Thursday, April 30, 2009

Second act


The Primetime morning interview

Jennifer Alejandro,

"I was past being angry. I was emotionally drained."

Thum Cheng Cheong, 46, received his biggest career blow last November. He was laid off from a European bank where he was the chief of legal and credit administration.

It happened so fast, he was shocked. He got the notice midday, putting an abrupt stop to a 16-year career in the banking.

At first he thought it was good to spend more time with his family. "It seemed like a good opportunity to rest and relax, because when would you get such a long break from work?"

But the worry set in fairly quickly, once Thum realised his job search was not yielding results. The worry was compounded by the knowledge that Singapore was caught in the midst of a global recession.

For help, he decided to turn to his passion for mind-mapping, and it turned out to be the answer he had hoped for.

Thum, a regular at mind-mapping workshops conducted by international author Tony Buzan since 2004, remembers thinking, "There were no jobs in banking at my level so I might as well take a risk. I have been assisting mind-mapping seminars for a couple of years now, so I asked myself, why not make my hobby a full time job?"

In January, the former banker and lawyer called up the local office of the Tony Buzan Learning Centre. With his track record, he was hired almost immediately as a mind-mapping trainer and in-house legal counsel.

He now moderates three workshops a week and does administrative legal work for the learning centre. He earns only half of his old salary but Thum said: "I'm happy that I could get this chance to tell people my story and do something I love."

I learned about Thum's story while researching for a series. Many have shared wonderful and touching stories with me. I remember a 51-year-old man who was retrenched by a local bank in November after 29 years in its customer service department. For almost two months, he attended job fairs and consulted agencies for assistance.

As luck would have it, a surprise came just in time for the New Year. Through a friend, he landed an interview at a secondary school and was hired as a teacher.

These are real-life survivors — people open to trying something they might never have considered, who had the courage to face up to change. After all, many of life's "second acts" begin only after a crisis.

We are looking for people who have re-invented themselves and got the better of retrenchment. If you have a story to tell, email Turn that page. Everybody deserves a second chance.

From TODAY, Plus – Weekend, 25/56-April-2009


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