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HomesingaporeTODAY Youth Survey: 74% think they could be retrenched at least once,...

TODAY Youth Survey: 74% think they could be retrenched at least once, amid strong belief in taking responsibility to stay relevant

SINGAPORE — Itching for a new challenge after working as a primary school teacher for five years, Ms Krystal Koh decided to leave what she called an “iron rice bowl” in order to jump into the technology industry last year. 

This sense of personal responsibility lies alongside some anxiety about the future: 74 per cent of them agree that it was possible they could face retrenchment at least once in their lifetime. 

And almost eight in 10, or 78 per cent, said that not learning new skills could increase their vulnerability to losing their jobs. 

The annual TODAY Youth Survey seeks to give a voice to Singapore’s millennials and Gen Zers on societal issues and everyday topics close to their hearts. It was conducted in August and involved 1,000 respondents aged 18 to 35. 

This is the third edition of the survey and it looked at youths’ views on housing, the importance of a university degree, career development, the gap between blue collar and white collar wages and civic participation.

TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR OWN CAREER 

Career experts and youths who spoke to TODAY agreed that individuals play the primary role in ensuring their own relevance in the job market.

While some companies offer training and development programmes for staff, it is still up to individuals to take charge of their own learning, said Ms Tuyen Do, the principal career coach at The Happy Mondays Co, a career coaching firm.

“Your career growth is a partnership with your employer, but you steer the wheel. Personal initiative is crucial whether you’re embarking on your very first role, or in a senior leadership position,” she said. 

So for example, she said, workers should have a conversation with their employer if learning and development is a priority for them, as different companies of various sizes will possess different levels of resources and it is essential to align one’s expectations with the company’s capacity. 

Agreeing, Mr Adrian Choo, the chief executive of recruitment firm Career Agility International, said that employers may not know each individual’s unique talents and interests.

“So they may recommend courses that the organisation needs, but not necessarily what you may excel in. That’s why we need to take charge of our own upskilling,” he said. 

Mr Zacary Tan, who works in the building and construction industry, knew this instinctively and took action to develop himself. The 31-year-old recently completed a user experience design and digital product management course at Nanyang Technological University that he signed up for himself.

Doing this course is one of the ways Mr Tan is trying to gain a breadth of skills, as he plans to undertake courses across various fields to find interests to sustain what he thinks will be a “long road of career switching”. 

For example, he is now open to pursuing roles related to digital user experience design. 

“I would say the onus is on oneself, especially if you want to switch industries or do a rotation within a company, you have to show that you have the skills needed to rotate to a new role in your industry,” he said. 

While many of the youths TODAY spoke to said they have taken proactive steps to ensure they stay relevant, many added that having a company’s support and resources is still very important to them.

Ms Raihana Suhaimi, who is currently a deputy centre lead at preschool My First Skool, is on track to graduate next year from her part-time degree at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education. 

Her personal desire to pursue further education was made possible with her employer’s support, as NTUC First Campus is sponsoring her degree and also provided study leave for her to better manage school work and assignments.  

Being able to attend modules on topics such as teacher leadership and special needs education while working has benefitted her both as a student and teacher, as it allows her to apply what she is learning in real time.

“Since I’m taking the degree part time, I’m able to reflect a bit and I can apply what I learn back at work, which helps me reflect on how I can be even better in engaging teachers or classes as a whole.” 

LOOMING POSSIBILITY OF RETRENCHMENT

Ms Jiah Lim, who is 23 this year, said that her retrenchment from her first job earlier this year was a key turning point for self-discovery. 

She had been in a sales strategy role that did not require her to face clients, so when she decided to pursue a more client-facing role, also in sales, she made sure to speak to people already in the role she was aiming for, to learn what kind of soft and technological skills she might need. 

She then sought to teach herself these skills through online courses on platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Coursera to differentiate herself as a candidate from the “flood of talent” she expected to be crowding out the job market after recent company layoffs. 

It is a pragmatic mindset. Mr Choo the recruiter said that in today’s volatile world, structural retrenchments are the norm and it is going to be difficult to avoid throughout one’s career.

He said being “skills-agile”, or attuned to the relevant skills that the current market needs, can give a candidate a leg up when they try to get back into the job market.

Agreeing, Mr Ben So, who is a Career Coach at Emunah Coaching and Training, said there is no foolproof measure against retrenchment, and young workers should buff up their technical skills while building up soft skills such as problem-solving and effective communication throughout their careers.

Mr So also added that youths should build a strong network outside their companies by, for example, attending seminars to meet like-minded people and potential future employers.  

Learning from mentors was key for Ms Cynthia Chin, 28, a business development manager who joined a one-year mentoring programme that allowed her to gain fresh perspectives on long-term career planning and guided her to evaluate job opportunities more effectively. 

For example, Ms Chin said that candid discussions with a more experienced mentor provided clarity for her at a “crucial decision point” on whether to choose entrepreneurship or a more traditional career path. 

GAINING SKILLS AND RESILIENCE 

Mr Christopher Tee, a programme manager at a venture capital firm, believes learning new skills is not only a way to remain relevant in a volatile hiring market, but it can also help one to explore what one really wants in his or her career. 

The 31-year-old, who previously worked as a career services adviser for a local university, said that the changing job market has also resulted in more people, especially youths, being increasingly open-minded to changing roles and industries as a way of gaining expertise in different areas. 

“The first job or the first couple of jobs is really for a person to understand what it means to be socialised into the working world. This includes the language, the behavioral norms and expectations of a workplace and to actually just learn how to do that particular job,” he said.

Through gaining different skills across various roles, Mr Tee said that young professionals will be able to discern what they really want from a job. He also believes it makes them more attractive to recruiters, whose beliefs may have evolved over the years.

“It’s no longer seen as this person is flaky for having six roles in the last 15 years, but that they have a lot more perspective and experience to offer compared to one person who has stayed at one company for all 15 years. Then that person might be seen as a limited one-trick pony.”

TODAY will be going live on Oct 19 and 20 to discuss the findings of the Youth Survey. Tune in to the webinars at https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/today-goes-live-2023-2259246

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