Mr Ng Chee Meng 黄志明
National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)
Job security refers to the likelihood of an individual keeping his or her job. The higher your level of job security, the lesser chance of you becoming unemployed.
In October 2019, a JobStreet survey revealed that most Singaporeans now prioritise job security almost as much as salary and work-life balance. Given its increasing priority, what extent of control does a person have over increasing their own job security?
We explored that in a discussion with career coaches who have deep expertise in coaching or training.
Firstly, there are factors affecting our job security which we have very little control over.
Many workers aged 40 and above still hold the old belief that they will be able to work comfortably in the same job for 10-15 years – maybe even for life. But given the volatility of the economy and certain industries, job security is not guaranteed.
External factors range from digital disruptions, economic downturns, and company restructuring, to un-progressive workplace environments or employers. Of late, we are seeing the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak taking a toll on the economy – tourism, aviation, retail and food services sectors taking the biggest hits.
Digital disruptions or advancing technology in certain industries could mean massive job displacements for workers. There is constant talk around, ‘Is your job replaceable by robots?’ Retrenchments stemming from company restructuring can, similarly, leave a person feeling dejected. They are forced to find another job that can accept them with the skills that they possess.
Concerns are rising especially among PMET workers in their 40s to 50s, who are asked to go because their skills have become redundant. This is also why initiatives like the Job Security Council, was recently set up to help place retrenched professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in new jobs fast.
Lastly, we can all agree that nobody likes a boss that displays zero concern over your career progression, or who ignores your months of slogging to achieve their KPIs. Toxic work environments created during stressful seasons may also push workers to their breaking points.
These factors are acknowledged. People certainly do not choose to fall into such circumstances. When they do, the best thing they can do is to make forward decisions in the right direction.
The answer is, definitely! We have covered some areas that we realistically may not have much control over, but one still has some extent of responsibility over their own job security. With that said, taking proactive steps to strengthen your job security is crucial, so that you can withstand even the rockiest of circumstances.
A 2019 LinkedIn survey found that majority of mature workers believe that age is the biggest job opportunity gap for them. But ageism may not be the case at all. It boils down to your mindset and openness to change.
ASEAN Millennial Speaker Vivek Iyyani has observed that many mature workers expect to retire soon, so if the technology isn’t crucial to their current job survivability, learning is unnecessary. However, because the retirement age is rising, this break they are looking forward to may not come as soon as they expect it to.
Executive Coach and Founder of Quest Discovery Academy Winston Chue, who e2i engages from time to time, warns of the dangers of focussing solely on surviving in a job and not being forward-looking. He stresses that one should couple active learning with experience to truly progress.
A job seeker, who wished to be referenced as Ms Ng, shared: “Some people spend most of their energy complaining about their job plights or making demands on social media, letters to their MPs, etcetera. They constantly seek someone else to blame – a previous employer or workplace, the government, the job market, or just their bad luck. I’ve been in that position before. Instead of ranting, which does very little to solve their situation, a person would be better off spending their energy on areas they can personally improve in.”
e2i Career Coach Tracy Tan advises:
“We have to accept reality and take responsibility. Do what you can with where you are at. Being stuck will never solve your situation, even if you can prove you are right about it.”
Tracy adds: “For those facing employability distress, what they need is to actively and humbly seek help. They can talk to industry mentors, or a career coach who can equip them with the latest hiring requirements and assess their skill gaps.”
“They should expand their hiring opportunities by networking, attending job fairs, or interview and resume-writing workshops. It could be one of these factors that are causing them hindrances in securing the right job, more than most external factors.”
Winston has also noticed from his 11 years in coaching that while mature workers will go for courses if their companies sign them up, many are unwilling to initiate the upskilling. The fact of the matter is that we may not always have the luxury of time to pick up new skills, especially when crisis hits.
For example, when businesses had to quickly put their put business continuity plans (BCP) into immediate effect due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Telecommuting and split team arrangements required employees to immediately adapt to communicating and holding meetings via video conferencing and chat applications.
In such uncertain times, being proactive in regularly updating one’s skills and being digitally savvy has never been more important. Winston comments:
“What is in the mind comes out in our actions. Learning something new is not difficult. But if a person has a poor mindset or attitude about learning, progress will be futile.”
Winston addresses work aptitude and grit: “Globalisation and technological advancements has increased competition for jobs significantly compared to the past. A degree certification was considered special last time, but now, it’s common. Now, 3 in 5 PMETs are degree holders in contrast to 1 in 5 previously. People are learning at greater speeds, and if a person doesn’t work at staying abreast of industry developments and skill requirements, they could be left behind.”
It is especially during economic downturns where retrenchments will be seen taking place heavily across various sectors. When companies are forced into cost-cutting measures and downsizing, the first to go would be those that are of the least value-add to the organisation at that point in time. This is why complacency is a danger to a person’s job security. Individuals – especially PMETs, must maintain relevancy and competency in the workplace.
As for younger Singaporean job seekers, e2i Career Coach Yoges made observations that millennials seek work-life balance, value and career opportunities when looking for a job. They want to make a difference or create an impact in the organisation, thus they value constructive feedback from more experienced peers – teachers, parents, educators alike. Her advice to job seekers is:
“First understand what your career interests are so that your career goals are more aligned. Once you nail your career goal, it’ll be easier to embark on a proper search for a job you want to stay and grow in.”
It is possible to find out what some of your career interests are, through a career guidance session with a coach. Workshops like Career Navigator has useful personal assessments which can help a person to plan their career goals more effectively.
Tracy cites the need to understand oneself, one’s push factors and the job market. Without considering these and having a proactive mindset, planning a clear career path and finding a job match one will most likely stay in will be difficult.
Winston highlights the dangers of being too comfortable in the same place and position for too many years. If one can do the job “with one eye closed”, it is time to move onto something else.
“You need to shape up or shift out. Be curious about the outside world and read up on multiple genres. It’s not difficult to find a job, but it’s a different thing altogether to find the job,” says Winston.
Understanding your interests and strengths in your career is the first step to committing to stay, learn and grow along that career pathway. Harnessing deep (technical) skills allows you to root yourself in a particular industry’s knowledge and practices. Broad (generic) skills however – refers to transferable skills a person can take with them out of that industry into another (such as communication, problem solving, leadership, digital literacy skills).
For many, a balance of both technical and generic skills in their respective job competencies ensures higher chances of job security. In the event of a retrenchment, this could also mean higher chances of crossing over to another industry with the horizontal / portable skills which one possesses, making a person less vulnerable to long-term unemployment.
Vivek brings up the rise of the gig economy and option of ‘side hustles’ such as Grab, giving tuition, blogging – even selling things on eBay. Not only are they an additional source of income in tough times, they are avenues worth exploring to identify what skills you are good at.
“You have to put in the hours and resources, they may prove to be a useful skill when the time comes.”
Essentially, we are personally responsible for growing our aptitude, resilience and skill sets – the very factors that affect job security – to the best of our ability. The world and the economic climate is evolving – thus as working individuals, so should we .
If you need career guidance or employability assistance, click here to make an appointment to
see a career coach from e2i. (e2i’s Career Coaching services and workshops, career fairs and seminars
are complimentary for all Singaporeans.)