This young man who just started working tells you what it’ll be like when you graduate

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He graduated last year and was shocked to find that whatever he knew about the working world when he was in school? It’s so drastically different from reality. That’s not to say he’s blaming anyone for his misconception, he just wants to let other people know what he thinks is most important for young Singaporeans who are going to enter the workforce in the near future.

Given how affluent most Singaporeans are right now, and how our parents usually provide for us when we cannot survive in the society by ourselves at the present moment, it’s safe to say that most of us probably aren’t too worried about the global economy and job outlook at the moment.

After all, we have the advantage of being young, the advantage of being better educated and if we’re performing well in school, we have the advantage of being selected over other candidates. We’ve always been told that as long as you get good grades, you’ll get a good job, and most of us enter the workforce with this mindset. But is it true?

Unlike our parents’ time, where the only major factor in whether you get to keep your job or not depends on how hard you work, it’s not the same anymore. Today, massive technological disruption can cause companies to close down and thousands to lose their jobs, no matter the size.

Just look at the publishing industry; what used to be a mega-sized industry with big players became one or two publishing firms just trying to survive as consumers taste changed rapidly. Within a short span of time, companies find themselves struggling to stay afloat as their consumers left, frantically threading water and trying to keep their heads afloat. Most of them drowned.

Some, who embraced new technology, found themselves trying to catch up with companies who took the step forward earlier. A great example would be Singapore Publishing House (SPH). They were the foremost publishing house in Singapore, but even they had to switch to providing digital information, and after their paid subscription model couldn’t work, they switched to other modes of revenue to remain in the green and compete with the rest of the news sites out there.

But whether the company keeps afloat or not isn’t our problem, or at least it won’t be until we rise up to the level where we can affect the outcome. No, our responsibility at the moment is to ourselves, and just like companies, we can become obsolete and be discarded like trash the moment we no longer provide value for the company.

Sad fact of life, but true. After all, NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing said it best, no one owes us a living. Something most of us young Singaporeans need to understand. Fast.

Similar to companies, the job market is shifting incredibly fast as well, and qualifications aren’t enough to save you anymore. That’s not to say it’s not important, instead, you need more than that in order to remain competitive in the job market. Most importantly, you have to move with the times, and take care not to be obsolete.

In my opinion, it’s all about upgrading, upgrading and upgrading. Skill upgrading isn’t only for workers in their 40s who needs to polish up in order to remain competitive nor is it just for people who wants to make a mid-career change. It’s also for young people who have just finished studying and left school, and even students who are still studying in school.

When you join a company, you’ll be stuck at a 9-5 job, and if you don’t take the initiative to improve yourself, you can be sure that you’ll be replaced after your 1-year contract with the company is up if they find someone better and younger.

But it’s not all bad. The good news is this: we have more resources than before when it comes to planning our own training and development. We no longer have to depend on the generosity of our company when it comes to developing ourselves professionally. Instead, we have the option of turning to NTUC UTAP fund and SkillsFuture to improve our employability.

Unlike before, where our employers would make sure to send us on training courses directly relevant to our work and ensure that the skills are minimally transferable, we can now choose to develop according to our passion and interests. Improve on our current capability? Sure. Develop a new skill? Why not? The sky’s the limit anyway.

In January 2016, S$500 was credited into all Singaporeans’ (aged 25 and above) SkillsFuture account. The amount can be used to offset training courses and workshops that you want to go for, and there are future injections of monies planned for the future. And that’s not all there is to SkillsFuture. If you want to know what it’s all about, check out the article we’ve written on this nationwide movement itself.

In addition, UTAP (Union Training Assistance Programme) is an individual skills upgrading account specially for NTUC members. As a member, you enjoy UTAP funding at 50% of the unfunded course fee capped at $250 every year. While not everyone will sign up for a membership with NTUC, we’ll still urge you to at least take a look at them before writing them off because there’s plenty of perks that comes together with becoming a member of NTUC, or at least that’s what we think. From counselling to advice, workplace protection and mediation, there’s plenty of services and perks you get to enjoy.

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Put these two schemes together and you’ll come to realize that you have the opportunity to develop yourself in a way that most people could only dream of in the past. Since they’re there and available for you, why not make use of them, right?

From someone who’s currently in the situation that I’ve described, I truly urge all young Singaporeans to start looking at the various programmes and development opportunities available and start planning. Now. Because the earlier you do so, the higher the chances of you making it big. Agree?