top of page


Forget the Career Ladder – Start Building Your Career Jungle Gym

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Source: Unsplash

We grew up with the concept of “climbing the career ladder”, but it’s time to chuck that outdated idea out the window. In the future of work, your career path will look more like a web – or a jungle gym, as Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg famously put it.

In a speech to Harvard Business School graduates, Sandberg described her career as a jungle gym full of surprises. “Don’t just look up,” she urged, “look backwards, sideways, around corners.”

As our world evolves rapidly, it’s estimated that workers will switch careers up to seven times throughout their lifetime – jumping across different industries, sectors, and types of employment. Rather than a linear climb up the corporate ladder, success will look like having the freedom to branch out and explore many different paths.

But pulling off a career change takes more than a leap of faith – it takes the right skillsets and strategy. To keep your career path from being limited, here’s how you can start unlocking more doors for your future self.

Don’t tie yourself to just one career path

Most of us feel attached to our current career to some extent – after all, it’s something we take pride in and work to be good at. But in a world where up to 800 million jobs could be displaced by automation by 2030, tying yourself to just one career path can hold you back from adapting with the times.

“Studies have shown that job loss can take twice as long to recover from as the loss of a primary relationship, because we’ve become fixed to a single occupational identity,” says future-of-work strategist Heather McGowan, “We need to be prepared to have multiple careers… to learn and adapt through these roles and identities.”

Mindset makes a difference. Rather than being attached to one type of role or career path, it’s crucial to embrace a sense of flexibility. To build resilience in the face of change, you can ground yourself in a purpose that inspires you, values like compassion that guide your actions, or personal skills such as creative thinking that you bring to the table.

Above all, start opening your mind to new career paths by learning about different industries.

Source: Pexels

Make time to learn about different industries

Outside of the usual school career fairs, it’s rare that we’re exposed to a wide range of industries. But step off the beaten track and you’ll find countless career paths waiting to be discovered.

For instance, did you know that Singapore’s trees are inspected regularly by dedicated “tree doctors”? Or that our maritime port is shaping up to be a high-tech and highly lucrative sector?

Learning about different industries can uncover new passions and paths that you want to pursue. That’s why Young NTUC organises LIT Learning Journeys to renowned companies in various industries, from technology to film and media.

Under the NTUC Starter Membership, youths can benefit from exclusive access to LIT Learning Journeys and go behind the scenes of different industries. It’s a great chance to connect with industry leaders, get first-hand experience of the industry that you won’t find online, and spark your imagination.

Look for workplaces that embrace learning

We tend to look for jobs that best fit our current skillsets, but these aren’t always the jobs in which we can learn the most.

In the next five years, the World Economic Forum predicts that 44% of workers’ core skills will change due to new technologies, a global shift toward sustainability, and more. In a world where your job description will rapidly change, a workplace that supports your learning will set you up for success.

Look for companies with learning and development programmes that go beyond training for your day-to-day work. One great example of this is VISA, which runs a learning programme dubbed Go Share. Employees at VISA are encouraged to learn new skills from another team of their choice during a three-month rotation, enabling them to explore new roles and opportunities.

Workplaces like these can give you unique access to broader experiences and diverse mentors, setting you up to chart new paths in your career.

Source: Pexels

Look for sources of learning beyond your workplace

What if your current workplace doesn’t offer employee development programmes? It’s time to seek out your own learning opportunities. One of the top five skills that workers will need in 2023 is ‘curiosity and lifelong learning’, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report.

Think about career paths or interests that pique your curiosity, even if they’re completely outside your comfort zone. Don’t hesitate to look beyond your current industry – you can get free trials to explore digital tools and platforms, or dabble in free courses to get acquainted.

From these, narrow down one or two skillsets that you’re keen on pursuing further. Bonus points if they’re transferable skills – marketing, for instance, is useful across many industries – or something you can turn into a side hustle.

Next, look into more comprehensive courses to upskill yourself. Taking courses isn’t always budget-friendly, but Singapore workers have various support schemes to leverage. Take Young NTUC’s freshly launched NTUC Starter Membership, for instance.

This membership offers exclusive perks to kickstart youths’ careers, including financial support for qualifying courses under the Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP). Youths can pick from over 6,000 training courses across diverse industries, and receive course fee support of S$200 per year.

Taking charge of your career freedom

Today, thinking ahead for your career doesn’t mean mapping out every step of your career progression – it means opening more doors for your future self to succeed. And to spur youths’ success, Young NTUC has just launched the NTUC Starter Membership.

Priced at S$36 a year, this innovative membership experience brings together a range of tailored perks for your work, life, and play. Our career-related offerings include exclusive access to career prep and masterclasses, as well as upskilling support with UTAP-lite funding.

Take a look at our upcoming events:

11 August 2023 – LIT Masterclass

22 August 2023 – LIT Prep

28 September 2023 - LIT Career Mentorship

Learn more about the NTUC Starter Membership and sign up here.

Subscribe to Young NTUC’s Digi-Fam community to access career resources, programmes, and support networks, including mental well-being and many more! Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for the latest happenings at Young NTUC.


bottom of page