How to avoid being retrenched?

As someone who is nearing 40 years old, this is a topic that is constant drag in my mind. How can I avoid being retrenched in my 40s? Though there is no definite way to truly avoid retrenchment, I believe there are steps to reduce the chances.

A little background on my work. I started out as a tester doing manual testing. Then I moved to being a Test Analyst. With this role, all I’m doing is reviewing test plans and strategy done by a outsource team. I don’t do the actual work. The main frustration with this role is that I am not getting hands on or learning new skills.

So I moved to my current company as a QA engineer. At this point, manual testing is still the main skill that I have. Throughout my tenure here, I kept up to date about the trend in testing. I learned that more companies are actually looking for testers with technical skills. So I picked up some programming skills along the way. I then apply this to my role, improve the current process. It might sound like I’m actually killing off my own job. Fast forward to today, I’m a senior software engineer in test

So how does the above help to avoid being retrenched?

Staying relevant to my industry

By reading up on trends of my industry, I understood what skills most companies look out for, and started to learn those skills on my own and apply it to reduce manual work.

Sharpening my technical skills

My current role requires me to be rather hands on. So I will be the one writing those automated tests or tools. This helps as I am getting the practice I need on ny technical skills. We all know that if you learn a skill and don’t use it often enough, then you will most likely forget about it after a few months down the road.

Maintaining a good relationship with team members and my manager

I know this one sounds a bit off, but believe me. Relationship is just as important as your skills or ability, if not, more important. Imagine if you are great at what you do, but everyone else thinks you are an ass, your manager finds it hard to manage you. A retrenchment exercise comes, between someone who is very competent but difficult to work with and someone who is somewhat competent, but a joy to work with, who do you think will be axed?

Even if I did all of the above, it doesn’t mean I will avoid being retrenched. If a company decides to move an entire department to cheaper countries, no amount of sharpening your skills will save your job. If that happens, I still have the skills that are relevant to the industry.

I can be very perssimistic, so even with relavant skills, finding a new job might not be easy for someone in their 40s who will be competing with someone in their 20s and cheaper, which is why, I think it is even more pressing and important for me to try and generate multiple streams of income instead of relying on my salary as the only source.

With this in mind, I have actually started in 2015 to start buying assets that can generate somewhat stable income. This include my investment in REITs and blue chip stocks. At the moment, these are generating around SGD$8,000 per year. Not much I know, but at least it is a start.

In addition to that, I saved 6 months of expenses as my emergency fund. This will help as a buffer while I look for a new job.

Another thing that I am doing is picking up new skills that is completely different from my current industry. By using my Skills Future credit (this is a singapore thing), I took up a Barista Foundation course. This maybe something that I will be looking into doing when I reach FI, and don’t actually need to find a high paying job. Just something to supplement my passive income.

There you have it, the actions I’m taking on avoiding and preparing for retrenchment. What are you doing to avoid one?