askST@NLB: How do I cope with being jobless and reskilling during Covid-19?

Principal career coach Christine Gan (right) and The Straits Times assistant news editor Toh Yong Chuan during October's askST @ NLB session. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Do not lose hope and stay flexible - these are two of the key qualities principal career coach Christine Gan consider vital for dealing with joblessness.

Ms Gan, who works for government agency Workforce Singapore(WSG), also said it is natural for a retrenched worker to go through such negative emotions as lack of self worth and a sense of uncertainty.

But it is important to stay positive as there are still job opportunities, she added.

Ms Gan gave these tips on Friday (Oct 30) when she and The Straits Times assistant news editor Toh Yong Chuan discussed ways workers can cope with joblessness as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The talk is part of October's askST @ NLB session and it was filmed and streamed on ST's Facebook Page. The talks are a collaboration between ST and the National Library Board (NLB).

Some of the main challenges faced by job seekers coached by Ms Gan are poor skills in searching and applying for jobs.

Taking stock of one's skills

Job searching requires a high degree of self reflection and knowing how to align one's resume with hiring criteria , Ms Gan said.

This includes taking stock of one's expertise to identify interests, skills and values before matching them with the relevant role.

It is important for job seekers to customise their resumes for every job role that they apply for instead of adopting a "one size fits all", she added.

Be aware of blind spots

Many job applicants also lack awareness about their shortcomings, Ms Gan said.

She suggested that those who are unable to carry themselves confidently during interviews, to consider attending career workshops, like those conducted by WSG.

Instead of letting this shortfall affect their chances of crossing the finishing line repeatedly, a workshop at WSG can help them better prepare themselves for the interview, she added.

Use your network to find a job

When applying for jobs, it is also important to expand one's search beyond online portals.

According to Ms Gan, research shows that up to 70 per cent of mid- to senior-level jobs are found through networking. Most middle-aged job seekers often fail to tap on their networks, which has potential opportunities they may have missed or positions that are not advertised on job portals.

Be open to alternatives

She acknowledged that it can be quite nerve-racking for fresh graduates to compete against a larger-than-usual pool of experienced candidates induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

While looking for a permanent job, one should try alternative opportunities like traineeships as the experience gained can enhance chances of being shortlisted for interviews by prospective employers, she said.

Difficult interviews

Ms Gan, in response to an ST reader's question about answering tough interview questions such as why did you leave your previous job, said it was "important to not focus on push factors".

To sound positive, one should focus on pull factors such as job progression, proximity of the workplace or even a smaller role owing to family commitments.

When asked about retrenchment, she noted it is quite common in the current economic climate so it is important to be open about it.

When to reskill

In reply to another question, she suggested that job seekers should first assess whether their marketable and transferable skills matched the role.

They should then evaluate their financial commitments before considering reskilling.

Those unemployed during this pandemic can also turn to resources on job seeking and reskilling from ProQuest Central, a database subscribed to by the NLB.

Find them at this website, using the keywords "coping with unemployment", "reskilling and upskilling" and "job hunting". A myLibraryID is required to access this database.

If you do not have a myLibraryID, you can go to this website and sign up for one using your SingPass or NRIC/FIN.

What to read and where to watch video of event

- Tips for job-hunting in a pandemic: With more applicants and fewer opportunities than ever, job-hunting looks very different due to COVID-19 (The Globe and Mail, 2020)

- How to find a job or use furlough time strategically in the coronavirus economy (The Telegraph, 2020)

Those who missed the video can find it here. Past askST @ NLB sessions can be found there as well.

November events

There will be two askST @ NLB sessions in November.

The first session is on Nov 13. It features senior education correspondent Sandra Davie and Ms Leslie Davis, Training Consultant at British Council Singapore. They will discuss why youth have to relearn how to read and what parents can do to develop critical reading skills in their children.

Send your questions at this link by Nov 4, 7pm.

On Nov 27, join travel correspondent Clara Lock and Singapore Tourism Board chief executive officer Keith Tan as they talk about how to make the most of your annual leave in Singapore.

Send your questions at this link by Nov 17, 7pm.

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