Steering career back on track after layoff or career break

Job Search after being laid off or career break, Yolanda Yu, Career Coach

It’s one of the most challenging times now to find a job after being laid off or a career break.

We had taken the plunge to become an entrepreneur, go for a prestigious Master’s Degree, or prioritize our children going for PSLE, or pressed the “PAUSE” button to take that much-deserved rest for ourselves. Or it was simply an announcement of layoff on an ordinary morning.

Whatever it was, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar and distressing patch now for job search. General economic conditions, immigration policies, and job market mobility all seem to be at odds with us.

You may have doubts about your chances in finding a job after being laid off or break, or suspect that your experience and skills are not very competitive in the current job market. Still, it is entirely possible. If you are determined to return to the job market, here are some principles you can apply:

Reflect – Recharge – Reposition => Power Restart

Step 1: Reflect


In any job search, some skills are never outdated: Communication skills. Coordination skills. People skills. Thinking skills. Even technical skills to some extend: if you are familiar with one type of product, what’s preventing you from learning how to use another product?

When it comes to experience, the jobs nowadays are very specific, and your profile could be too unique to fit in. What we need to do here is to break it down into building blocks for a successful job search.

In my MBA school, there’s a famous legend about a monk who got into McKinsey. A monk’s profile does not fit consulting, on the surface.

A monk goes to McKinsey, Yoalnda Yu, Executive Coach & Career Coach

But think about this: What if the monk is super good at explaining complex concepts in simple words and influence? After all, that is what religious professionals do. That becomes pretty powerful. What if the monk is very good at business development and got many followers? What if the monk has a strong network of high net worth clients?

The building blocks here are Career Capital:

Career Capital: your best weapons for finding a job after layoff or a career break

Let me break down the building blocks vital for your job search:


Did you work in a complex organization with rigid processes? It is an asset to organize people and resources in such an environment, move things along. Or do you thrive in an agile, fast-moving environment with a lot of fluidity? Some people will go mad if thrown into such chaos. So if you do well there, it’s an asset too. Be sure to reflect this characteristic of you in your job search.

Work scope:

Try to remove subject matter from your work scope and find the skills, experiences, and job nature that you can quickly transfer to another job. Were you selling a travel package to families? In this case, the travel package is a subject matter that probably won’t help you, given how low the travel industry is currently. Instead, let’s break it down: say that your work was to sell a structured services product to families, with your day-to-day work in inventory checking, vendor coordination, think about what jobs need people to sell structured services or vendor coordination.

Career Capital for Job Search - Yolanda Yu, Executive Coach & Career Coach

Do a stock check of your Career Capital at the beginning of you job search. Yolanda Yu, Executive Coach & Career Coach

Domain Knowledge:

Now, let’s look at domain knowledge beyond what you do but also who you work with. Say, if you are selling data services to a few industries, pay attention to that when strategizing your job search.

Are you able to speak with people in those industries for an hour? If so, consider you do have some domain knowledge on that.

Additionally, if such sectors are rather specialized like banking, Oil & Gas, luxury retail, etc., your domain knowledge is even more valuable.

This is because jobs in modern days do not require only excellent specialist skills, but also a good mixture of generalist skills and knowledge.


You might say that you were not in a sales role. That is not a problem. In a job, you will always need to serve someone, whether you are IT support data scientist, or Managing director. Your clients are humans, whether they were retail customers or just office workers with your B2B clients. So they must belong to a specific segmentation.

There are many ways of segmenting. In order to start with that, have a thought about who your clients are. Are they office admins or procurement managers? Many corporate-services businesses dream of having such a robust network. Or are your clients specialists like doctors or engineers? You can even group them in a level of difficulty. Are they high maintenance? So if you have sold things successfully to investment bankers, you probably can sell to anyone.


In additional to above, if you are keen to find a comprehensive step-by-step guide for your job search, please also see my video on How to take stock of your career capital. The respective worksheet can be found in the Free Resources section, download for free.

Break down what you have as building blocks, and find out where in the outside world they are needed.

Step 2: Recharge

After we looked at the building blocks, you might be both excited at the new opportunities and also feel discouraged because of the gaps ahead.

The chances are: if you have been in retail industry, you might even be a good candidate for ecommerce. But there is a gap. If you are very familiar with beauty products, and have run a great online streaming business selling them, then you might be able to value-add, say managing an online streaming part of an ecommerce company. But all ecommerce companies operate on data and you are not familiar with data analysis.

Fortunately, there are many online courses or resources to help you with bridging your gaps in job search. I generally would not say courses are the most helpful when it comes to job search. Employers tend to value experience much more than courses. However, this could be an excellent 1st step where you can subsequently take up projects or short assignments, a good stepping stone towards jobs you want.

In conclusion, this is what I am wanting to highlight:

The job search process under the current circumstances is going to be much longer. Treat it as a journey, not an act.

Yolanda Yu, Executive Coach & Career Coach

Step 3: Re-position

Once you have done the reflection and recharge, it’s time to reposition yourself.

Getting back on track may mean some compromise on your previous career progress. It’s good that you have lowered the expectation for job search and become ready for a certain level of sacrifice when job hunting, but I would suggest not too much of this without a good reason.

Compromise or not?

If you had been a sales manager for a product, don’t apply for a sales role for a similar product. You can still apply for a sales manager role or a sales executive role but in a more extensive product or a more prominent company. Or suppose you do go for a sales executive role for a smaller product. In that case, ideally, that job should still offer your career some value, e.g., gaining experience in a new country, new industry, or setting your foot in a larger company.

If you have understood your career capital very well, the above should be possible in your job search. The secret is to create opportunities where you are adding value with your career assets, not where you are “just getting a job”.

If you have pressing financial needs, and a pure compromise without any upside is inevitable, just be mindful that it will be harder for you to bounce back later.

The most crucial thing in making a career decision in the moment of desperation is to keep the long term in your mind still.

Yolanda Yu, Executive Coach & Career Coach

Why is it so crucial that you don’t take too much of a compromise?

By doing this, you would avoid looking “Over-qualified” in your job search. Companies don’t like over-qualified profiles.

There’s a perception of this arrogant image, someone who is more capable than the job requires will not settle down to do a humble job – will not be happy. And such people will jump at the first chance to leave once things get better.

With that perception, their preference is generally to get more junior people to the role and provide some incentive for learning and motivation. The exact salary and position will make such people happier. So if the company is looking for a sales manager role, they would prefer to hire an experienced sales executive instead of a General Manager.

What’s the learning here for your job search?

Companies don’t always like the thought of not adding value to your career. Sometimes they like it that they are getting a good deal, a great talent who comes at half price. But many times, they also worry it’s not sustainable.

You can also position it in a way that, given your career capital, it’s a good deal for them. But there’s something in the role for you as well as in the long term. You are here to stay.

In addition, you can take some insight from this video on repositioning: How to have an amazing profile after career break.

Step Final: Power Restart Your Job Search!

I have noticed a common sentiment in people who experienced retrenchment or repeated rejection when searching for a job.

An irrational pain we fail to make sense of. 

We know that COVID-19 and economics or sometimes just luck are to blame. But the question of “why me” creeps in, and a voice gets more and more prominent: “Maybe I was indeed not that good?”

Self-doubt. What is also painful is when we feel ashamed of the situation we are in. And we find it difficult to explain to others of our self-worth.

This is despite that we know very well that being in this state prevents us from shining and bringing out the best of ourselves.

What can we do?

Accept that you can and do have these feelings. Over 90% of people feel these emotions in such “career downtime”.

Change your inner narrative. 

For a successful job search, you have to find a story about what has happened and own it with comfort and confidence.

There are a lot of assumptions when you feel fear. This video has some tips on Overcoming the fear of Rejection. People tend to think the chances are low and don’t apply for most jobs. If you can overcome that, it is perfectly possible to get more applications out of your door and more interviews coming your way.

Talk to me to take stock of your career capital and develop a self-narrative that you can own with confidence.

I wish you success.

portrait_Yolanda Yu_YL_r

Empowering Change From Within

Career & Leadership Coach, Start-up Mentor, and two-time Penguin Author, Yolanda has over 20 years’ corporate experience and served leadership positions in world top technology companies such as Alibaba, Visa, and Mastercard.

From software engineer to sales, headhunter, entrepreneur, to business leader in eCommerce and Fintech industries, Yolanda reinvented her career for countless times. She specializes in tailored coaching programs for professionals in the phases of career change and leadership transition.

Yolanda is particularly passionate about equipping technical leaders with leadership skills. She delivers leadership 101 courses through group coaching and 1:1 engagement.