How to Deal with News About Layoffs and Prepare for Job Cuts

How to Deal with News About Layoffs and Prepare for Job Cuts

How to Deal with News About Layoffs and Prepare for Job Cuts

In light of the recent spate of layoffs in the tech industry, JC Consulting’s founder, Jason, joined FM97.2 for an in-depth fireside chat.
Together, we’ve explored the underlying causes of these market shifts and discussed strategies to help professionals in Singapore respond to layoffs and proactively prepare for the future. Below is an English transcription of the discussion conducted in Chinese.

View the full fireside chat with FM97.2.


Q: When Did the Trend of Job Cuts Begin?

Qiqi: As we herald 2024, the Year of the Dragon, many of us might be thinking of a career change. Recently, the news has been flooded with reports about job cuts and widespread layoffs affecting MNCs. This has led to speculation by some scholars that these job cuts could trigger a domino effect across the industry, but how true are these assertions? Today, we’ve invited JC Consulting’s founder, Jason, to dive deeper into the topic. Hello Jason.

Jason: Hello, Qiqi.

Ee Sim: Let’s discuss some of our current observations. At the start of 2024, several renowned multinational companies (MNCs) across the globe made announcements about retrenchment. Notably, a prominent layoff incident in Singapore garnered widespread attention. This particular MNC, a tech company, went ahead with job cuts without prior notification to the unions, sparking a heated discussion. In the wake of this, giants like Google, among others, have also come forward with their layoff plans. Jason, from your vantage point, which sectors seem to be the most impacted by these layoffs? And within these sectors, which departments or job types predominantly face job cuts?

Jason: As you’ve highlighted, I believe it’s the tech industry, as the scale of retrenchments is greater among some industry giants. The job cut trend has actually been quite evident since 2023. A case in point is when Facebook’s founder, Zuckerberg, dubbed 2023 the “Year of Efficiency”, which implies a shift towards achieving more with fewer resources. Facebook, in fact, was among the corporations that undertook mass layoffs.


Q: Why is There Tech Layoffs?

Jason: When it comes to departmental impacts, those most likely to face job cuts are employees in departments that are not considered core to the company’s business or direct revenue generators. For publicly listed companies, this situation is largely influenced by the need to sustain favourable stock market performances amidst the current economic climate.

On the other hand, the rationale for private companies leans towards cost-cutting and efficiency-boosting to improve their financial outlook and profitability. After all, these contribute to their ultimate goal of successful public listing. Consequently, departments that are neither core to business operations nor generate revenue directly tend to be more vulnerable in this situation of widespread retrenchments.

Qiqi: We’ve cited broader economic factors as one reason just now. But based on your knowledge as a headhunter, what may be the specific reasons for retrenchment?

Jason: One of the top motivations is the desire to achieve more with less. This is particularly evident in tech companies like Twitter, which cut nearly 80% of its workforce. This approach often stems from financial pressures exacerbated by factors like the current high US dollar interest rate, which makes capital more challenging to secure. Consequently, some businesses may opt for retrenchment to ease the financial strain and improve their financial statements.

In Asia, the equation becomes more complex for firms with headquarters outside Singapore as global business development strategies and business focus also come into play. These companies face a critical decision to either ramp up or scale down their investments in Asia, a choice with direct implications on employment within the region. While job cuts are generally viewed negatively, they may be necessary for some companies to achieve business continuity and avoid potential bankruptcy. In such instances, retrenchment, though unfortunate, are deemed a necessary measure for survival.


Q: How to Deal with Retrenchment?

Jiabiao: Many people used to believe that joining the tech industry was a smart choice. I was considering encouraging my children to work hard to enter the industry. However, there are many uncertainties in the present situation. Is the tech industry still popular? What can employees working in Singapore prepare for or be alert to in the face of the present wave of tech retrenchments?

Jason: We do not need to be overly fearful of the tech industry. Despite its recent challenges, the sector remains a forward-looking choice, given its integral role in the market of tomorrow. However, the recent spate of job cuts underscores the importance of being prepared.


1. Be Alert About Company and Industry Movements

Jason: First and foremost, staying informed about the plans and strategic direction of one’s company and the broader industry is crucial. This includes understanding your company’s financial health and any indications of upcoming team restructurings. The tabling of more discussions around company challenges and calls for unity can also signal potential changes. Other signs include major changes in company policy or a noticeable decrease in one’s workload.

Instances where job cuts occur without prior notification to the union are generally the exception. The signs of an impending retrenchment often emerge three to six months in advance, though they may not always be apparent to us.


2. Connecting with Headhunters

Jason: Secondly, I believe professionals would benefit from proactively engaging with professional headhunters in Singapore. After all, it is often better to be open and aware of opportunities rather than being passive and reactive to market changes and retrenchments. Headhunters can also share invaluable industry news and insights into market conditions, trends, and competitor performance that can guide your career decisions. For example, if a competitor cuts down their manpower, it doesn’t automatically imply that you should grow your team. Having a comprehensive understanding of the market will help guide your decision in such instances.

Apart from this, it’ll be good to consider the market growth of potential employers and keep an open mind to job opportunities within small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and tech startups. Your evaluation of market opportunities should be a pragmatic process grounded in current market trends. When an opportunity arises, there’s no harm in finding out more before making a decision. It never hurts to learn more about your options.


3. Boost Your Interview Skills

Jason: A last piece of pragmatic advice is to invest time in enhancing your interview skills. This holds true for employees at all levels, including mid-to-senior-level professionals. Many of us typically do not go for interviews often, but refining your interview skills can be pivotal in navigating such major industry shifts and securing future job opportunities.

Jiabiao: In other words, could we conclude that complaining about one’s workload is misplaced? After all, having a substantial workload is, in essence, a sign that there is still demand for the role.

Jason: How busy you are can be an indicator of the significance of your role. 

Ee Sim: That’s how we console ourselves. In other words, a gradually decreasing workload might not actually be a good sign.

Jiabiao: That’s why I often remind my wife that I have a packed schedule, and that she shouldn’t assume that I have a lot of free time.

Qiqi: It goes to show how valuable you are to the company.


Q: What Constitutes a Job in the Tech Industry?

Ee Sim: Many of us may still grapple with the concept that tech companies, while known for their profitability and the industry’s promising future, are paradoxically leading the current wave of job cuts. As Jason pointed out, many affected by the retrenchments are not from departments directly involved in generating profits or contributing to the company’s revenue growth.
However, many of us may be unclear about the types of opportunities within the tech field and need clarification about how the industry classifies its jobs. Do you often need to explain in detail what constitutes a job in the tech industry?

Jason: That is a good question. The job classification is indeed broad. A case in point is Facebook, which we mentioned earlier. While it might be seen primarily as a tech entity, it also operates in the advertising sector. Similarly, TikTok is commonly perceived as a company offering a platform for short videos, but it has also ventured into e-commerce.

This points back to our previous statement about the lucrative nature of tech companies. They do generate a lot of profit, and it’s easy to see why since they’re often quick to adapt and capitalise on opportunities in promising fields. However, this agility comes with its challenges. Notably, tech companies tend to expand rapidly in favourable market conditions, making them prone to more significant contractions during downturns. After all, the creation of new departments or ventures is often experimental.

Consider my previous example of a company looking to branch out into a field different from its primary business. If these ventures turn profitable, they can evolve into core departments within the company. However, the harsh reality is that success is not guaranteed. Often, nine out of the 10 new departments might not survive in the long run.

Market conditions and stock performance play critical roles in the outcome. When the market is favourable, and stocks are thriving, companies might continue to fund these exploratory ventures. Conversely, in less prosperous times, experimental departments that are peripheral to the main business and fail to deliver substantial profits are often the first to face cuts. This is the general situation we observe.

Ee Sim: To sum it up, it seems fair to say that the tech industry is relatively unforgiving, where retrenchments often hinge on the success of one’s projects or the department’s profitability. During prosperous times, you might be given a buffer of three to six more months. However, when the economy is bad, you might be asked to leave immediately.

Jason: Ee Sim’s point highlights a scenario where individuals have a degree of control over their destiny, which is already a relatively optimistic situation. Sometimes, companies keep departments that can generate revenue, and this is actually a relatively favourable circumstance because it suggests a positive correlation between effort and reward.

However, there are also cases where even profitable departments face job cuts due to broader company changes. For instance, the present post-COVID-19 era saw many companies reduce their workforce, a decision often linked to the overexpansion of teams during the pandemic.


Q: Will AI Replace Jobs?

Jason: Additionally, the advent of AI and its integration into business processes create another layer of complexity. Companies may decide that AI can enable departments to accomplish more with fewer people, thus diminishing the need for a larger team. There are many contributing factors and reasons for layoffs, particularly in larger organisations where individual influence over such outcomes is minimal. As such, we advise employees to stay prepared and keep abreast of industry trends, news and developments.

Ee Sim: Life in the tech sector is undoubtedly far from easy. Not only do professionals working within it face the pressures of a heavy workload, they also have to stay ahead of industry movements, including any hints or directions from their leaders.

Jason: Indeed, but I believe that every industry has its battle to fight. While the tech industry grapples with its hurdles, sectors like financial services and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) are also navigating their own complex landscapes. The media industry also exemplifies this with your team’s early start to the day today. Every industry has its distinctive set of challenges.

Qiqi: Jason, you highlighted some critical insights just now. You pointed out the importance of us, as employees, to be alert to company announcements. Given your expertise as a headhunter, you’re well aware of the push and pull factors influencing employee departures. However, given that the present scenario is one of widespread retrenchment, what advice would you give to the affected individuals?

Jason: The situation in the US may be out of our reach, but in Singapore, it’s clear that the country is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for foreign companies. We have noticed more firms choosing Singapore as the site for their regional or even global headquarters. I believe this is likely fuelled by the stability that Singapore provides.

I notice many individuals expressing a sense of uncertainty on Facebook regarding their next steps. However, I still wish to emphasise that Singapore stands in a better position relative to other countries and regions. Current trends indicate Singapore’s increasing attractiveness to companies seeking a location for their bases, especially those within the biotech industry. This trend heralds new job prospects for professionals. For example, your experience may lie in tech and data analysis within the e-commerce sphere. However, the burgeoning biomedicine sector in Singapore will present an exciting opportunity to apply your skills in a new context.

Singapore becoming an attractive hub for high-quality companies is undoubtedly beneficial. This influx will lead to an increased demand for talent, explaining why many in Singapore, even those impacted by recent layoffs, managed to secure new jobs quickly. Of course, staying vigilant and considering the broader regional context is essential. Professionals should reflect on whether their roles solely fulfil the needs of the Singapore market or the broader region. This is an area that individuals may need to consider and plan for in the future.


Q: Will Tech Layoffs Spill Over?

Jiabiao: A friend of mine shared that the manager of his friend’s tech department was laid off yesterday. This prompts me to seek insights from Jason and Professor Mo. Our audience may come from diverse sectors beyond the tech industry, so we’re concerned whether the wave of job cuts will spread to other sectors. Jason, what have you observed in this regard?

Jason: The situation is unique for each industry. Retrenchments are, indeed, occurring across various sectors. For instance, the recent layoffs at Citibank that were featured in the news happened in the financial sector, but was it a result of spill-over from the tech industry’s retrenchments? Not necessarily. As Professor Mo pointed out, factors like AI could have contributed to it. But it’s more plausible that broader issues, such as the global economy, geopolitics, and changes in corporate strategy, are at play. That is why every industry may experience some degree of change, though not specifically in the form of retrenchments, for some companies are actually expanding while others are downsizing. Recognising the need to avoid simplistically viewing the transformations as spill-over effects from the tech industry’s retrenchments is crucial.

As I’ve shared, I am still very confident about the Singapore market. The reason is our unique geopolitical position and the entry of tech companies alongside firms from other industries. I’ve observed that more high-quality companies are increasingly entering Singapore. The biggest fear is when employees who have been laid off cannot find new jobs. However, the situation would still be relatively positive if many individuals who have left their current jobs can find better opportunities. This is a situation of industry transformation.

Ee Sim: I see. From what you’ve observed, which types of roles are AI’s applications becoming more advanced in, and where have we seen actual changes or reductions in the workforce due to AI’s growing prevalence?

Jason: For now, junior roles might feel the impact more significantly. Jobs such as junior programmers, data analysts, and translators could see changes due to AI advancements. However, I see the broader trend not as a replacement of many jobs by AI but as an augmentation where AI aids professionals in excelling within their fields and industries. Take, for instance, the use of AI presenters in the media industry. In my opinion, this revitalises the sector by injecting new blood. Essentially, the more intriguing discussion we should focus on is learning to harness AI to our advantage rather than opposing it.

Jiabiao: Someone should capture this and put it on loop.

Jason: Yes, presenters are irreplaceable.

Ee Sim: That’s because we establish an emotional connection with the audience.

Jiabiao: Jason, considering the pace of technological advancement, do you foresee a time when AI presenters could exhibit rich emotions and replicate the behaviors of a live presenter? Would this be a possible scenario in the future?

Jason: I think it’s possible. Imagine a scenario where there is an AI Jiabiao that mirrors the real Jiabiao in every aspect. What draws me to this AI is its striking resemblance to Jiabiao himself and if the real Jiabiao exists, why should the notion of an artificial counterpart hold any appeal?


Interview Tips and Salary Negotiation

interview tips and salary negotiation

Qiqi: Jason emphasised earlier that beyond crafting a strong CV and resume, excelling in interviews is crucial. With that in mind, could you share some tips with us? Many individuals may find themselves stuck and unable to advance past the second round of interviews. What advice or tips might you suggest to help navigate challenges more effectively?


1. Describe the Right Reasons for Leaving a Job

Jason: I believe that sincerity plays a crucial role in interviews. However, I’d also like to shift our focus to another common issue. Interviewers often ask candidates about their reasons for leaving their current job and why they are interested in joining the said organisation. Many candidates typically describe their negative experiences with their previous employers or salary-related concerns. However, the focus should be on highlighting how the new company aligns with your aspirations and what you can contribute moving forward.

It’s natural to feel some resentment toward a former employer, but looking ahead is essential. Echoing Professor Mo’s earlier point, an interview aims not just to improve your skills but also present a genuine reflection of yourself and find a role that suits you better. However, our mindset often leads us to emphasise the wrong aspects during an interview. Your primary goal should be to communicate the value you bring to the company.

While it’s understandable to be curious about a new company’s salary and incentives, remember that these are contingent on your contributions and value. Questions about specific perks, like birthday leave, leaving work early and the duration of one’s paid leave, should be discussed after the final interview when the other party approves of you. Introducing these topics too early might not cast you in the best light. A small tip is finding opportunities to communicate and negotiate benefits later in the hiring process.


2. Be Brief About Your Expected Salary

Jiabiao: How do we fill out the part about our expected salary?

Ee Sim: That’s right. How should we reply if we’re asked about our last drawn salary?

Jason: The ideal approach is to focus on the unique contributions you can make to the company. You may want to emphasise your confidence in the organisation’s ability to recognise your value and offer a salary that reflects your worth and the role’s responsibilities. Expressing openness to further discussions is advisable rather than locking yourself into a specific figure.

For example, you would have undersold yourself if your current salary is S$3,000 and stated S$3,500 as your expected salary, but your potential employer’s budget is S$5,000. Conversely, if their budget is S$3,300, setting your expectation at S$3,500 could jeopardise your chances. Skilful negotiation is key in such situations, and this is where an experienced headhunter becomes invaluable. For many, salary negotiation is a rare event, perhaps occurring once every three or five years. However, headhunters navigate these negotiations daily, equipping them with the expertise to secure a role you love and a salary that better meets your expectations.


Emerging Job and Market Opportunities

Ee Sim: As you’re in the headhunting industry, what are some existing or emerging new trends and opportunities that you observe in the job market?


1. Regional Management Skills

Jason: Several trends have caught my attention. Firstly, there’s a noticeable increase in foreign companies establishing their presence in Singapore, particularly medium-sized businesses. Singapore’s role as a regional hub is more pronounced than ever. While it used to be primarily seen as the headquarters for Southeast Asia (SEA), it’s now evolving into a central hub for not just SEA but also Asia, the Middle East, and countries outside Europe and the US. Some businesses are even positioning their global headquarters here.

Since last year, this shift towards using Singapore as a headquarters has been gaining traction. Accompanying this trend is a rising demand for employees and managers skilled in regional management. These individuals are invaluable for their deep understanding of the cultural nuances across countries, which enables them to facilitate effective cultural integration. This capability is crucial for a headquarters aiming to genuinely serve as a regional hub. Hence, developing regional management skills is becoming increasingly important and is something professionals should consider focusing on for future opportunities.

At the same time, when it comes to the language aspect of regional management, the ability to converse in multiple languages, be it Chinese or Bahasa Indonesia, will be invaluable. On the industry side, a notable shift has been observed since the latter half of last year. More organisations, particularly those in the biopharmaceutical sector, are setting their sights on Singapore as a strategic hub for expanding their operations in SEA and beyond. This emerging trend underscores a significant opportunity, which is why I previously suggested tech professionals to consider exploring jobs within the biotech industry.

2. Advanced Manufacturing and Green Energy Sectors

Another industry trend is advanced manufacturing and green energy, which has been especially prominent since last year. With more green energy firms building factories in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, Singapore has emerged as a strategic hub for these companies’ corporate functions to project their regional influence.

On the technological front, there’s also a growing emphasis on network security spurred by ongoing national conversations around security strategies. This focus is further highlighted by the involvement of government ministers in related summits featured in news reports, signalling the prioritisation of cybersecurity as a key area of development. This trend aligns with Singapore’s ambition to serve as a regional headquarters, and network security will likely grow in importance as the country becomes increasingly vital to businesses. Overall, these developments sketch the broader contours of current industry trends.


Seize New Job Opportunities with JC Consulting

Whether you’re actively seeking new job opportunities or simply looking to find out more about the market, having the right support is crucial when navigating the ever-evolving job market. At JC Consulting, our team of specialised recruiters covers a wide range of fields, from biotech recruitment to financial services HR consulting, ensuring that you’re working with someone who understands your varied needs. Schedule a coffee chat with us today, or connect with us on LinkedIn to be in the loop about the latest job opportunities.