Singapore has a roadmap back to normalcy as the nation prepares to live with an endemic Covid-19, but that may be cold comfort for badly-hit industries such as tourism and retail. International tourism is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2024, while brick-and-mortar businesses in Singapore have seen sales plunge by up to 70 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
For many employees in these vulnerable sectors, Covid-19 is making them think seriously about switching to another sector. Even for those in sectors not affected by the pandemic, the crisis has also been the wake-up call that life's too short to not heed your true calling.
Whatever one's reasons for a mid-career change, the question remains: How to make it happen?
This question, in one form or another, has been posed to Workforce Singapore (WSG) by many potential job-switchers in recent months.
An employee in the travel industry wonders about his options if air travel remains subdued for the next three years: "What do I do? I still have a job now. Can I go for reskilling and still hold on to my current job?"
Another individual asks: "Is it still possible for me to make a mid-career switch during this Covid-19 crisis?" Someone else queries: "Should I switch jobs even though the economy is bad?"
The short answer to these questions is: 'Yes, but do your homework'.
Being in limbo in a vulnerable industry or stuck doing what doesn't excite you may have doused your drive, but it does not diminish the skill sets you've accumulated over the years. Follow the steps below to help you make the switch, says Ms Angeline Chiang, principal career coach from WSG.
Five steps to help you change gears in your career
With 10 years or more of work experience under your belt, you would have acquired both hard skills (i.e. technical and other job-related know-how) and soft skills such as empathy and resilience. Identify transferable skills that would help you perform in a new setting. On top of this, you still have a good 20 years or so to build a satisfying new career.
Here's how you could lay the groundwork for the leap to your dream job or newfound calling.
1. Check in with yourself: Be clear about your motivation or objectives. Ask yourself, why do I want to switch to a new job? Are you satisfied with the current job? Would the new role match my career values, interests, personality and skills? What would a move mean for my career?
2. Look inwards: Switching to another role in your current company could help you achieve your career aspirations without the upheaval of starting anew with another employer. Study the emerging trends and areas of growth in your industry and identify the skills that are required for those roles. Tap into reskilling programmes offered by your company if they are available.
3. Broaden your horizons: If there are no suitable openings where you work, it's time to look outwards. While the pandemic has devastated several industries, it has also bolstered others, including manufacturing, information and communications technology, healthcare, social services and financial services, creating ample possibilities for new entrants.
4. Reach out: Network with other professionals by attending industry talks. Speak to friends or contacts who are in the sector to gain industry insights or more information on the role you're eyeing.
5. Do your sums: Take stock of your finances and obligations, and discuss your plans with family, especially for situations where you may need to take a pay cut to join a new sector or role. If you're financially settled enough and mentally prepared to start a new career, there are a number of pathways available (see below).
Taking the leap
Reinventing yourself mid-career will not be easy, but the rewards can be fulfilling. Just ask Mr Mohamed Rafie Bin Abdullah, who quit his role in sales and business development in retail in 2019 as his company was struggling. He was 48 then.
But his own struggle was only beginning. Not only did Mr Rafie fail to secure a new job after months of searching, but he also suffered a stroke and was found to have a tumour in his spine. He has since recovered from the stroke but continues to require medical care for the tumour. And, despite sending up to 30 job applications per week, his job hunt was going nowhere.
In June last year, Mr Rafie approached WSG's Careers Connect for advice. Through the coaching he received, he realised that his real calling was in the creative and arts sector. After all, he studied Fine Arts at Lasalle College of the Arts. He also polished his CV, attended recruitment events regularly and continued applying for jobs.
The breakthrough came in December, when he was encouraged to apply for a digital content creator position - a role aligned with his passion - at Republic Polytechnic. He got the job in the following month and has been working there since.
Aged 50 now, Mr Rafie managed to overcome ill health and a pandemic to answer his true calling, proof that a second career is often within reach - if you would take the leap.
That was exactly what Ms Sharon Lim, 49, did after 30 years in various jobs - bank teller, customer service officer, administrator - that paid the bills but did not make her heart sing.
Last year, Ms Lim finally decided it was time to follow her calling. She was offered a role as a childcare teacher at Greenland Childcare Singapore, and was sent for the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Pre-School Teachers. Having to juggle between studies and work was challenging for Ms Lim, but she believes that her passion for her newfound career will see her through.
She urges fellow Singaporeans who are contemplating a career change to take advantage of the various retraining schemes open to them: "Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone," she says.
Next topic: Making a career switch work for you - regardless of age
Do you have a story to share on how you have changed your job, or some advice on how to reinvent your career? Write in to WSG here.
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