out, I don’t see the world.

I don’t connect with people. And my worldview becomes smaller and smaller. I become more and more detached from the market. And essentially, I end up staying unemployed for longer than if I would have gone out and connect with people and talk to people, understand what’s going on. What’s the market like and learn new things.

And then it becomes a cycle, right? Then, the more I don’t have a system to go, the more I have no money, the more I don’t socialize. And then blah blah blah… Wah I feel inferior and then… phew.

Right, so that is the abyss of unemployment. And there is a lot of research that talks about this, whether it is in the U.S. where people just fall out of the unemployment numbers because they are just unemployed for so long; they are deemed as unemployable. They’re not even called unemployed anymore.

They’re just unemployable. And from someone that has been through this, I just want you to know that, yes I always joke about the social distancing officer, because there are so many social distancing officers that they themselves can also see a distance, huh? But I recognize what the government is doing.

And I recognize that it is better that you have something that keeps you going, rather than sit there and wallow and have all these problems. But while you take on a less desirable job, let’s say underemployed, nobody really will tell me, “Eh, I study 4 years because I want to be a safe distancing ambassador.”

If let’s say you end up doing something like that it is fine. Take this process to revisit what you want, take it as an opportunity to breathe and think, and do what you need to do to heal and revisit your life. But the last thing you should do is don’t do anything.

So even if it’s to take the $1,200 a month, SGUnited work internship thing, where the government pays you to go and learn something, or go and take some underemployed jobs or do something that helps you to essentially keep you going lah.

It’s not great. It’s not beautiful. It’s not exciting, but it’s better than sitting there wallowing because when you do that, when you go out there and do some sort of job, you meet people, you connect with people, you see ideas, you don’t feel isolated, you don’t feel alone. So that is very important.

That’s real, that’s a very real view. So definitely head out, do something. Continue to complain that the job market is shit, but still take some job.

Okay, so yeah, I’m going to sum up today about the three hard truths of job hunting in tough times. And number one is, there would definitely be more applicants that are probably more capable than you because during tough times, more people are laid off, not just because of performance, but because of cost structuring and restructuring.

Companies just need to keep themselves afloat. So many talents do get going lah, then they fight with you in the job market, okay? And number two is, very likely you need to switch a sector because your sector is not hiring. They are retrenching. And what are the chances of staying the same thing?

So, what you need to do is to recognize your skill and how has that been applied in your sector, right? So, then you can take this skill and reapply into another sector. You are not worthless, okay? Remember that.

And number three is that, you will need to just do something, even if you’re under employed, just do something because you don’t want to fall into the abyss of unemployment.

It’s going to be tough. It’s not going to feel good that you’ve studied so hard, or worked so many years, and you got to take a junior role or you got to do some part time or something, but doing something allows you to meet people, allows you to open up your mind, allows you to connect.

And opportunities will come. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. So, I hope that you become a tough person. So, I hope you learned something useful today! See ya!

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With that, have a great day ahead. Stay tuned next week and always remember, personal finance can be chill, clear and sustainable for all.

Stay till next week. And always remember personal finance can be chill, clear and sustainable for all.

Test test. Okay, I hope you guys learned something useful and I definitely hope that you are doing well, but if you’re not doing well, it is what it is. We do what we can, and we will find a better day ahead. That’s the truth, tough times don’t last, yeah? So that’s all for this week.

Definitely reach out to all of the government initiatives and these are lifelines. Take it and do something and do what you need to do, okay? And so next week, we’re going to spend some time to talk about some of the financial advice out there.

So, during tough times, there is a tendency to see a lot of scams. There’s a tendency to see a lot of salesy, push for some opportunity lah, or some get rich quick lah, or some solution to all your problems. A lot of these kinds of things will start to pop up and you will probably see more ads, because ads become cheaper during these times.

You know, so then it’s easier, conversion numbers are lower, so all these things will happen. And I just thought that I’m going to put together a few financial advice that I think you should be aware of. Not specific, but different kinds of financial advice I’ve grouped them together. And I think those are good lah for you to help you to filter out what is valid and what is not.

So, everybody will give you some sort of advice, even for us, I’m sharing with you my view. And while I’m not trying to advise you on something, as I’m sharing with you, in some ways it is my perspective and my knowledge, right? So, then many people will do that also. Many people will then share with you.

So how do you then filter out all these kinds of different kinds of advice? So next week, we’re going to talk about three kinds of financial advice that I think you should be wary of. And I hope it helps you to continue to learn better and just be smarter at filtering out advice because we cannot be catching everything.

I hope to equip you with some ability to catch and sniff up things that are fishy, fishy ah, sounds very good but maybe not. So, see you next week!

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