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Will My job Still Be Around in 5 Years Time? And Other Singaporean Millennial Worries

 

Will My job Still Be Around in 5 Years Time?

The changing face of work and what we can do about it…

OPINION | BY SMITH LEONG | 3RD JULY 2019

“There are always people who see me as just the guy who talks about race,” Bomani Jones said, of his experience in sports media. | Photo by Jeffrey Koh

Singaporean Millennials Ask: Will My Job Still Be Around in 5 years Time?

Dear Millennials, 

It’s been well over a decade since I started working, but my mother is still trying to understand what I do for a living.  

I have been in a few different jobs/businesses that revolve around marketing and social media in my journey thus far. One of my previous jobs allowed me to work from home. I was up most nights staring into the computer and only awoke during mid-day. My mother probably thought I was just playing video games throughout the night.

The author’s parents, pictured above.

The author’s parents, pictured above.

My mother started working at the tender age of 12, back in 1962. (Sorry mum, I know people say that age is a woman’s biggest secret...) She started working in a factory before becoming a full-time mum and part-time seamstress.  

She calls it part-time, but in today’s context, we would probably categorise her as a “freelancer” along with titles such as “founder”, with her own sewing company which would probably have its own instagram account to showcase the dresses she made.

7 in 10 youths were unsure or did not think the tertiary education they received in Singapore prepared them sufficiently to join the workforce
— Youth.SG Poll
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Times are different and not only have our lifestyles changed but even the methods of how we earn a living have changed over the years.  Given the pace of technological advancement and transformation, do we then necessarily assume that “older people” will eventually be phased out of the job market and become irrelevant?

The hard truth is that our current jobs are unlikely to be around forever. Given the amount of disruption and digitalisation these days, chances are current jobs will be disrupted away.

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Are our jobs really disappearing? Is it really inevitable? I beg to differ. I choose to believe that our jobs are actually evolving instead of disappearing. The fundamentals of jobs are pretty much the same. The basic concept of “buy low, sell high” to maximise or make profits will never change.

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Social media marketing was not a thing when I was in school either. However, the fundamental principles of marketing have not changed. What have changed are perhaps consumers’ behaviour and expectations, and also the platforms and tools available for marketeers. We have to have adaptive skills to pick up technical skills and technology skills to keep up and to stay relevant. Old dog, new skills are possible.

Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them
— Steve Jobs, Founder, Apple Inc.

The concern with disappearing jobs is not a concern unique to millennials. It is one of the biggest concerns for the entire workforce, regardless of age and generation.

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So, do we have an answer? One word: Training.

In his recent speech at the 108th International Labour Conference recently in Geneva, Switzerland, secretary-general Ng Chee Meng focused on how Singapore’s unions are working with businesses to set up Company Training Committees (CTCs) that involved businesses, workers and the union together to collectively identify necessary skills and training to help workers keep up with industry transformations and remain competitive.

CTCs intervene purposefully by putting businesses, workers and the union together to collectively identify necessary skills and training that workers need in order for the businesses to digitalise and remain competitive.

Beyond locally driven initiatives, we can take a leaf from global examples of successful change and innovation.

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In the 1970s when Star Wars creator and director George Lucas wanted to include visual effects that had never been seen on film. He assembled a team of college students, artists, and engineers, combining various disciplines and skills-sets to overcome the limitations of his era.

Jeffrey Koh and his friend in his toy filled office.

This resulted in the formation of Industrial Light and Magic, a state of the arts visual effects company which would go on to create visuals in iconic films such as Jurassic Park, Back To The Future, Indiana Jones and Terminator 2. This breakthrough in the film industry set the standard for many of the modern films we enjoy today, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers and Spiderman Franchises.

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You could say that without this instance of “up-skilling” by George Lucas and his band of merry adventurers, many of the modern entertainment franchises (with their insanely realistic visual effects) which we take for granted now…may have never come into existence.

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Within the larger context of human history, the modern concept of a “formal job” (i.e a place to go to and work at), has only been around for less than a century. Human civilisation has always revolved around the concept of adapting to the law of the land, and the pursuit of innovation and consequently, the relentless modernisation of society.

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Today, millennials are born in a very fortunate era. Almost every topic or skill can be learnt online, via the myriad options and permutations of easily accessible content.

Such ease of access to new knowledge was a totally foreign concept when I was a teenager. I had to spend time travelling to another physical location, typically a community centre or library to pick up multiple reference books just to pick up a new skill.

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In my opinion, any potential threat can be turned into an opportunity. Technological advancements also create new economic sectors with new job opportunities. New flourishing sectors will also require more professionals in better higher-value adding jobs.

 Your future job might look different, but if you stay relevant…it will still be around.

May The Force Be With You.

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Smith Leong.  | CONTRIBUTOR

Social Media Trainer @ NTUC | Youth Mentor | Labour Champion