Highly Trained, Middle-aged and Out of Work

The Straits Times Monday report highlighted some real issues faced by older, professional, managers and executives (PMEs) in their job search. There are no quick fixes but we can be better prepared for such career transitions in the following ways. First, think like a businessman. It is easy for us to stay complacent with a comfortable job, a familiar work environment and good pay. As a career coach, it is common for me to hear from middle-aged professionals statements such as “I am comfortable with my job and I would like to stay where I am now.” This can be a dangerous mindset. We have to ask if we were businessmen, whether we would be willing to employ ourselves, drawing the current salary for the work that we do. If we have outgrown our jobs, we should proactively take steps to equip ourselves with the skills set, experience and knowledge that will enhance our employability. Second, look at our careers from a longer perspective. Career planning is not just about securing a job. Career planning is a lifelong process of planning and taking action to align our work with our financial, health and lifestyle needs. We spent time climbing the corporate ladder in our younger days. We should also spend time planning how we want to descend the ladder. For example, a job that requires us to be on standby for 24 hours a day may not be suitable as we age. We need to consider our current job demands with our individual priorities and factor that in our career planning. When we embark on career planning, we can not only proactively maintain our employability, but also empower ourselves with choices when a crisis happens. While the SkillsFuture and wage subsidy schemes are great support systems, having a career that is both enjoyable and satisfying requires us to be the driver. No one owes us a living. Letter was first published on 25 July 2016, The Straits Times Forum