PMEs must be drivers of their own careers

Monday's report ("Highly trained, middle-aged and out of work") highlighted some real issues faced by older professionals, managers and executives (PME) 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 be complacent, with a comfortable job, a familiar work environment and good pay.

As a career coach, it is common for me to hear middle-aged professionals say such things 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, as 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 skill 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 stand-by 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 into 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, to have a career that is both enjoyable and satisfying requires us to be the driver.

No one owes us a living.

Heng Teng Teng (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'PMEs must be drivers of their own careers'. Print Edition | Subscribe