You might have heard the term “career health” spoken around lately when it comes to Singapore workers.
In his Committee of Supply (COS) 2023 debates in Parliament, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng stressed the importance for Singaporean workers to proactively manage their own career health.
“Better career health is key to helping our workers move up the career ladder, stay current and employable, or switch to a new job that better matches their skills and interests.”
He added: “Just like physical health, career health has three aspects.
- Awareness: We must take regular health checks to know our health status and risks.
- Healthy habits: Information is only meaningful if we act on them. We know that to stay healthy, we must maintain good health habits. Similarly, we need to set longer-term career goals and take pre-emptive steps towards achieving them.
- Bouncing back from setbacks: Sometimes, things will not go our way. But if we have kept up our health, we can get back on our feet more quickly, with some help!”
He further explained the premise of career health in an opening address at the Mendaki Symposium 2023 in July 2023.
“Before politics, I served as a medical doctor. Perhaps, wearing the hat of a general practitioner allows me to dispense some friendly doctor’s advice on employability and lifelong learning. I want to use health as a proxy,” said Minister Tan, and shared the following advice.
Know thy health
“First, know thy health. I think you know that usually when you see a doctor, the doctor will tell you to do an annual health check-up to determine your body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“In a similar vein, it is therefore important to have better insights and awareness of your own career prospects, your personal career prospects amidst what is happening around the world and the industry, and how the economy is heading, where it is heading, how it is growing and how it is transforming.
“Now, a lot of my older friends and colleagues will say that “ignorance is bliss” – sometimes it is better to avoid health check-ups to avoid hearing bad news. But given the advances today, it is always better to detect health issues early so that you can actively intervene, either to prevent it or to put yourself in a better position.”
Have a plan
“Secondly, always have a plan. If you don’t plan, there is only one way, and that is downward. It is good to have hope, but hope is not a plan, so don’t just hope.
“Translate that hope – put down what you hope to see and then implement a plan. If we know the state of our health, the information is only going to be valuable and useful to the extent that we act on it by developing healthy habits in terms of our physical exercise, the diet that we keep, and the rest that we take.
“You apply that in terms of looking for jobs or improving your career prospects – those are the parallels that you can draw.
“As I have said in career health, we, therefore, need to take decisive steps to stay ahead of the competition, and we should stand ever ready to seize new opportunities when they come.
“My colleagues and I from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) stand ready to develop alongside you a career plan to help you to reskill, upskill and to take on new career challenges so that we can stretch and develop you to achieve mastery in your domain and improve your career prospects.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“Last but not least, if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help.
“We know that even for the fittest and healthiest among us, life will always throw curveballs, and people may experience health shocks. Some of us may experience employment shocks in our lifetime. People may fall into unemployment through no fault of their own.
“The key thing is to always be positive. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can consult a friendly career coach from Workforce Singapore (WSG) or NTUC’s e2i, who will be able to provide you with career advice.
“The government is also carefully studying how we can provide re-employment support for displaced workers so that you can bounce back stronger from setbacks.”
Career health is about win-win future-proofing for Singapore workers, and their employers too!
Minister Tan also spoke at the opening address at DBS FutureForward Week, the bank’s annual learning event for employees at its Marina Bay headquarters in July 2023.
He praised DBS as a good example of a company that future-proofed local workers, retraining its workers, and making employees feel valued, engaged, and empowered, which was “very close to my heart”, he added.
More local employers will be adopting such mindsets, especially amidst the global economic uncertainties and new disruptions confronting us, with how we work and the types of jobs that are rapidly evolving.
Minister Tan reflected on how the rise of automation and generative artificial intelligence (AI) will also lead to greater churn in the labour market.
“Job security is no longer guaranteed; continuous learning must become the new constant. Organisations and the workforce need to keep up with such accelerating change.”
He then shared why career health was a priority for both workers and their employers.
“For employers, the career health of your employees is paramount because employees are their most valuable resource and asset.
“So, as you think about how your business can continue to thrive in the ever-changing economic environment, you should also consider what skillsets are needed among your workforce to keep ahead of the competition, whether jobs need to be redesigned, and how to upskill and reskill your employees to be adept for those roles.
“Their career health will dictate your business success.”
Minister Tan said: “For workers, career health, just like our own physical health, requires constant effort to upkeep. We do regular health checks.
“Likewise, we urge all Singapore workers to do regular “career health checks” to find out what new opportunities exist in the labour market and what the adjacencies are in terms of the skillsets that are needed to seize these opportunities.
“Take charge of your career and develop “healthy habits” like planning your career goals and actively pursuing upskilling and training, to continue to stay ahead.”
More tools available now for your career health and resilience, so keep upskilling and reskilling
He also shared more about a new feature available on Workforce Singapore’s MyCareersFuture portal, adding: “The Government has also recently rolled out CareersFinder. It is a beta feature on the MyCareersFuture portal where you can similarly obtain personalised jobs and skills insights.
For those wondering what CareersFinder is about, it helps jobseekers discover personalised upskilling and career recommendations by analysing their profile.
Using data on skills adjacencies and job transitions in the labour market, Singapore workers and jobseekers can identify new career opportunities based on their individual profiles and recommend suitable training programmes to help them achieve their respective career goals.
Minister Tan said: “We hope that CareersFinder will be a starting point for your next steps to move up the career ladder –be it through taking a course to upskill, gaining more experiences in your present role or by making a career switch!”
Ultimately, even the government is choosing to embrace technology with such tools, and harness them to provide Singaporeans with more personalised jobs and improve their career health.
Some elements of generative AI seen on popular platforms such as ChatGPT will also be adapted and adopted into the MOM’s entire spectrum of services provided for Singapore workers, he added at the NUS-ISS Annual Luncheon 2023, which also showcased the stories of five graduates who made successful mid-career changes from non-tech industries into the IT field.
He brought up one of these graduates whom he met at the luncheon, who recently received a Graduate Diploma in Systems Analysis from NUS-ISS. She previously graduated with a degree in psychology and sociology, but is now an application consultant in the IT field.
Such successful upskilling and reskilling endeavours inspire Minister Tan himself, he shared, calling them “role models”.
He wrapped up his speech summing up the importance of career health and reskilling by quoting a Chinese idiom: “Translated, it refers to how the nature of studying is like rowing a boat upstream- if you’re not advancing, you’re falling behind!”
(Image Credit: NUS-ISS)