Lengthy unemployment spells can be difficult on anyone, yet this resilient Singaporean PMET made it through.

Merson Tan has been working in logistics for more than two decades. Before March 2015, Merson was a manager in the aviation industry. All of that changed when he, along with a group of colleagues, was retrenched. Instead of letting unemployment get to him, Merson drew up a plan and made a comeback after two years of unemployment.

Words of Advice

Like most jobseekers, Merson began with the basics. “I updated my resume and sent it out to employers,” Merson recalled. “All the usual things.” However, after a series of rejections, he quickly realised that his tactics were not working. He needed a new strategy, and maybe even help from experts.

Not everyone Merson approached produced positive results. While he acknowledged that recruitment agencies could be of use to some jobseekers, it was not the case for him. “They would tell me to go for an interview at this company or that company. But at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like their [recommendations] suited me, to be honest.”

About six months after his retrenchment, Merson decided on a different approach: he got in touch with Career Coaches from Workforce Singapore’s Careers Connect. “They helped me realign my resume to the job scope the employers were looking for. They also tried to source whatever possible jobs matched my skills for me to join the workforce again.” Since job listings often have detailed descriptions of the duties and responsibilities potential employers expect candidates to fulfil, it was a good place for Merson and his career advisors to start. “I learnt how to highlight my experience and skills to match what employers were looking to hire,” Merson revealed.

“I learnt how to highlight my experience and skills to match what employers were looking to hire”

For instance, instead of sending the same cover letter out to different employers, Merson learnt to prioritise the specific job experiences to showcase. If a job listing stated the requirement for experience in a warehouse setting, for example, Merson would put that at the forefront of his cover letter. These tailored solutions were a far cry from the recruitment agencies that Merson had previously approached.

In between consultations with the advisors, Merson also found time to upgrade his skills. “I attended courses on Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing that taught me how to use resource management software. In fact, I am currently using the same planning system that I learnt during those classes!” he said.

Take Rejections as Practice

Repeated rejections will wear anybody down over time, no matter how experienced you are. That was the case for Merson also, even though his family’s financial situation was relatively stable throughout this time. “Frankly speaking, I was doing okay in terms of the financials,” Merson said. “But even if it was a cup of kopi, since I knew that money was going out and not coming in, it didn’t feel good no matter how little I spent.”

Encouragement from his career advisors, however, kept him motivated. On top of reviewing his cover letters, Merson attended job search events that WSG organised — four networking events and two workshops a month specifically, as per his advisors’ recommendations. These events were further opportunities to brush the dust off his interview skills and meet employers from different companies and industries. “The more employers you meet, the more comfortable you get,” Merson said. “At one point, I figured that there was nothing to worry about. I went there, tried my best and got used to it.”

“The more employers you meet, the more comfortable you get.”

Even though the process took a few more months, Merson was relieved to have the support of professionals, who were there to review his progress every step of the way. All in all, instead of feeling like a rudderless boat, Merson was glad to have people put him on the right course.

Find Your Support Group

Then there were the friends and family that provided support along the way. Merson distinctly remembers the camaraderie among his friends, especially his former colleagues who were retrenched from the same company. “We often met up to talk about our situations, and we shared some tips and ideas on what to do,” Merson said. “To this day, we keep up with how everyone is doing.”

The months of reviewing his cover letter, going for networking and job search events, and honing his interview skills ultimately led to a full-time position in the maritime industry in January 2017. Even though it was hard work, Merson believes that the skills that he culminated along the way make it all worthwhile.

On the words of advice he has for his fellow PMETs, Merson said, “Don’t wait until you are retrenched to update your resume. Update your resume every six months, because you are always learning new things. It doesn’t mean that you are looking to resign. It just means that you are more prepared when the unexpected happens.”