From magician to durian seller and tourist guide to funeral service advisor.
Such were the switches that Vikneswaran Allagu and Aderen Lim had to make when their professions were put on hold because of restrictions imposed by the movement control order.
With so many disruptions in the job market, the ability to adapt and step out of one’s comfort zone is important if one wants to survive.
Though conditions have eased somewhat, experts forecast that unemployment will hit 4% in 2020.
Compare this to 3.2% during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and 3.7% for the 2008 financial crisis.
It is not a rosy picture.
For magician Vikneswaran, or Vikey as he is better known, there was no time to waste on despair.
The father of one, who has a second child on the way, decided to sell durian from his four-wheel-drive vehicle after seeing someone doing the same from a car.
“I am the determined type, ” said Vikey when asked how he took to another profession so quickly.
“We know what the situation is like. If you insist that you are done, then you are done.
“It’s all about mindset and taking action, ” he added.
Perseverance is also key.
The challenges that come with the job of prying the thorny fruit apart are not much different from being buried alive or locked in a water-filled chamber (both stunts which put Vikey in the Malaysia Book of Records).
Having customers cancel their orders just as he arrived at their doorstep aside, one incident that remains vivid was the time when he got stuck with 300kg of unsold durian.
“I didn’t spend too much time worrying. Instead, I announced a special promotion via social media.
“Within five to six hours, everything was sold, ” recalled Vikey, who has close to 20,000 followers.
For Lim, when it comes to finding new ways of earning an income, it is important to remember that you will need time to build your bases.
Lim’s last assignment as a tour guide was to see a group of Chinese tourists off at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in January.
The job of selling funeral plans came unexpectedly when he bumped into another fellow tour guide who convinced him that it was not much different from being in the property or insurance line.
Still new, Lim admitted his income was now just one-fifth of what he used to earn.
But with funeral plans, hard-selling is not the best way to go.
Calling this his redevelopment period, Lim is using this time to reinvent his image on social media.
In all his posts, he poses like a Hong Kong movie star next to columbariums, funeral parlours and memorial stones.
It is called branding by imagery.
This way, the hope is that his friends will always associate him with the funeral industry.
“So far, all my meetings are with pre-planners.
“I have yet to handle instant cases with grieving relatives.
“But I am mentally prepared for that when it happens, ” he said.
Lim is also in the midst of reactivating his vlog on car performance reviews and started selling fancy handmade soap online.
One lesson Lim and Vikey have learned from the pandemic is not to depend on a single source of income.
They are hopeful that once the entertainment and tourism sector fully reopens, they will find themselves in several businesses that will be able to provide more streams of income.
Just think positive and surround yourself with like-minded people, said former five-star hotel head concierge Hussni Hussin.
The father of seven described the day he was asked to consider a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) as the saddest day of his life.
A member of Le Clefs d’Or, an elite association for concierges, Hussni said he never thought he would be out of a job.
But as the hospitality industry was one of the worst hit sectors in the pandemic, he was out of a job by early July.
“The first thing I did was call my friends.
“They advised me not to be tempted into ‘early retirement’ as I had savings plus 10 months’ pay from the VSS.
“One of them, who is also my former boss, advised me to take up e-hailing to earn money for daily expenses. So, that’s what I am doing now, ” said Hussni.
His family also chipped in to help, starting an online laksa home delivery business.
On average, he sells about 150 packets a day.
On how he managed the stress and anxiety of an uncertain future in the beginning, Hussni said after the last day at the hotel, he took a two-week break, spending time with his wife and three children, especially the youngest who is only four years old.
Former English teacher Nor Khairul Hafizi Rosli, who is now a digital marketing executive with a mobile data plan provider, said the thing was not to be choosy when it came to picking a new job.
Having started life as a butcher, Khairul admitted he had worn many hats throughout his working life, from a jungle trekking guide to handling maintenance for heavy machinery.
He has learned not to be shy or hesitant when it comes to asking for help.
Khairul landed his present job after sending a WhatsApp message at 1.30am to a friend who he had met at an outdoor event, asking about any vacancy available.
Unbeknown to him, he had directly asked the chief executive officer of Red One Network for a job.
“I met Farid Yunus earlier this year and I got to know him from talking about maintenance for sports equipment, ” explained Nor Khairul, who now handles the social media page for FA PDRM, a football team which the company is sponsoring.
In a nutshell, the ability to recognise one’s own strengths and eagerness to apply them in new situations are the key ingredients needed to thrive in the new normal.
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