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Thriving in the digital workplace: How you can stay ahead of the game

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As a young jobseeker, the prospect of stepping into today’s fast-changing digital workplace may seem unnerving. With technology reshaping the workplace in unexpected ways, it’s no surprise that you might feel unsure of what to expect, or simply unequipped for the workplace of the future.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however – with the right strategies, you can still stay ahead of the game and thrive in a digital workplace. But first, you have to know what challenges you are up against.

Challenge #1: Lack of mentorship in the digital workplace

Despite its appeal, the rising trend of remote work comes with its fair share of anxieties and challenges. If you’re new to the working world, you may fear missing out on workplace connections and much-needed mentorship.

“There are certainly many good things about being able to work from home. But for those who have never experienced a physical workplace or operated in a team environment, the question is: What are you short-changing yourself on by working from home?” says Mr Seah Kian Peng, Group Chief Executive Officer at NTUC Enterprise Co-operative Limited.

Speaking at Young NTUC’s recent LIT DISCOvery 2022, he highlighted how youths might be losing out on certain competencies when working remotely. While leaders and managers can rethink and master mentorship virtually, there are many skills – especially soft skills like ‘reading a room’ – that are best learnt first-hand with physical proximity.

Having a screen between you and your colleagues can also mean a loss of social connection, making it harder to build relationships you can count on when you need help. “No matter how well you organise a virtual lunch, it can be awkward,” shares Ms Dione Song, Chief Executive Officer at Love, Bonito.

When Love, Bonito made the move to permanent flexible work arrangements, the company found it had certain impacts on the team’s camaraderie. “For new joiners, they are no longer able to have an easy watercooler chat spontaneously. But we are making the effort to have more on-site casual coffee chats and to use the office for collaboration.”

The solution: Be proactive in connecting with mentors.

To overcome the lack of mentorship in the digital workplace, you must be proactive in connecting with mentors. There are many ways to reach out to potential mentors. You can start with social media and online mentorship networks. If you prefer more impactful face-to-face interactions, you can also take a stab at industry meetups and professional networking events.

Remember, mentoring is a two-way street. Despite your youth, you can also bring something to the table. “Be prepared to teach,” says Mr Tan Kok Yam, Chief Executive at SkillsFuture Singapore. “If you reverse the clock the last 50 years, the knowledge gradient between someone who has been in the job for a long time and a rookie is one-directional. But, nowadays, with such rapid changes in skills, teaching goes both ways.”

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Challenge #2: A growing skills gap for the digital workplace

Given the pace at which digital technologies in the workplace are evolving, many youths in Singapore today do not feel well-equipped for the digital skills needed in the next five years. With experts warning of a significant digital skills gap in the job marketplace today, youths lacking in-demand skill sets will face a harder time securing a good job.

The solution: Seek out digital skills training.

The global digital skills crisis underscores the significance of lifelong learning. It’s time for you to make upskilling a lifelong endeavour. “Technology is an enabler. How we choose to use it is up to us. We control it,” explains Ms Tan Su Lin, Chief of Staff and Head of People at Carousell.

By understanding technology as an enabler rather than a threat to your future career, you can keep an open mind to continuous learning as the digital landscape evolves. “Some see technology as taking away jobs, but it’s actually here to augment your abilities. It enables you to do your job safer, easier, smarter, and faster,” said Mr Patrick Tay, Assistant Secretary-General at NTUC.

Updating your digital skills is a major investment for your future, as it also equips you to take on higher-value jobs with better wages. And you’re in good company—36% of young workers in Singapore are now actively seeking and learning the digital skills they need for the next five years.

And it’s not all college degrees—you can proactively seek out digital skills training through internships, webinars, micro-credentials, and even online training platforms and certifications. Heads-up: Young NTUC offers internship and traineeship opportunities for youths who want to level up their digital skills and connect with top companies in the Asia-Pacific.

Source: Pexels

Challenge #3: Cross-border opportunities and competition

Digital technologies are opening up new ways of working, as well as exciting cross-border job opportunities. You might be facing tough competition from a global talent pool when vying for a remote position. Experts predict that talent with niche and specialised skills will thrive in this remote economy – but those with more replaceable skill sets might struggle to stay relevant.

Job-seekers may also find it harder to build rapport with team members of vastly different nationalities and backgrounds, making succeeding in interviews and collaborating with teammates a challenge.

The solution: Develop effective communication skills for the global workplace.

Seamless interaction and high engagement among global teams requires effective communication skills. To “globalise” your communication, be more intentional and choose empathy and clarity over business jargon. Even if you are young or new to the team, you can leave your mark by communicating well and exhibiting your leadership abilities early on.

“Even if you are coming in for a technical role or a junior position, you also need leadership qualities,” shares Ms Goki Muthusamy, Senior Vice President and Head of People in the Asia-Pacific at VISA. She observed that Gen Zs today excel in technical skills and remain self-assured, speaking confidently and convincingly even among global teams.

Staying ahead of the game in a digital future

Thriving in the digital workplace can seem daunting, but help is at hand. To help you get an edge in the future economy, Young NTUC has lined up an exciting range of upcoming programmes on career mentorship, resume preparation, and even learning journeys to selected companies.

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