Sometimes we think we’ve got life all figured out – Ms Sim Lay Koon certainly did.
She was a 54-year-old finance manager with a stable career, working for a great employer for almost nine years and in a role she enjoyed.
But soon after a company merger, she found out that her younger colleague who was assigned to understudy her was eventually going to replace her.
Quitting her job was no longer just a distant term to Lay Koon. Suddenly, it was all too real.
Going back to basics
Being displaced from her job made Lay Koon feel like she was back at square one of her career. Finding a new job, especially one in the finance sector, was not going to be easy, and she was not getting any younger.
But Lay Koon remain unfazed and did not panic. She took the news in her stride and kept an open mind for any new opportunities that came her way.
She took on administrative finance positions and even tried her hand at jobs outside her comfort zone – including working in a warehouse to process orders for almost three years!
Strengthening your core
But after trying out different jobs, Lay Koon concluded that her true passion was in finance.
For the next year or so, she decided to focus on improving herself and actively pursuing job opportunities that would be a better fit for her expertise.
Amidst uncertainty, adapting to change was one of her strengths. Lay Koon met with an NTUC-e2i career coach who advised her to attend employability skills courses and to seek out job opportunities within her personal network. She diligently signed up for value-added training sessions, such as a qualification course from the Association of Chartered Certified Accounts, a trading course and a resume-improvement session, augmenting her skills and competencies to aid in her job search. No matter how dim the prospects of success were, she continued to apply for jobs and went for interviews.
One day, she came across an article in The Straits Times that talked about an initiative to support older workers - the Career Support Programme (CSP). Having made little progress in her job hunt so far, and seeing the benefits the programme offered, she immediately signed up in the hope that she would find the ideal job soon.
Her tenacity eventually paid off.
Finding the right fit
By a stroke of luck, one of her former clients, Bridge 2 Biz Consulting, contacted her. The consulting firm was looking for an experienced finance professional to join them and hired her through the Career Support Programme, which helps PMETs find mid-level jobs and provides salary support for employers to hire them.
“It was the right time. We needed someone who could guide the younger staff”, said Henry Ong, CEO of Bridge 2 Biz Consulting.
This was the perfect opportunity for Lay Koon, and she accepted the offer without hesitation.
But taking on a new job came with its struggles too. She was worried that her age was a barrier as she had to work with younger supervisors and colleagues. In addition, the scope of work was also different from her previous companies. However, instead of feeling overwhelmed, she embraced the challenge by picking up new skills to improve herself.
Reaping the fruits
With her experience in the sector, the younger colleagues looked up to her as a mentor and sought her advice when managing difficult clients or issues. In turn, her team members helped her to learn about the accounting software and online tools used by the company.
Having been with the company for several months now, she has bonded well with her team and often has lunches with them.
Lay Koon with her supportive boss, Henry from Bridge 2 Biz Consulting
Henry, her boss, can’t help but smile when he talks about Lay Koon, “Lay Koon is a good match for us. She is very flexible and is open to the way we do things here. Although she may not be familiar with our computer systems, she really takes the time to learn.”
A two-way street
For an older worker, it can be nerve-wrecking to re-enter the workforce after being away for some time. That is where the employers can help boost their confidence, and reassure them of their expertise and potential to shine.
| When it comes to job matching, it takes two hands to clap.
For Lay Koon and her employer, it was a relationship born out of positive attitudes, pro-activeness and open-mindedness that resulted in a win-win outcome for both parties. Their successful pairing also underscored the contributions that senior PMETs can make.
As Jock Stein, the legendary Scottish soccer manager said, “there is no substitute for experience”. It rang true then, and still rings true now.
Through the Career Support Programme, mature long-term unemployed PMETs can receive salary support for employers to hire them. From 1 April 2017, the salary support will be increased. PMETs actively looking for jobs for 12 months or more can receive up to $42,000 over 18 months.
For more information on the Career Support Programme, visit:
• Career Support Programme for Employers
• Career Support Programme for Individuals