Future Proof Your Career

Future proof Your Career: Major Trends and What To Do


One of the most commonly neglected aspects of career resilience is to consider future trends in Singapore and the global markets, so we can develop relevant skills and experience.

Change and Impact on Job Market
Futurists say, “Listen to the future,” but most of the time we are too deafened by the present to pay attention. So we have to lift ourselves up to listen to the future. Often, the writing is on the wall, but we are so close to it that we only see a single letter.

The consequences of planning without the future in mind could be disastrous. It could mean we lack the relevant skills and find ourselves at risk if a retrenchment exercise comes about. We might take a long time to find another job if we are laid off. It could also mean lower pay and no progress in our learning and career. Change is relentless, and its dangers are quite real.

When we asked participants in our career development workshops if any of them had not undergone restructuring in the last 18 months, none raised their hand. Studies show 41% of organizations have recently completed a significant transformation or are currently undergoing one. Another 47% are preparing to do so.

The average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 Index of leading U.S. companies has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century—from 67 years in the 1920s to only 15 years today. It is clear that the speed of change has increased.

What are the implications? The number of workers who lost their jobs last year was the highest since the 2009 recession, as businesses adjusted to difficult economic conditions (The Straits Times, March 14, 2015). Four in ten people who have lost their job are graduates. The good thing is that 59% are able to find jobs within six months of being laid off since unemployment in Singapore remains low at 2.0 to 2.9%.

Below are the major trends that impact the working world.

1. Artificial Intelligence
First, artificial intelligence is seeping into white-collar jobs. For example, at DBS, Watson—a cloud service that understands human language and context can deliver insights. It ingests thousands of documents a day at superhuman speed. Previously, bankers had to identify investment ideas from a wide body of financial reports. News outlets, for example the LA Times, use algorithms to write financial, disaster, and sports articles. Artificial intelligence is used to scour legal documents for anomalies.

However, we still need jobs that require discretion and judgment, for instance someone who will input such information or check the finished product. In the future, we will need to be more skilled and educated in the use of software in order to co-exist with technology.

2. Automation
MIT economists say that the marketplace of the new world has three categories of jobs: manual, routine, and abstract. Routine, repetitive jobs are being done by robots, a trend that grows every day. Accounting, retail sales, and payments are being computerized. Do we still need cashiers, for example, if we have self-pay machines in supermarkets?

However, people who do manual jobs, like gardeners and dog walkers, will still be needed. The same goes for abstract jobs that require personal interaction, creativity, and perception, such as police officers, teachers, and managers.

But it’s not only the technology that is changing. The job market is evolving at a quicker pace, and today there are highly popular jobs that did not exist in 2008, less than seven years ago. This is a finding in a study done by LinkedIn, using the data from over 259 million member profiles.

3. Globalization
Another trend is the ongoing globalization. Jobs are constantly moving to places that have the lowest cost. Frontiers are no longer barriers for equipment, capital, and talent.

It’s important to consider global opportunities as well since people nowadays can work in one country and sell their products or services globally without geographical boundaries. Good examples are Amazon and Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of online shopping.

4. Government Regulations
As job market changes, so does the government regulation of this market. New labour laws are developed globally that push towards productivity, property curbs, and free-trade agreement. Changes in legislation can seriously affect the job market, so it’s important to stay up to date on the laws and how they impact your industry.

5. Diversity in Workforce
As time goes, younger generations integrate into the workforce. Young people begin their career journeys; however, more older people remain in the workforce. This leads to a growing diversity of experience, habits, and mindsets as old and young generations begin to work together more than ever seen before.

Besides an increased age diversity, there is a continuing trend towards multiculturalism. This is an offshoot of globalization where people from different cultural backgrounds are working together, either in person or virtually.

Diversity is the keyword for the future. It is a trend unlikely to end any time soon. But all this begs the question of how to ensure smooth collaboration and avoid stereotypes and tension from lack of understanding. How do we adjust to the increasing pace and the continuing changes? The answer to these questions is to develop skills for the future.

Developing Career Resilience
Here are the emerging skills and capabilities that can help us stay on top of the game, even as the job market changes.

First of all, changes require the ability to adapt, so agility, defined as the ability to learn and unlearn skills, is basic. We also need to be able to manage the changes, develop a tolerance for ambiguity, and see it as a source of opportunities rather than problems. Being resilient and adaptable will be very important in order to stay afloat in a changing market, so those are very important skills too.

A second aspect to consider is that even in a different market, one thing remains constant – human interaction. No matter the job we do, we need to have good people skills. We may need to negotiate and influence others in order to get what we want. We need to learn to have empathy and to collaborate successfully in the workplace. We may also need to know how to manage stakeholders.

With the trend of diversity, being cultural intelligence may help to advance our careers and improve our networks. A thing to consider is to have overseas experience. Not only does it give us exposure to another market, it develops our adaptability and collaboration skills with other cultures.

Creativity and innovation are universally valued because they can be applied in a variety of ways. In order to make the most of these skills, we need to be good at using technology, adjusting to changes, and adapting technology to our needs.

Finally, we will need to be responsible and active, own our careers and not wait for others to tell us our path.

Keep Listening to the Future
The lesson is clear – we need to listen to the future. We have to step back and get the full picture of the landscape we have to navigate. To do that, here are three questions to ponder and discuss with your colleagues:

1. What are the trends in your organization, your industry, and the global economy that could impact your work?
2. What are the upcoming changes in your organization? Is there going to be a change in customers, strategies, product lines, restructuring, and mergers and acquisitions, etc.?
3. What new skills and capabilities will you need in the future?

We have to anticipate and prepare, so we can position ourselves to take advantage of future opportunities.
Enjoy the ride!

Written by Wendy Tan and Lee Kang Yam
Founding Partners
Flame Centre

The purpose of Flame Centre is to unleash possibilities and potential of people and organizations through partnerships. An affiliate partner of Career Systems International, Flame Centre works with organizations to engage, retain and develop their people.

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