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Are you a Yellow Ribbon criminal?

One of my more prominent memories of working at Bruno’s came when I had to serve a group of mature ladies who decided that I was worth fliting with. I enjoyed being the centre of attention but the thing that struck me about that entire exchange was when one of the ladies asked “Are you a Yellow Ribbon Criminal?” When I asked what brought that on, her reply was that judging by the way I spoke, there seemed to be something wrong with the fact that I was working as service staff.

I like to think that she was paying me a compliment. However, the sentiments that were expressed, reflect an attitude that makes life a little harder for those of us who have either never made it or have “fallen.” This attitude isn’t particularly unique to Singapore but as I live here, I believe that this is an attitude that scares many people from being able to climb back up again in “face” conscious Asia.

This is something that will need to change on a social level for the simple reason that the old economic order which involved working for one company in one role until one retired in relative comfort is no longer there. Whilst this has been said for the last thirty-years, it’s become even more prominent. The trend of industries and roles dying overnight has only been exaggerated by Covid-19.

As with every period of rapid change, there are bound to plenty of people who fall through and we will need to find a way to help people get through the system. For high earners, particularly those over 45, will have to get used to the fact that they may never get a similarly high paying job should they lose it. What can they do about it? The government has been pushing “life-learning” and getting people to take on “second careers.”

However, this may not be the path for everyone and the current thrust of the government’s plans on life-long learning works on the premise that “careers” are like ladders – the only direction is up or down. Whilst the principle of encouraging “life-long learning” is right, there needs to be an understanding of the psychology of what happens to people when they fall. As I’ve mentioned in previous postings, I’ve known of people who held high end jobs, lost them and were unable to pick themselves up and reached the stage where they needed their bus cards topped up. Ask them to do a bit of “menial” work to put money in their pockets and they won’t do it. As is said – unlike the Western world where the issue is people trying to “game” a system designed to help the less fortunate, the problem in Singapore is that people are not willing to game the system.

So, perhaps the answer might be to change the approach to work and careers itself. A career path need not necessarily be just up and down. I think of a former boss who talked about the need to “widen” the pond instead of making it deeper. Whilst he was referring to a business, why can’t the same be true of an individual’s career.

In my early working life, just about everyone thought I was going to be a great “Public Relations” (PR) person. However, I couldn’t quite make it in the traditional “agency” system – never lasted for any agency more than a year. I did well on the PR projects that I worked on but somehow never lasted in a “working” environment.

So, I took the job in the restaurant to get a regular income. Interestingly enough, the restaurant was good for my PR skills. I actually did things like crisis management, dealing with irate customers (they ones who wanted to walk out without paying actually paid half) and dealt with troublesome staff (enough to the owner to give me the authority to fire the staff in question)

Ironically in my “third” progression, into the insolvency, the skills I have learnt in PR and were honed in the restaurant, would also come in useful, especially when one considers that the insolvency trade involves dealing with lots of irate people.

It took a while to look at my skills in a lateral manner. It also required understanding that I was the same person whether I was washing dishes or trying to get CEOs interviewed by the business press.

When I look at the official line on “second careers” and it works on the idea that a top man in one industry should go down to the ground and start a career at the bottom in another industry. It assumes that an engineer should he or she lose an engineer’s job should be willing to go back to school and say, start again as an intern in a bank.

Instead of looking at things that way, perhaps the answer might be to encourage employees to look at careers in a horizontal manner as well as in a vertical manner. As for employers, perhaps they should be encouraged to start looking at how someone who is cross trained can add value. I remember a friend of mine in the oil and gas industry rushed tried to get his HR team to hire my colleague when he found that she was a trained accountant from an engineering background. His point was that he found most normal accountants didn’t understand what was actually going on in the business because, well they only saw the business from spread sheets. That made this colleague of mine particularly interesting.

It is, as they say, time we get serious about reinventing jobs and the way we build careers.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

5 Responses to “Are you a Yellow Ribbon criminal?”

  • Yang Yin?:

    A remainder of Yang Yin who took photos next to politicians for PR purpose.

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  • xoxo:

    The Prata-man ,like his peers,just wanted to ENRICH themselves.
    Nothing else mattered more.

    Look at *croc-tears* LIM BOON HENG .
    Look at HaLEEmak Yakult.
    All of them rich n cozy.
    Other sgs are suffering.

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  • LJY and LHL also lied:

    Straits Times: WP MP Raeesah Khan referred to committee after admitting she lied to Parliament about sexual assault case

    LJY and LHL also lied about the value of HDB never going down. This is a lie because at the end of the 99-year lease HDB flat is worth zero. This is a FACT which PAP cannot change. Both LKY and LHL lies should also be referred to committee.

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  • "Meritocracy" = mediocrity:

    xoxo:
    The Prata-man ,like his peers,just wanted to ENRICH themselves.
    Nothing else mattered more.

    Look at *croc-tears* LIM BOON HENG .
    Look at HaLEEmak Yakult.
    All of them rich n cozy.
    Other sgs are suffering.

    Ass-kissing is the norm in Singapore. This was started by ruthless egomaniac Lee Con You who “terrorized” Singaporeans into silence and compliance. That is why Singaporeans do not speak up. They just “go along to get along” leading to “group think”. They continue to “drink the LKY/PAP Kool-Aid” and, as a result, suffer from Stockholm Syndrome making them mediocre.

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  • Norman Osborne's career change:

    Green Goblin:
    “I know this has been a difficult time for you, but I want you to try to enjoy this day. Commencement: the end of one thing, the start of something new. Forty thousand years of evolution and we’ve barely even tapped the vastness of human potential.”

    https://youtu.be/q2DMDQWMpWs

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