Job Security? Whose World Do You Live In?

It is no secret that the fund management industry has been under siege of late. Flip any newspaper that covers the financial services industry and you will see how active managers are finding it harder to justify their management fees, while fending off criticism on their inability to produce returns in excess of the benchmark. Banks are letting go of their employees to lower their costs from shrinking top lines.

With that said, certain sectors within finance have been more insulated than the others when it comes to layoffs. Having been on the buy side, I can attest to this. But I recently heard about the newest round of layoffs from a company I worked for previously. To my knowledge, they have never had to reduce their headcount here in the Singapore office. Up till now.

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Job Security? Please look elsewhere… perhaps in a galaxy far, far away

I had thought that people working there would be very safe against the usual banking-style hire and fire cycles. But it seems like business conditions have become so dire that they have no choice but to cut costs this way. It is yet another reminder to myself that there is no such thing as job security – even in workplaces where you think you can park yourself till retirement comes.

It also reminded me that we cannot rely on having just one source of income. The traditional “iron rice bowl” concept just doesn’t exist anymore. I do acknowledge that there are still companies that have many employees hanging around till they retire – and congratulations if you are in one of them – but for most people, that idea should no longer exist in their minds. Even so, most people still stick to having just one source of income i.e. their jobs. What happens when the axe falls?

I am big believer in diversifying sources of income. There are many ways to do this. Investing (be it stocks, bonds, funds, property etc) is one good way to achieve this. But doing so requires you to put up quite a large sum of money upfront. To those who do not have so much spare cash lying around, it can be difficult to start.

But there are so many other things that one can do to diversify. Starting a small project on the side that doesn’t take up too much time is a good way to dip your toes into the water. If you have a skill or knowledge that you can leverage on to earn extra income, why not? So many people talk about being disengaged from work. If they were to tap into their existing pool of experience and knowledge, and harness it to generate some spare cash, who knows what that could bring in the future?

Hypothetical Question

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“Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one.

You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500 dollars.

What would you do in the next 7 days?”

This question is posed by John Lee Dumas, founder of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast.

As I sat down to ponder about this question, I guess that the core of the question is asking “What skills do I have today that I can monetise instantly?”

Throw this question to the average Singaporean and chances are they will be stumped as how to answer it. $500 is not a large sum to survive on — if the answer is to start trawling job websites for something that fits the skills that they have, how long will it take before they can be gainfully employed? One or two months? Or even longer? Beyond the knowledge and skill set that their current employer requires of them, what secondary skills do they have that will allow them to start making money quickly?

Personally I think I would be hard pressed to find an exact answer myself. If I were to rule out the option of trying to sit squat and keep spamming job websites in the hope that someone would respond — a rather passive approach, I think — the next few options could be to:

1) approach non-profit organisations to offer my help. It could be to help them modernise their website, handling day-to-day operations, basically anything that could be of use to them. The goal would be to start interacting with other people and broadening my social network. With time, I would be able to meet people from all walks of life and have contacts that can place me in another position

2) approach a language school and offer to work administratively, while again building up my networks with the teachers and students there so I can start building out a side income as a language conversation partner. Also, to offer translation services.

3) start attending meet ups in the areas I am interested to move towards

4) bid for projects to work on in translation/writing/research work

4) with some or all of the activities done above, to start looking for product gaps — products that people want but cannot find online — and start thinking about how I can offer them that product.

I read several people’s responses on another website to see what they were writing about. In the end, it all boiled down to the same key points: that you must start an online profile, expand your social circle, and work like mad to offer your services to anyone who could need it.

Is there anything that I missed?