You could say that Thomas Lin is one of those individuals who had his career all planned out. After all, he had an electrical engineering degree from Nanyang Technological University and had chosen to go into the lift industry, which had all the hallmarks of a promising career.
Starting in operations in 2010 where he learnt the ropes of the lift trade, he took on a more regional project management role in an international elevator company five years later. The company expanded his job scope to include strategic overview, financial planning, capability development and business management.
He also had the opportunity to travel to several ASEAN and Asia Pacific countries to oversee the company’s key operations in those regions.
An Unexpected Turn
Things were going well until 2019 when the company restructured its operations due to the poor economic outlook. Thomas and his teammates lost their jobs.
Shocked by the blow at first, the sole breadwinner quickly realised he had to act fast to find a new job to support his family of four, including two preschoolers. But things were not easy at first — the 36-year-old sent out hundreds of resumes but got only ten responses and five interviews.
“There was pressure to take care of family, keep up expenses, and I was stuck within four walls during the circuit breaker period – it was a very stressful period,” he shared.
Thomas finally found a new job in March 2020 — three months after he was laid off. But this wasn’t without a combination of career support from NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), sheer hard work and street smarts.
So how did Thomas do it? Here are six things he did that could work for you.
Keep calm and have a clear mind
You need to understand yourself and understand what you want. It is important to be truthful in what you want, as well as understand the overall economic situation to be able to access the career opportunities in relevant industries or trades.
“I kept telling myself to stay calm. It also helped that my wife gave me moral support to get through the tough time.”
Identify the industry or trade you want to enter
List down what jobs you are keen on doing and read the job description (JD) carefully before deciding whether it is suitable for you.
“Do not apply for the job simply because you need one as it might make you depressed if you are not shortlisted for an interview. It also leads to unhealthy thinking.”
Be practical in approaching the job search
Do not be fixated on getting your dream job. Explore the opportunities, even if the available positions and salaries are lower than what you are used to.
“I explored lift and construction sales, engineering consultancy and quantity surveyor roles focusing on three or four sectors. I didn’t want to join main contractors as it was a six-day work week with long hours. For my job search, I used LinkedIn, JobStreet, and SGUnited Jobs. My current role is similar to my first job – more operations. The package was 20 per cent lower, so I moderated my expenses.”
Tailor your resume to the job scope
Always adjust and revise the resume and cover page to suit the specific job. Keep it to a maximum of two pages and one page respectively. Go through the JD and include the skills required by the job.
“In today’s market, you can’t have one generic CV. There are Artificial Intelligence machines that will look through resumes and pick the best fit by checking for keywords that match the job description. But don’t overdo the skills part or you will not be able to elaborate on them at the job interview – for example, if you have five skills, list six at most.”
Take a breather
It will help to re-energise your thoughts and take off the pressure for a while.
“I took a break for a few days to refresh my mind and keep it healthy as the job hunting stressed me out. During the break, I tried not to think about the job search at all.”
Do thorough preparation for the interview
…Especially if it is for a position in an unfamiliar trade or industry. Mention the relevant background and experience you have that makes you suitable for the job. Be as humble and sincere as possible, but project some confidence to give the interviewer a good image of you. Be truthful in your interview, and do not fabricate anything to get the offer.
“I revisited the job scope line by line, did research into the company and listed down the topics or skills to show the hiring manager how suitable I was. I didn’t over commit the skills in my CV and I Googled anticipated questions such as ‘What’s your background?’, ‘Where do you see yourself in three years?’, ‘How long are you going to stay with us?’, and so on. I also prepared the questions that I wanted to ask.”