Us, in the Future of Work.

What Does It Take To Become Real-World Ready?

By one popular estimate, 65% of students entering primary school today will find themselves working in jobs that don’t yet exist today. In a world where technology is fast changing and industries are being disrupted faster than our syllabus can keep up, how do we prepare ourselves and our children for the Future Of Work?

Education systems across the world are under pressure to reform, given the threat of falling out of relevance, with Artificial Intelligence taking over the work humans used to do. The standardised production-style of education is said to be woefully obsolete, having been built for an industrial-era in which the focus is on academic knowledge, as summarised in this talk by Sir Ken Robinson calling for a change in education paradigms.

Anxiety Over Skills

We see a growing anxiety over whether we will be ready for the new economy, with multiple surveys and studies predicting the skills most necessary to prepare students in, for the future of work. Just to name a couple, the Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum shows us how fast and how much future skills-in-demand have changed in just a period of five years.

In Singapore, the Center for Future Graduate at the National University of Singapore has also surveyed employers on the essential skills list, coming up a list of skills, most of which are soft-skills:

Lost In Purpose

Beyond skills and capacity, which is needed to answer the question of what we need in order to be able to do what we do, there is the issue of purpose and motivation: what drives people to want to do what they do. A study by talent firm Aon Hewitt finds that Singaporean employees are the least engaged among major Asian markets, meaning that they are the least likely to feel meaningfully invested in their work. It is a trend that is more prominent, especially among younger employees. This could possibly be because youths place a greater degree of importance on finding meaning and purpose in what they do.

According to a survey done by LinkedIn, 4 in 5 young professionals in Singapore identify with going through or having gone through a ‘quarter-life’ crisis. The top concern? Finding a job they are passionate about. We have seen many who struggle to identify what they care about, and also those who have been disappointed when their ideals brushed up against reality.

The transition from school to work proves to be a tough one for many young people. Getting a ‘good job’ straight out of university is proving more challenging than anticipated for some, with rising rates of graduate unemployment or under-employment.

A Platform For Becoming Real-World Ready

In starting Bold At Work, we wanted to create a space to bridge the gap between school and the real world. Over the past year working with young people in this space, we are learning that the capacity to be ready for the real world, whatever it may bring, happens in a three-part story:

Story of Self: “If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?” Hillel, a Jewish sage of the 1st century, starts with this question. Because unless we know who we are and what we stand for, there is no ‘us’ to be and to offer. In Mad At Work, our core curriculum for career design, we journey with youths through the questions that elicit what makes them, them, and what is the unique gift that they are to the world. Whether in their life histories, their strengths, inclinations and preferences, it is not selfish and self-regarding to give attention to that which gives us life, for that is the foundation for building a life in itself, has the greatest potential and propensity to be life-giving.

Story of Us: “But if we are only for ourselves — what are we?” Hillel continues by extending the idea of self, that we find ourselves only in relation to others, for no man is an island. Whatever work we do, whatever change we aim to effect, happens in a context that involves others. How much do we understand the world in which we operate (or hope to operate in); how much do we know about what its needs, wants, and ways are? And so, borrowing from the ideas of design thinking, we advocate a process whereby the youths learn to confront reality as it is and not as they wish it would be, and develop the capacity to imagine multiple possibilities and pathways to get around what they cannot change in order to get to where they want.

Story of Now: “If not now, when?” The most well-remembered line of the three-part adage, this final stage is about moving forward and taking action, in the midst of complexity, tensions and uncertainties. In an uncertain and fast-changing world, we may not know for certain what is next nor whether our path will pan out as we hope. But that does not mean we are subject to paralysis, instead we develop our capacity to probe and sense, and respond accordingly. In taking small steps forward through prototype conversations and experiences, we bring our desired future into being one bit at a time!

MAD At Work

In many a search for career advice, you may have come across advice by Howard Thurman, who advocates that the world straightens out once we figure out the self. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” You may also have come from the other direction, seeking what “makes a difference”.

In MAD At Work, we journey participants through the three stages of one’s life story- making the best out of a seemingly opposing tension between what I want (Story of Self) and what the world needs (Story of Us) in order to move forward (Story of Now).

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Yoek Ling is a co-founder of and trainer at Bold@Work, a youth-centric start-up company, with the mission of empowering and developing young people to be equipped with skills for the future of work. She wants to empower youths to find values that they relate and hold to, and translating that into work and life that they are crafting for themselves. In our MAD at Work programme, we guide students to explore and understand realities and provide them with support to move closer to their goals.

Are you interested to make a difference in your life? Join Mad at Work now! To find out more: