Tuesday 9 April 2019

I'm retrenched: 3 things to think about

  Posted at  April 09, 2019 30 comments

When it rains, it pours. In life, we always have to be prepared for the unexpected. I was just posting about how one should have a Plan A and a Plan B for his/her career on 31st March and here I am one week later, retrenched at age 31! It took me a while to process this piece of news and let it sink in. (Note: This is not a post to garner sympathy. Don't.)

I have called a "Safety Time Out" on buying counters as my immediate priorities have been changed, albeit unwillingly. I too, once thought it won't happen to me. At least not so early in my working career but here I am. Unfortunately, due to company restructuring, they have decided to close my whole department and shift operations elsewhere.

Immediate objectives:
  • To secure a new employment (there is a bit of buffer time to do so)
  • To minimise spending and stay afloat on my current emergency funds.
  • To halt further purchase of stocks/Reits until I am employed again.
    (Those already bought will remain for now in portfolio)

Following my own set of advice I wrote on 31st March, my immediate thoughts are:

For circumstances like retrenchment, one can practically:

- Cut down on unnecessary expenses. e.g subscriptions

My subscription plans are already at their minimum after a review 2 years ago. The only thing I can cut further would be my mobile plan expiring late this year or early next year. I would likely switch to data only plan which are in the $20-30 range and not purchase new phone + combo plan. 

- Start thinking of Plan A: Building a career advancement (so you are not easily replaceable)
Tell tale signs were already there and the danger of my industry is that it is quite niche, meaning it is hard to find similar jobs if things go south. I needed to think of a Plan B that would allow me to be more employable.

- Start thinking of a Plan B: In case you are retrenched.
The plan was to start on getting certification in Safety. This will take me a year. I forsaw that there would be changes in my company, and those were communicated to take place in 2020. Unfortunately, it came prematurely.

- Downgrade lifestyle if possible (but not burning another side of candle)
I am currently good on this. Food wise, I won't be saving much except choosing cheaper options.

- Keep an emergency fund of at least 6-9 months of living expenses in the bank
I am good to go for this. Have ample to stay afloat for now. I will still have some income coming in.

As some readers would know, K.C. is in the oil and gas sector. This is a sector that has been ravaged badly from the oil crisis in recent years and certain areas have not recovered. There are also intense competition for business.

A globalised workforce:
In a 2016 article by CNA, they interviewed a few people who lost their jobs and were under 30. My opinion is that depending on the sector you are in, the Singapore market has already been like this for some time and a globalised workforce means that the rice bowl that you and I have now are ever so easily replaceable. Your job could be here, but gone tomorrow.

Bank executive James Ng* was retrenched this May when his job at an American bank got offshored to a cheaper country. The 26-year-old had been processing credit card applications at the bank for three years when he was laid off.
“I wasn’t too surprised (by the retrenchment) because my job scope was being reduced as the workload increased for the team in the offshored country,” he said, adding that his last duties at the bank consisted of training colleagues in the Philippines to do his job.
“The younger ones got retrenched first, in my case. This is because the seniors are the ones who contribute to revenue,” said Desmond Kok*, 28, who was retrenched by National Oilwell Varco in May.
At the time, the mechanical engineering graduate from National University of Singapore (NUS) was less than halfway into his four-year trainee programme with the US oil and gas firm.

Anyone can take our place anytime if our employers decide to shift operations elsewhere. Companies may also regularly use "restructuring" to get rid of redundancy. Many MNCs may also shift operations elsewhere.

At the end of the day, the job market isn't as safe as we think it is and we would be well right not to take things for granted or be complacent with what we have.

1. It is not your fault (but don't play the victim)
Sure, it feels sucks to be retrenched. But as we can see from the above scenarios, usually it is not our fault that we have been retrenched. Many of us might suddenly feel a sense of loss of direction because we have pinned all our hopes and life around our work.

Our work defines us. When people ask us who we are, we often start by introducing what we do (in our line of work). This sense of identity is now lost.

Take a day or two to process what has just happened but please, do not take your emotions out on yourself or the loved ones around you. We might feel bad about our situation but don't go into self-pity mode or go into a victimised mode. This phase won't last (because eventually we would wake up to our senses and then find a job again). However, if you had acted out badly in the fit of the moment, it might have done some irreparable damage to you and those around you.

We are always finding something to blame and account for why this happened. We could blame others or even ourselves. But, it being a business decision, it is neither discriminate or indiscriminate. Once you have recovered from the shock, just got to move on and look ahead.

Keep your emotions in check. But go easy on yourself and others. 😇 Be more positive.

For me, I'm pretty chill about my situation. However, I would be lying if I said it didn't affect me. To be honest, there are many implications: such as affecting my saving/investing goals or plans to getting married. 

2. Where are you now and where headed from here?
In Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Sun Tzu said: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”. He also says “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Only fight a battle you know you will win (where you have the right tools, right resources). We can only do that by knowing where we are and where we are going from here. The immediate goal is to secure employment. The main enemy is not knowing our own value, and what is available in the job market out there. Discuss with your family/ spouse on possible methods to cope. Chances are if you had done planning beforehand and also included this possibility you would now be sitting on some emergency funds. It is not time to hit the panic button, yet.

I wrote an old piece on getting more interview hit rates and it has got to do with understanding what the employers want and giving them what they want (provided we have the relevant skills and not cheating):

I am well aware of my capabilities at the moment and aware of the market. The idea is not to start making excuses for yourself but after the dust has settled, quickly access where we are in our careers. Know what options are available to take and if need be we need to tailor or resumes/cover letters to "win the war". 

We should also narrow down certain goals:
- is it just to secure a position? (can we stomach a pay cut?)
- could it be a chance to upsell instead with relevant experience?
- what industries and jobs are we building into? Are we also changing industry altogether?

3. Take action! Set daily achievable goals.
Break it down into small little daily targets so it is not overwhelming. The task of securing a job immediately puts a lot of stress on ourselves but we can break that down into smaller, easier actionable steps that would lead us to it.

To secure a Job we need to go for interviews.
To land interviews, we need to send out resumes and CVs.
To send out resumes and CVs we need to be smart about it and edit/ tailor it to suit the job descriptions.

Working backwards,

To secure 1 job offer, it may take 10 to secure 1 (10% success rate)
To get a job out of 10 interviews (10% success rate), 20 interviews (5% success rate)
To secure 1 interview might take alot of CVs sent. Every 5 CV sent (20% success rate),
10 CV (10% success rate)

Idea is this: If we do not send out enough CVs, there won't be interviews. If we don't go to enough interviews, we can't possibly hope to land a job.

I think by now, it is clear that sending a few well-tailored quality CV or resume is better than mass spamming a generic one. Assuming we do 1-2 quality one per day for a month, we would have sent out at least 30 applications. Some industry might be smaller and have lesser openings, that is fine.  

I will keep to one quality CV per day. Until I exhaust the possible openings I can apply to. Its a numbers game.


If you are retrenched and happen to read this, know that you are not alone. This is only a passing phase of life. It won't be fatal, unless we let it fester and rot. 

Edit (30/6/2019): I have since secured employment. Find out how I did it at https://30yearoldinvestor.blogspot.com/2019/06/retrenchment-and-25-pay-increase-that-i.html

Until Next Time, 

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Disclaimer: The views expressed, opinion and information in this article are strictly for informational purposes to encourage educational discussions only. It is important to conduct your own analysis before making any investment decisions based on your own personal circumstances. You should take reasonable measures such as seeking independent financial advice from professionals and/or independently research and verify the information that you find on "30 Year Old Investor" before undertaking any important investment decisions. No content on this site constitutes - or should be understood as constituting - a recommendation to enter any securities transactions or to engage in any of the investment strategies presented in our site content. We do not provide personalised recommendations or views as to whether a particular stock or investment approach is suitable to the financial needs of a specific individual. No representation or warranty expressed or implied is made as to, and no reliance shall be placed on, the fairness, accuracy, completeness or correctness of the information or opinions contained on this website. "30 Year Old Investor" shall not be liable whatsoever for loss or damages of any kind arising from the result of any use, reliance or distribution of the articles or its contents from information contained on this website. 


  1. So sorry to hear of your situation. Take heart and all the best in your job search.

    1. @latemonkey:

      Thanks :) yes. I'm taking it quite positively. Just started my night classes too lol. Hope for the best after doing what I can.

      How's your journey going along? :)


    2. being positive is a good start. Hope u come back stronger.
      how's my journey coming along? Still in a stable job. Still aiming to build up my passive income portfolio. But not quitting working even after arriving FIRE. You don't work, you get senile real fast!

    3. I hope so too. Having a good mindset is hopefully winning half the battle. hahaha. Same too maybe when achieve FIRE can get a more relaxed job but if still can work should continue...

    4. Nice article, thanks for taking your time to discuss retrenched at age 31, the information provided can be very useful.

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  2. Hi,

    Lurker here ;) I just wanna say that your mindset and attitude is great considering your situation, and I have no doubt you'll secure a new job. Gambatte!

    1. @TI:

      Thanks for kind words of encouragement. Lets hope it comes sooner rather than later! All the best to you too.


  3. All the best! May you secure new employment soonest.

  4. hi KC,
    sorry to hear that. I am also from the O&G . and it was brutal for the past few years.
    as you have rightly mentioned" too niche" is the key word. i tried looking for other jobs/industry. but it always comes back to what i am doing now, that is not "transferable"
    i have been thinking how to broaden this. may i know what your plans are?

    1. Hi Foolish Chameleon,

      I think if you are with major oil producers like Shell/ Exxon you would be safe. Shell is here to stay, Exxon recently pumped in money for expansion. However, I feel if we are in petrochemical industries or supporting companies that have clients as major oil producers, the profit margins and competitiveness has been eroded, and we are going to be in for a tougher time. Actually, oil prices have improved but we are not seeing the benefits trickle down to us from the major oil producers.

      I guess by being "too niche", we are very specialised and mean we are good at what we do. However, if we suddenly lose this ricebowl it is very hard to find another job.

      My take is that you have 2 options:
      1. Continue in O&G but try to take secondary roles that will expose you to other more transferable skill sets other than technical roles. aka. Supervisor, management, compliance, regulatory, safety. Try to see if there are opportunities for professional certification within the industry would also help because the idea is to make your work kind of irreplaceable (they can't do without you)

      2. Consider the possibility of switching out by taking NTUC courses (heavily subsidized for 40yo and above). For me, I embarked on Safety because I believe that it is something mandated by the government law and regulations similar like compliance in a bank or accounting.

      Of course, if you have family and commitments, changes are hard to make. However, do start making plan B or think of one just in case something like a retrenchment comes along. I'm sure being in the O&G sector you have seen quite a few companies (and vendor/suppliers) come and go by now.

    2. Lastly,

      All the best to you :)

    3. unfortunately, i am not in the majors but in the supporting coy.

      have you considered something like MBA or MSC?
      reckon this would help?

      just curious, what role are you in? ie engineering, sales, etc

    4. hmmm, I did consider MBA, but cost of a MBA is rather huge and there is no guarantee that it will result in more opportunities. That's why I decided the route for more professional certs.

      I'm currently in a technical (testing) role with a side role in safety.

    5. i did consider safety, but didnt pursue it coz it didnt interest me at all. i was (and still am )struggling to think if the job should be something that i should be interested in ? or should be just a means to an end?
      in this line, we are caught between a rock and a hard place

    6. Hmm, I still pretty greenhorn myself in my career... originally, safety didn't interest me as well. But i was kind of put in charge by my boss. (actually it was a good opportunity looking back) Slowly, i realised its importance and relevance to almost any sector.

      I ever attended a good career seminar & Here are my two cents:

      1. Best scenario: We do what we like and earn a good living from it. This gives us maximum satisfaction in life.

      2. Not the best but no worry scenario: We don't necessarily do what we like but it pays well. This sometimes gives us frustration but we still can take up side hobbies after work to give it a balance.

      3. Worst scenario: we are doing what we don't like and it doesn't pay well but yet we have commitments and are unable to switch nor have time to pursue hobbies...

      For me, I realised for most people, we fall in 2 and 3. Seldom 1. I'm most probably 2 now.

      It can be just a means to an end, just exchanging time for money, IF we derive our satisfaction not from work. The question is which one is you?

  5. Hi K.C,

    I always have a soft spot for people who have been retrenched, particularly those in a technical field, since I am no stranger to retrenchment myself. Being jobless leaves one with a lot of time to think to reflect on the past and plan for the future. It may not be a bad thing. As long as one has enough money and in good health, most other problems in life are minor problems. For financial bloggers who lost their jobs, I believe money is not an immediate concern since these folks have good personal finance habits. Being jobless takes a toil on a person's emotions and his sense of self-worth. I self-monitored the emotions to check that my mental health remains healthy when I was jobless.

    I wrote about my own experience with retrenchment several years ago.
    Don't mean to advertise a blog link on your blog. It's more for sharing purposes.

    I wish you the best of luck to find a fruitful job soon. Update us when that happens.

    1. Hi Hyom,

      Whoa thanks for sharing your thoughts.. I agree that emotionally wise it can really spiral and bring someone down towards depression. Because many of us place our self-worth on our jobs (achievements) in life.

      It's chilling how some of your criticisms and advice from 2011 still applies in today's context.

      I too, am trying to keep positive because I personally have a friend who is laid-off a few times (some partially his fault and others not his fault) but this friend has totally become discouraged in life.

      I struggled to blog about this initially but I also hold myself accountable to document and also keep my own self in check like you said. I'm quite sure tough times wont last if we help ourselves. I shall not go into self-pity mode and spiral down. Actually blogging is great, it helps to put into words what I need to do next.

      I have an upcoming interview next week. Hope things get better!

    2. Hi K.C,

      Wonderful to hear you are attending a job interview next week. Based on my own experience, the job interviewer will most likely ask regarding your retrenchment. So, do get ready your answer. I've added your blog to my blog list. Hope to hear good news from you.

    3. HYOM:

      Thanks for the tips! will make sure I have a good answer to that. How did you answer this question the last time?

      I added you to my blog list too :D

    4. Hi 30YearOldInvestor,

      Any luck in your job search so far? All the best!

    5. Hi hyom!

      Thanks for asking! I am currently waiting for 2 more offers. I actually rejected one offer already hahahaha.

      Hopefully it works out. God willing. How are you?

    6. Hi K.C,

      Seems like you have no problem with your job search. Hope to hear good news from you.

      I am doing fine. Thanks.

    7. Hyom,

      Fingers crossed, I won't be counting my eggs before they hatch. But hoping for the best.


  6. Hi K.C,

    For me, it was simple. When interviewer asked me why I was retrenched, I told them the entire business unit was closed down. My boss and my boss's boss were retrenched. No one was spared. This way, they got the message that the retrenchment was due to business failure and not due to individual fault.

    I was also asked what other jobs I apply. I told them I was picky about the jobs I apply because I do not want to anyhow hantam out of desperation. I only apply for jobs that I am interested and think I can add value, so as not to waste my time and the interviewer's time.

    1. @hyom:

      Sounds very smooth! HAHAHAH i will be stealing those lines as my own

  7. Nice post, looking for employment in singapore is not that difficult, but you need to pick the best way to search for a job like if you contact to some recruitment agency in singapore than it is the best way to search for a job.

  8. Great post ! By the way I hope you'd also find this post interesting: You're fired!


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