[ Screenshot from my friend’s Facebook page ]
“We must renew our economy so that Singapore will always be a place where our children can chase rainbows and fulfill aspirations. [In order to] remain relevant and competitive… SkillsFuture must succeed!” – President Tony Tan
In his President’s Address at the opening of Parliament on 15th January, President Tony Tan highlighted the importance of SkillsFuture and how it MUST succeed. What that implies is that you and I MUST succeed with the help of SkillsFuture.
You can watch the President’s Address by following the link below:
A survey has found that 6 out of 10 PMEs face job difficulties due to a lack of relevant skills, therefore it is imperative for us to continually stay “in the know” of the skills we need to thrive in the workplace. For instance, we may need to sign up with a professional body and continually ‘upgrade’ our skills by attending courses or masterclasses. More importantly, we need to appreciate that the term “lifelong learning” is not just a catchy buzzword politicians like to use, it is to be our reality.
In response to the President’s Address, Ang Hin Kee, Director of NTUC Freelancers and
Self-Employed Unit, pointed out how “it is not surprising for a worker to change jobs 4 to 5 times in his career. Some even take on jobs in different industries. Indeed, technological shifts or rapid changes in customers’ tastes have led to traditional jobs or tried and tested ways of making a living, becoming less reliable.”
If it is imperative that we succeed with SkillsFuture, well, we first need to identify the most crucial skills that we should have. Here are my top 5, most of which are considered ‘soft’ skills, in no particular order of importance:
1) Interpersonal Skills
Communication is crucial in any relationship and in a working environment, we need to be able to communicate effectively with different groups of people: coworkers, team members, bosses, customers, suppliers, etc.
One ex-colleague shared with me that when she was working in a civil service job, she was so stifled by the culture in her workplace that she had no choice but to quit. Her colleague, seated some two desks away, had sent her an email asking if she would help pick up (from the ground) that document that he had dropped. He could have simply opened his mouth and asked her to help him retrieve the document, no?
Much has been said about how increased usage of technology has led to a decline in interpersonal effectiveness and face-to-face communication. Are you capable of striking up conversation with a stranger? Are you able to keep that conversation going without too much effort? Are you able to communicate effectively with people from a different background, culture, nationality, etc?
2) Presentation Skills
I am convinced that the people who are the best at speaking and presentations need not necessarily be the people with the most knowledge about the topic. Often, the people who get the promotions are the people who are the best at making themselves seen and heard, and perceived to be the best suited for that promotion. However, that person might not be the one who is the most hardworking nor the most deserving.
I think this is where Asian students and workers differ from our Western counterparts. We tend to be less expressive, keep our opinions to ourselves, and realize too late that someone has already uttered those thoughts or answers that we had thought about but did not feel as inclined to immediately share.
Thus, I think that every parent should send their kids to speech & drama classes. Children need to learn how to express themselves from a young age. The confidence built and eloquence nurtured will stand them in good stead in future workplaces. Adults can hire public speaking coaches, or become a member of a Toastmasters club (fees are very affordable!)
3) Leadership Skills
It is no longer sufficient to simply ‘Lean In’ at work, as Sheryl Sandberg will tell you. It is also crucial that we step up to lead teams. With leadership, you need to learn to build your team, keep teammates motivated, define objectives clearly, communicate the objectives effectively, manage the team, learn to delegate tasks, and also ‘captain the ship’, so to speak.
In Singapore, we do not have enough ‘leaders’ within the workforce. Most people are experts at ‘taichi’. Need someone to head a new project? Let’s ‘wait and see’ who will volunteer for the job. Need someone to head a committee? Not me, I have too much on my plate already.
In order to climb up the corporate ladder, one needs to be equipped with leadership skills. After all, aren’t the C-level executives leading an entire company of people?
4) Critical Thinking and Forward-Thinking Skills
I think this subtitle is self-explanatory. We will not only need to be able to think out of the box by thinking creatively, we’ll also have to re-define that ‘box’ and innovate, to produce a new ‘carton’?
Also, we have to learn how to predict and prevent problems before they arise, and continue to be flexible and adaptable in this ever-changing world.
5) Time and Distraction Management Skills
Too much has been said and written about time management skills. But I guess what most people need these days is distraction management skills. People’s attention spans have become shorter and shorter. And yes, in the course of writing this blogpost, I found myself surfing Facebook, checking my email and also thinking about tomorrow’s schedule. I’m sure you can relate to this too. And you’ll likely agree with me that we need to learn how to manage distractions.
How does one stay focused on the task at hand? How long can you focus on the task at hand?
I think meditation would be useful for most. Did Mr Lee Kuan Yew not recommend our current Prime Minister to learn how to meditate? Also, because a task usually ‘expands’ to fill the time allocated to it, I set a timer for 40 minutes whenever I have to produce a blogpost by a certain deadline. It helps to close all other browser windows and switch my mobile phone to silent mode too!
If you are wondering about how I will use my SkillsFuture credits, well, I’m interested in one skill that everyone should have, but most of us don’t: the ability to grow our own food.
So the courses I am looking out for are those involving urban farming, small space agriculture, etc. 🙂
As President Tony Tan has mentioned, “Terrorism has become a dangerous and persistent threat”, and in the midst of pursuing success in our careers, we may need to spend some time learning basic survival skills, basic first aid skills , and even how to grow and forage for food. Otherwise, we remain sitting ducks WHEN (and not if) the terrorists come after us.
And I am hoping the government will give us top-ups to our SkillsFuture account soon, as the courses can be a little pricey even with grants factored in. 😀 NTUC also has a training grant called UTAP which gives NTUC members $250 a year to upgrade themselves. That means you have even more (sponsored) upgrading opportunities this year if you’re an NTUC member! 😀
Finally, I’ve recently attended a dialogue session with Mr Lim Siong Guan, Group President of GIC. Mr Lim shared many brilliant insights which I believe will be helpful to you in your career, so read it here. And all the best! 🙂