New developments in the deep tech fields like Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have many young people rightfully concerned about their role in the future job market. What if the degree you’re taking now is obsolete by the time you graduate? What if you leave university unprepared to compete with other, more skilled workers?
Seah Chin Siong, the President & CEO of Singapore Institute of Management, says that there’s no need to worry. Mr. Seah joined Young NTUC’s LIT DISCOvery 2020 virtual symposium to offer some words of support to young fresh graduates.
To Mr. Seah, staying relevant despite disruption depends on three major factors: skills, knowledge, and commitment. By staying aware of the world around them and taking initiative, anyone can equip themselves to make an impact—in their work and personal life.
Digital skills aren’t enough—you also need people skills
Mr. Seah has held many, many different roles—he’s served as a Board Member of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, the CEO of Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) International, and a Board Member of the National University of Singapore’s Institute of Systems Science.
Over the course of his career, he has helped many organizations crystallize and execute ideas to help deliver real socioeconomic outcomes—and he believes that people skills are a necessity.
He shares, “Every economy is usually organized by industry. But no matter how skilled you are, you must have strong emotional intelligence as well.” This is built by becoming more active in communities and the workplace and approaching the world from a people-first perspective.
Keep growing your knowledge base
Staying relevant in an ever-changing job market requires constantly staying up-to-date with the latest developments. “Knowledge is crucial,” says Mr. Seah. “Constantly upgrade your knowledge. Why? Because your learning curve is your earning curve. The more you learn, the more you will be able to earn.”
Be committed to your field
It’s possible to learn nearly any skill in the world, but if you’re not passionate about the field, you’ll quickly burn out, performing more and more poorly until things fall apart.
“If the skillsets you desire are important, but you don’t truly care, then you’ll never be truly good,” says Mr. Seah. “And that’s not good. Back in the early years in my career, one of the things that helped me to stand out was being known for something I was really good at. When someone needed a specific skill, they would go to me.”
Honing and refining the skills you’re passionate about is how you’ll eventually be able to build a name for yourself, work with different people, and learn more and more new things.
DASH+ Skills framework
At SIM, Mr. Seah and his team have put together various learning frameworks to help employees upskill. One of these frameworks is DASH+—skills that require a level of complex processing in the mind that computers can never entirely replicate.
Design thinking: taking a human-centered approach towards solving problems and getting rid of your customers’ pain points.
Agile thinking: How you quickly iterate and evolve.
Systems thinking: Thinking about complexities and systems.
High performance/hyper growth: Growing at scale and rapidly amassing the skills you need.
Leadership: Taking proactivity and guiding others to the same vision.
“Success is about thriving in a world despite constant change,” Mr. Seah explains. “The key is to be adaptable.”
When the state of the world—and job markets—is always changing, people in charge must validate skills in individuals. For example: companies want to ensure that someone is proficient in critical skills like programming, software development, design thinking, or even customer service.
Fortunately, says Mr. Seah, these skills are verifiable through what he calls micro-credentials. “With micro-credentials, you can stack up to a higher qualification. Attend a few modules or online courses over a period of time, and in many cases the credits can be stacked up automatically with additional studies, all the way until you qualify for an advanced degree.”
Micro-credentials can be as simple as a Hubspot certification or certificate from edX.
Take advantage of government support
It is now very easy to enter or traverse across different industry domains, says Mr. Seah, because of how the Internet has democratized knowledge. “The opportunities are there,” he says, “and the sky’s the limit.”
Singapore is dedicated to helping citizens and students through programs like the SGUnited Traineeships Programme for Trainees. Take advantage of programmes, educational opportunities, and training courses as they become available.
Still, it’s completely normal to be confused about your direction, especially right after you graduate. If you’re still unsure, Mr. Siong recommends asking friends and trying out some of what they’re doing. You could also look at upcoming fields—whether that’s AI, Big Data, or something else entirely—and choose to commit to a specific industry.
“The key is always to work to love it,” he explains. “Remember, once you’re good at it, you will be noticed. And when you’re noticed, you’ll build a reputation. And suddenly, over time you’re the expert, relative to the peers around you.”
Because the skills gaps for some of the fastest-developing fields are so wide, many universities and organizations are investing in programs and causes that can teach much-needed skills and prepare students for the future of work. As a fresh graduate, you can benefit from the high demand by learning these skills and requesting a competitive wage.
Once you’ve learned the skills you need, start seeking out new opportunities with employers.
Recommended fields to pursue
Some predictions from someone who’s witnessed the world change: “AI is going to become bigger, and I believe it will replace menial tasks so that humans will be freed up to do more significant, impactful work. Another thing to pay attention to is the way we deal with our lived experience: virtual reality, augmented reality, cross reality, cinematic reality.”
Edtech is another field which Mr. Siong expects will grow in the near future. Education is a global challenge, especially as more and more students are getting access to Internet and smart mobile devices. “The question is how we can get people to learn in the fastest, most efficient manner to build skills remotely,” he says.
Final thoughts: stay positive
The current job market is tough, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have a job should be grateful, and continue to upskill so they can remain relevant. For those who are still stuck applying for job after job, Mr. Siong recommends taking the time to build your CV.
“Don’t just talk about your degree,” he says. “Talk about your skills. Differentiate yourself from your peers and talk about what you’ve done and what you can do. That’s how you can emerge from this crisis.”
This is a guest post by Daniel Tay. He is the co-founder & managing director of With Content, a content marketing agency helping tech companies create credible, authoritative content on topics that matter to potential customers.