You studied for nearly twenty years.
You graduated from a renowned university.
You feel that you have learnt a specialized skill and you
feel confident in securing a high-paying job.
Thus, you entered the job market with optimism and hope. And….. =(
Just to be clear – I am not saying that it is extremely difficult to secure a job. I am saying that due to the immense effort we spent in attaining our degrees, the realities of the job market fall short of our expectations. Either we do not get the job we want, or the pay simply does not make sense for nearly two decades of academic pursuit.
3 Harsh truths about succeeding in our generation.
Truth #1 – Your profession is becoming increasingly competitive and saturated.
This issue is not exclusive to Singapore.
Internationally, for every investment banking job, there are on average 10,000 potential candidates! Even if you get the job, the vast supply of degree holders means that you are replaceable in an instant. The result – Slow career progression and sluggish pay increments.
In most mature industries, there is way larger supply of degree holders.
There is even an oversupply of lawyers in Singapore!
Of course, there will always be a demand for doctors and certain engineering specializations.
While competition is a good thing, focusing in areas where competition is lacking might work out in our favor in the future.
Truth #2 – The safe route is no longer safe.
We are inclined to take the safe and proven path. Subconsciously, we might be getting into certain professions because of our parents. Or perhaps due to someone we deemed successful.
Sadly, the path that was successful in the previous generation may not be so for us. Many of us are still focused on specializations which are at risk of being replaced by automation.
Furthermore, certain degrees such as accounting and law were in low supply 15 to 30 years ago. There was low competition for these careers back then. Thus, they got high pay and rose to managing partner positions quickly.
It is different now. You can still become an accountant or a lawyer. But, career progression will be much slower. The incremental demand is lacking compared to the rapid rise of supply for these degrees.
Some of us are truly passionate about accounting or law. It is likely they will enjoy their jobs and gain fulfillment in doing so. By doing what they love, they will not feel depressed by the long working hours. The discrepancy between their expectations and what they do will be significantly less as well.
However, many of us are drawn to such professions because of the prestige or “safety”.
The reward is no longer high enough to do something you dislike over a long period of time. In the past, it was fine. The pay grade, job security, and career progression is enough to keep someone motivated, even if they feel neutral or dislike the job.
So ask yourself, are you willing to do something you dislike or feel nothing for over many years? Are you willing to spend 4 years of your university life studying something to get a job that pays you a starting salary of $3,000/month?
I doubt so.
Truth #3 – Increased automation is reducing the importance of your specialization
AI, Machine learning, blockchain & big data are rewriting the rules of the game. These technologies are not just quicker than you in calculations, they help make better and smarter business decisions.
In every corner you look, these technologies are gradually reducing the significance of your profession. Fintech and cryptocurrency will change the banking industry.
Spotify and Netflix utilize clustering models (Data analytics) to recommend you movies and music based on your streaming history. Amazon uses predictive modeling to know what you want before you make a purchase.
In fact, machine learning has proven to beat the best DOTA and chess players in the world. If these games, which require so much human input can be beaten by technology, it can certainly do many specialized job junctions better than us. It is only the matter of time before AI & machine learning become cheaper and more available in our society.
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Day trading, for example, is becoming incredibly challenging.
There are algorithms that trade at a 100X faster than you.
There are even algorithms designed to beat these algorithms.
This is also true for many other industries. According to Bloomberg, accountants, auditors, credit Analyst & retail sales are highly at risk to be replaced by automation.
WHAT THESE HARSH TRUTHS MEAN FOR ME (THE GRADUATE)?
When there is an increasing supply of outdated specialists and increasing automation to replace these specialists, we end up with
a very miserable career outlook.
WHAT SHOULD I DO THEN?
Gain an advantage of the present, not an advantage of the past.
We have to shift from specialized to diversified skills; combining our knowledge from two distinct schools of knowledge or skill sets. This is something which cannot be automated.
For example, data-driven marketing. Most of us assume that marketing is about creativity and requires a lot of artistic inputs. True. But, marketers can use data to enhance their jobs.
The next generation of marketers will be filled with people knowing how to combine data analysis with creativity. They will be using A/B testing to test variations in campaigns. Or use cluster modeling to predict what your clients like.
The rules of the game are favoring diversity.
Netflix combined data with show business and production. They used data to predict what genre or content you might like. Thus, their production has a higher rate of success. This makes their investments less risky.
Cryptocurrency combined the concept of currency with blockchain technology. Making transactions decentralized without compromising security.
WHAT KIND OF SKILL DIVERSITY IS GOOD DIVERSITY?
There are 2 ways for us to identify a good skill to learn.
#1 – Skills irreplaceable by technology
There are certain skills that technology cannot replace.
For example, customer service and service-oriented industries.
There have been many insurance startups aimed to disrupt the insurance space. This makes perfect sense. After all, insurance agents do get commissions behind every deal. Automating the process by allowing clients to sign up for deals online, would significantly reduce the cost of your insurance since no commission is given to any agent.
So why is there still a job market for insurance agents?
The human touch and the art of persuasion.
I am not suggesting that we all quit our jobs or give up our job search and become insurance agents. We are simply analyzing the skill behind agents that ensure their survivability.
Honing your Interpersonal and communication skills is guaranteed to remain relevant.
If you are an entrepreneur, this is even more important.
You have to sell yourself, sell your company to investors and clients. More importantly, you have to sell your vision to those who join your company.
Communication is just one of many skills technology is unable to replace just yet.
For more information about this topic, click here.
#2 – Skills that enhance automation and productivity.
I have stressed the pivotal role of Data, AI & automation.
One of the biggest skill which enhances automation and productivity is data.
Data is at the forefront of innovation.
According to Belindar Parmer, CEO, The empathy business, data is the driving force of the fourth industrial revolution.
Data is responsible for the rapid rise of many top companies in the 21st Century.
Think Spotify, Facebook, Netflix, Google, and Amazon. This is because successful companies understand the importance of data and they rely heavily on data analytics to test their intuitions.
If you think that data is only important in tech industries, you have gravely mistaken.
Walmart pioneered the use of data analytics way before any of its competitors.
Even the shelve heights were A/B tested to derive upon the optimal height for maximizing sales. By pioneering the usage of data to enhance their cost leadership strategy, Walmart gained market power and became the leader in the US supermarket industry.
The trend of data usage will become more widespread across all industries.
The demand for data literate professionals will come along with it.
Thus, being literate in data gives you a significant edge in our generation.
With that being said, data is only one of many skills that would enhance automation and productivity. For more on this topic, Click here.
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While this editorial is not aimed to provide specific solutions,
It might just give your friend the revelation they need to break away from conventional wisdom.
– Wiggins Lee