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Life’s learning curve

Gilbert Goh

As more jobs go under and many people will remain unemployed in this down time, there is this air of gloom around us.

I took a taxi yesterday and was bombarded by the cab driver's complaint of a drastic drop in take home pay as many Singaporeans opt for the cheaper mode of public transport.

Yet another IT specialist working in Shanghai got the pink slip on 31 Dec 08 and emailed me saying that he was downcast and felt lost. I tried to console him via email but to no effect.

As Singapore braces for a very rough year ahead, I have a few tips for those who are currently unemployed:

1. List down the kind of skills that you have right now and ask yourself what you would really like to do in future? Many people seize the opportunity when they are laid off to take on another career that they really like but have no chance to embark on all this while. Work becomes a joy than a chore when we do something that we really like. Too many of us approach work for the  salary that it brings than trying to optimise our work satisfaction. So, this is the best time to re evaluate what you really want to do rather than feeling blue about it.

2. Find time to do the things that you like but never have the time to pursue all along. Explore new hobbies if possible and try out new stuff that you never dare to do due to inertia or time constraints. Since there is ample time available now, use the free time wisely to try out new ventures such as writing or starting a new club for the underpriviledged. For some, it may be starting a garden all on your own whereas for others it could be volunteering your free time in some voluntary organisations. Many will also benefit from some courses which they want to take but never had the time nor energy to. Use the new found free time wisely.

3. Spend more time with your family members and friends. Instead of feeling depressed over unemployment, find the time to go out for lunch/dinner  with your parents or old friends. This not only takes up some free time but also enhance the relationship factor in your life. When you start to work again, you may not have the luxury of going for casual lunches on a week day where the crowd is lesser in eating joints.

4. Take some calculated risks if you can and venture into some business opportunities. Many people who were retrenched took the chance to go into some business enterprises that later turned out to be gems for them. As they have nothing to lose and armed with some severance benefits after being retrenched, they went to start new businesses. Of course, not all businesses will take off smoothly but without taking any risks in life there is no likelihood of a gain.

5. Re-examine your life priorities. Too many of us work too hard in Singapore until it becomes a bad habit. We sacrifice a lot of our time and energy just to make a living for our families. It is timely to re-prioritise our life goals and ask whether those long hours  we spend at work is really worth the sacrifices? Frankly, our children will prefer to see us at home earlier than say, living in  a big condominium but facing an empty home as the parents have to work hard to pay off the huge mortgage loan. We need to seriously re shape our life priorities rather than follow the crowd in chasing after materialism.

6. Learn to take time out in life. Sometimes in our busy-ness, we have not taken  time out on our own to plan what we really want to do with the remaining part of our lives. Now is the time to take a short break away from the family for a few days to think and plan out what you want to do for the second half of your life. For those who are in their 40s or even 50s, it is also a good time to reflect on what we have accomplished so far. Besides the usual  material stuff, we should examine how we have contributed so far to the family, our friends, community, and even country. We should learn to balance out the time spent in all the different aspects of our lives so that we are not neglecting any area in particular.

I hope that the unemployed will view his experience as unique and that this is another of life's learning curve. It is when we have gone through life's adversities that we can count our blessings and appreciate the good times that we have.

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