ST Forum: Focus on employability, not just employment, once you enter working life

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Forum: Focus on employability, not just employment, once you enter working life

2 Nov 2022

I refer to the commentary, “Out of work but not yet out of hope” (Oct 30).

Retrenchments will continue to be a part of work life.

I have been supporting workers who have lost jobs due to business-related changes over the past 23 years. There are four points I would like to share.

On the emotional aspect of managing job loss, it is critical that employers use the right terminology during retrenchment-related communication. It must always be “your job has been made redundant”, and not “you have been made redundant”. 

Focusing on the job lets the affected employee remove himself from the equation. The end result is the same – employees losing their jobs, and for many, their family’s main source of income. But it makes the change less personal. 

For affected individuals, it is important to remind themselves that what they have lost is their job. Everything else – such as experience, accomplishments and skills – remains intact. They should take this assurance and try their best to move forward with their lives.

Second, having a job can be just an illusion: here today, and gone tomorrow. Hence, the key word to focus on is “employability”, and not “employment”. To attain employability, one has to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn. This is not an option; it must be initiated once you step into working life. We must keep pace with the ever-changing world and keep acquiring a portfolio of skills.

Third, every job has a perceived value, both in a company and in the marketplace. A related fact is that the salary quantum consists of at least two components – job value and service increments, given over the years of service with a company.

The main point here is that when looking for a similar-level job, one has to be ready to accept a salary level that is commensurate with the job value, and this is likely to be lower than one’s last-drawn salary.

The final point – the need to build and nurture a diversified network of contacts – is best illustrated by the experience of Gerard, who shared his story in the commentary. Even though he acquired additional knowledge and skills, he still faced challenges in landing a new job.

Paul Heng


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