Don't fear adapting to new jobs or getting dirty

As someone who has spent a good part of a decade in and out of work, I agree with the gist of Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng's letter (Upgrading skills a better safety net than redundancy insurance; Forum Online, May 12), which is basically that the best social safety net is oneself.

In early 2001, I found myself in the rough position of trying to find a job in an industry that was shedding jobs in a recession. I eventually found a job but lasted only four months in it.

This first stint with unemployment forced me to turn to self-employment to pay my basic expenses.

The experience of self-employment taught me to accept that the best safety net was myself.

I looked for temporary work in the industry that I looked set to make my career path. My first client was a holistic living festival, and I eventually progressed to doing things like helping the Saudi Embassy in 2006.

While I enjoyed success in my chosen field, I was not limited by it.

Realising that I was easily dispensable to any employer made me understand that I could never depend on one particular industry, company or person for my income.

One of the best decisions I made was to take a part-time job as a waiter. This gave me a stable income, which helped tide me over when I had no projects. I also took a job in the insolvency industry.

From having no steady job, I have now been working two jobs for the last three years.

While my situation is unconventional, I have managed to enter uncertain times with a certain peace of mind.

As long as I am prepared to adapt to different industries, and as long as I am willing to "get dirty", there will always be a job for me and I will have an income.

I was fortunate never to have had the "iron rice bowl" mentality. Realising that I was easily dispensable to any employer made me understand that I could never depend on one particular industry, company or person for my income.

The current state of change and disruptions means many people will be uprooted. Harking back to the past or clinging desperately to what you have will not work.

Accepting change gladly and adapting is the way forward.

Tang Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'Don't fear adapting to new jobs or getting dirty'. Print Edition | Subscribe