Take the Initiative

 Keep Yourself Relevant by Sharpening Your Skills

Do you know your strengths, interests, or what is meaningful to you? Do you know how to navigate 40 years of your life?

One of the main thrusts of the recent Budget in Singapore is SkillsFuture, which aims to help people deepen and broaden their skills so that they can remain relevant in a changing economy.

As a Singaporean, I am heartened to see the various schemes in place for individuals to deepen their skills. SkillsFuture is a scheme that will cost more than $1 billion from now to 2020. It is also targeted at growth industries, such as financial services and healthcare and makes lifetime learning and career resilience possible.

Research shows that 76 percent of Singapore-based employees are not satisfied with their jobs. The lack of career development is a top reason, above an unsatisfactory pay. Many work at jobs that are unrelated to what they studied, and hope for interesting work and career progression.

In my career development workshops, most participants confess that they spend more time planning their vacation than their careers. Some people do think about their job security, but lack a systematic process to guide their thinking on careers.

Most people are so busy with work or our personal lives that they have little time to think about our careers. This is an insidious trap because 40 years of our lives can drift by quickly. Career development, which is really planning one’s life, starts with you.

A friend of mine has to work in KL and shuttle back during weekends to be with his three children. Yet another friend who goes through re-structuring every 9 months, does not know if she has a job in the next year.

There is indeed a lot of churn in the world of work. How do we keep ourselves relevant? This is a critical and actually low-level question according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The prized question should be – what is the best work I can do that will give me meaning, trigger my creativity and ignite my passion?

Before you can take good advantage of the various SkillsFuture schemes, you need to think through your own career. Dr Beverly Kaye, a pioneer in the field of career development, suggests these 5 steps to guide our thinking on career development:

  1. Know Who You Are: What are your strengths, interests and values? What energises you at work? What do you naturally do well in? What is important to you at work?
  2. Know What Others Think of You: What is your reputation? What is your brand? Reputation precedes opportunities. Manage your reputation or you will be managed by it.
  3. Know the Future: What are the key trends in your organization, industry or global economy? How will these trends impact your opportunities? What skills will become more valuable in time Plan with the future in mind. A 2013 LinkedIn study found that the top 10 jobs now did not even exist 5 years ago.
  4. Know Your Options: Do you have any backup plans? Rather than think of a career ladder, think of a rock wall. To get ahead, sometimes you need to move right, left, diagonal, take a step or just grow in place. There are more options that you realize.
  5. Know Your Plan: What do you need to learn now and how?

Take action. Focus on development. Opportunities go to people who are prepared. Know what types of skills, experiences and exposure you need.

These 5 steps will help you navigate your career path. Talk to your peers, managers or people who have walked the journey. Then put your learning into action. Lastly, remember, there is nothing we cannot do – only what we have not learnt to do!

Written by Wendy Tan.

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