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The Career Coach Who Makes a Difference

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My work email chimes and a notification pops up at the bottom right of my screen.

“Oh no, more people getting retrenched,” I thought to myself with a sigh, after reading the first few words of the email subject.

While I consider myself lucky to be amongst those to still have a job during this pandemic, writing about people losing theirs is not something I particularly enjoy.

But this email was different. They were appreciation letters, penned to the folks of the NTUC U PME Centre.

The letters gave thanks, mostly for helping them secure employment during current bleak economic outlook.

There were two letters that stood out – one from an individual called Anthony, and another from Eric (not his real name).

Anthony

Anthony had been out of a job since early 2020. During the circuit breaker period last year, he decided to approach U PME and was assigned to a career coach.

He detailed how the coach had helped him, through their virtual meetings, to improve his resume – removing irrelevant content and highlighting noteworthy points that would help him stand out as a candidate.

He also explained that the coach had taught him the fine art of building up his profile on LinkedIn, which was a platform he had largely overlooked during his job search, as well as the importance of networking.

He added: “What I want to emphasise is that any career coach worth his salt would be able to dispense such advice easily. However, what impressed me most was his sincerity and genuine care for the emotional well-being of his charge. Once in a while, he would call to check on me, to make sure that I was coping well, or to ask me out for a chat.”

Eric

Eric’s case stood out because of the sheer duration that he had been searching for a job.

He had been working in his industry for some 20 odd years when he was retrenched in 2014. He further elaborated that he had been constantly on lookout for a permanent job for the past six years but to no avail.

Curious to find out more, I dropped him a call, to which he first responded rather apprehensively. The father of one shared that he had been surviving the past six years as a freelance consultant, all while concurrently searching for a stable full-time role.

He also shared that he had approached other career centres prior but was disappointed with the help that he was rendered.

“One of the career coaches even asked me if I could withdraw myself [as a job applicant with the company] so that they could close my case,” he explained with a breath of exasperation.

But that all changed when he approached U PME in 2020.

He said: “After been coached for few months in resume writing, how to make use of the applicant tracking system, and how to cast a wider net to my contracts, an opportunity came in January 2021.

“I once again approached my career coach for help. Without hesitation, he swung into action and conducted a mock interview to prepare me for the actual interview which other career centres didn’t provide. After two rounds of interview, I was offered a senior role in the company.”

There was one similarity between Eric’s and Anthony’s case besides both being PMEs. They were both coached by the same career coach at the U PME Centre.

His name is Herjeet Singh.

Catching up with Herjeet

It was a tough act trying to catch up with Herjeet. His schedule always seemed to be packed with webinars, of which he was the speaker, and coaching sessions with other clients.

With a bit of perseverance and a whole lot of luck, we finally got to meet and talk about what makes him stand out from other coaches.

NTUC News: How did you come to be a career coach?

Herjeet: Well, I’ve been retrenched more than once before myself. Each time I got retrenched, I helped the affected employees to enhance their employability skills, and I also conducted workshops for them.

This dawned on me that this something I could go into to help others.

Jobseekers that you have helped speak volumes of your work. What is your secret?

There is no secret, nor am I a miracle worker. I just provide the tools and resources to enhance their employability skills.

I give them the encouragement that they need, telling them that they have the skills and talent to propel their careers forward. I also try to instill a positive energy in them and a “can-do spirit”.

I also try to have at least a few sessions with each client.

What are some common problems many job seekers have in your opinion?

Some of the barriers I have seen are “ageism”, or “I’m overqualified”, to even “HR are not giving them a chance”.

What is the most memorable encounter you’ve had to date?

I’ve had many, but most striking was when a husband brought his whole family of five to thank me when he got a job.

They all had tears of joy as the husband was the sole breadwinner. I broke into tears myself.

Do you have any message for anyone looking for a job right now?

For one, get help. Get an appointment with a career coach. We are here to help.

Secondly, don’t be shy. Although losing a job can make a person down and withdrawn, one important step in getting a job is to network. Do this with as many people as possible to access a larger number of job opportunities.

When I ask people to approach their ex-bosses, they sometimes give me that kind of sheepish look. But this is not the time to be shy or embarrassed.

I always draw the “Spider-man Web Diagram” for them and tell them to talk to their former customers, their suppliers, their ex-colleagues, or even ex-bosses who may know of job opportunities.

Draw on your relationships, but to do that, you have got to build them first.

If you are on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, be sure to have your contacts’ endorsements and recommendations on your profile. Don’t wait till you are jobless before connecting with people.

Also, don’t burn bridges!

Thirdly, get upskilled. Jobseekers facing re-employment issues should also be willing to upskill themselves if necessary, to get the job they want.

You need to arm yourself with the required certifications to make yourself more employable. Some jobs may require professional certifications, so it is imperative that jobseekers go out and get that certification, even if they already have years of relevant experience under their belt.

And lastly, stay positive! It sounds cliché, but it is actually very important to stay positive. You never know who is going to call you. In fact, this is what I do after the first session with a jobseeker, is to follow up with a call.

I have called up my clients, saying: “Hello, can I speak to…” and before I can even finish my sentence, he responds with a “What, now? Who are you?”

I could be someone from Human Resources calling for an interview. If the HR representative hears such a response, most of the time, he or she would put down the phone. They prefer to hire people with a pleasant voice and attitude.

A lot of HR representatives do phone screenings before an interview too. They want to speak with you, hear from you. You will leave a better first impression if you are upbeat.

I know staying positive can be a hard thing to do, especially if you have been unemployed for some time. I have been retrenched more than once, so I know what it feels like.

If you are a PME, click here to find out how U PME can help you.

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