5 Tips for Young Singaporeans Who Have No Idea What They Want Out of Their Careers

By Joanne Poh

The face-off between baby boomers and millennials rages on at the workplace. The former continue to be infuriated by the latter’s demand for flexibility and work-life balance, their dislike of hierarchy and their obsession with finding their passions. Despite all that talk about finding your passion and doing what your heart tells you is right for you, how many young Singaporeans are actually any closer to pursuing their interests at work than the worker drones they consider their parents’ generation to be?

It seems that for all their idealism, millennials aren’t enjoying very much more job satisfaction, as evidenced by high turnover rates.

But how do you find fulfilment at work when you’re not quite sure what your passions are but have no choice but to enter the workforce in order to survive? Here are five tips for newly-minted grads who’re reluctantly starting out in their careers.

Focus on skill-building rather than doing time

Your job is not a prison, although it sure feels like it at times. Many employees just go through the motions when they’re not that interested in their jobs, counting the hours till 6pm every day. They then pray that they will magically progress in their careers when they’ve reached an adequate level of “seniority”.

Approach your jobs in terms of the skills you can pick up from them, no matter how mundane, and you’ll learn a lot faster and more efficiently—which enables you to leave more quickly for a better job, if that’s what you want. Even if your current gig is far from being your dream job, don’t waste the chance to learn useful skills that you’ll be able to use when you do figure out what you really want to do.

Go broad rather than deep

If the previous generation excelled by specialising, this generation of young Singaporeans will benefit more from having a broad skillset. Things change so fast now that over-specialising can lead to your becoming obsolete and unable to adapt to a new role when robots take over your job. Just ask all those middle-aged PMETs who got retrenched this year and last.

So try to develop a broad range of skills. This can be scary at first, as you’ll certainly feel more uncertainty than someone who’s already picked a specialisation. But eventually, when you have learnt more about your strengths and interests, the pieces will fall into place.

Never say you have no aptitude for something

To cultivate a growth mindset, never let yourself be intimidated by the fact that you have “no aptitude” or “suck” at something. Due to the broader skillsets needed in today’s rapidly-changing workplaces, you are bound to find that you have more difficulty developing certain skills than others.

So when you run into difficulties, know that it’s perfectly normal, and absolutely can be surmounted with hard work and the right attitude.

Don’t ignore the importance of building interpersonal and intercultural skills

Would you describe yourself as “socially awkward” or someone with “low self-esteem”? Well, that’s going to mess not just with your social life, but your career as well.

Good interpersonal and intercultural skills are even more important now than they were for the previous generation. More bosses want to hire somebody who’s not just a decent worker, but also a “good fit” for the company. Thanks to Singapore becoming home to zillions of foreign-born employees and businesspeople, intercultural communication skills and sensitivity are now indispensable.

Don’t know how to communicate effectively? Well, you don’t have to be born with it. Learn through books, videos and workshops how to build your confidence and become a better networker.

Your career path is not a straight one, so explore the forks in the road

Gone are the days when one’s career path was a straight, narrow road that always led to the same end point. These days, nobody works for the same company for life, and ten entry-level employees doing the same job can end up on very different career paths in ten years’ time.

There are now more career possibilities open to young Singaporeans than ever before, so take your time to explore all the options. Talk to seniors, always be curious about what others are doing and how they got there, and jump at the chance to pick up new skills or gain exposure to another area of work.

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 1 November 2017. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Joanne Poh)

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.


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