Ep 84: 3 Vital Soft Skills You Will Need For the Future of Work

3 Vital Soft Skills You Will Need For the Future of Work

In episode #84, we share 3 soft skills you will need to prepare for the future of work. 2020 has accelerated many underlying growth trends, from the rise of the gig economy, the remote working arrangement, AI automation, use of technology, whatnot. And many of these trends are here to stay. So how then do we prepare for these fundamental changes?

Tune in as we share mindsets and soft skills to prepare for the future of work amidst these fundamental changes. What are these changes? How will it affect you? What are some ways to prepare and thrive amidst these changes?

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podcast Transcript

Our theme for the month is the future of work, and I believe many of you guys have somehow experienced some changes to the way you work. I mean, 2020 has fundamentally kind of accelerated a lot of these underlying growth trends. From the rise of the gig economy, the remote working arrangement, AI automation, use of technology, what have you… now all these big buzzwords have just kind of been shoved into our face because of COVID. So like it or not, many of these trends are here to stay. And how then do we prepare for these fundamental changes? How do we thrive in the future of work? So I have a lot of great guests coming up this month, but just for today, I’m going to share with you my perspectives and some of these fundamental ways you can better prepare to thrive in this future of work. Welcome home. 

Good morning everyone. I welcome you to another day with The Financial Coconut. In our podcasts, we’re debunking financial myths, discovering best financial practices and discussing financial strategies that fits our unique life. You get it, ultimately empowering us to create a life we love while managing our finances well, and today, we are going to spend some time to focus on how do we thrive in the future of work.

So I think something that we all have to grapple with is a lot of these quote unquote “COVID situations” are here to stay. Things like remote work, gig economy, automation, use of software and whatnot. Honestly, they were already round the corner.  They were at a corner looking at everyone, you know, but nobody really cared. Most people was just going along and doing their thing and then now COVID and suddenly a bit like “boo!” You know, so they are not like far-flung ideas that just suddenly happened. They have been building its momentum and yeah, these are some things that we have to grapple with.

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So as the world changes, as economy changes, certain skill sets will become more favourable and certain skill sets become less favourable. So it’s the same, it’s a cycle all along. In the past, when you know how to operate machines, you are like a thing, right? Like, wow, you know, people think you’re cool and you’re paid very well. And then after that machines can operate themselves and then you end up… you have to reskill, retool, upgrade yourself and all the national campaign that is going on, which is pretty accurate.

The reality is there is a labour market and certain skill sets are more popular, right? So these days, there’s a short supply of coders, we need data analysts, people are doing digital marketing. So if you have all these skillsets, great for you. If you don’t, then maybe you want to consider doing some of these things. So the reality is these cycles always happen, and there is a very good chance that these cycles of change where different skill sets become more important and certain skill sets become less favourable, more in supply, less in demand, gets paid less. These kinds of cycles will probably shorten itself over time.

And so today I’m not going to try to pinpoint what hard skills you should go for because you all have a certain preference. You want to do what you enjoy, you want to learn certain things, while the reality is demand supply determines what is the prize of the particular skill that you have. I think a lot of people will want to choose different, different things that they enjoy and pursue.

Not everyone needs to code. And the truth is, if the world is all with coders right, it will probably be a very sad and boring world [laughter] I talk to a lot of coders, they code in their own way, but they are weird and quirky in their own ways. So whatever, that all aside, we need different, different personalities. We need different people in this world to continue to be vibrant and exciting, but work on skills that are in demand. And that is not our focus for today, right? So no discussion on hard skills, because that will keep changing. I’m going to spend some time to talk about the mindsets and some of the softer side of things so that we can take on these things to keep thriving all the way into the future.

My base belief is that change will become faster and faster because of technology, because of enablement with tech platforms and all these kinds of stuff, which we are really seeing some very clear trends. One of which is realistically, all the high, highly repetitive jobs will be replaced by machines and software, right? So all your administrative, your manufacturing, your sorting or things and all those kinds of stuff… actually, if you think about it, just on the basis of sorting songs, right? That’s quite a whole different discussion already. How many songs are being produced on Spotify every day? So if humans can’t do that, machines will have to do that.

So it’s not all about menial labour, but anything that’s highly repetitive even in the tech space has to change. And it’s here to stay lah because anything that is repeatable will get automated by machines, whether is it hardware or software. 

The other very clear trend we are observing is that thinking work is going global. In the past, people use virtual assistance, right? People online, they are on Upwork, they are on Fiverr, do simple design, liaison booking and what have you. Now very simple, kind of executor level online work, but during COVID, I’m pretty sure a lot of companies are realizing that “oh wow, actually we can get our whole team remote.” People that are thinking and creating and doing all the insights and ideation, they don’t physically need to be around. They can still do pretty decent job. Many of these global companies have come out to announce that they’re going to continue such remote working arrangements. Spotify, Reddit, Twitter and you know a lot of these guys… they’re all okay and ready to do that. 

What does that mean? It means that competition will be global. It’s no longer a local hiring thing, but it also means opportunities is global. That means we can actually get remote work in New York, in UK, in California and all those kind of stuff. And you can be living at Bali or Vietnam and where have you not. So it’s gotta be a pretty fun and interesting world going forward, but a lot of uncertainty for sure. 

Which brings me to my very first point of how do you prepare and thrive for the future of work? And that is, you really gotta be able to manage anxiety and uncertainty on your own. In other words, you got to learn to manage your mental health.

And I’m not going to spend time today to talk about “is yoga better or meditation?”, or “do you need to eat well?”, or “do you need to exercise?” and all this blah, blah, blah… all this kind of stuff. I think there are a lot of content out there propagating mental health and talking about how you should… best practices to manage your mental health and manage your anxiety, manage the uncertainty and what have you not. 

But I’m going to come from the angle of my proposition: why should you work on your mental health, and why should you dedicate resources and bandwidth to look into how to be better at managing anxiety and uncertainty? We’ve pointed out in the early part of the podcast, a lot of repetitive work will be automated. So what is going to happen is more and more people will be moving into creative work, and it’s not just about design, not just about drawing, but creating new campaigns, new ideas of what is going to happen, discovering new insights and what have you not. Essentially, a lot of work will be thinking, solutions, solving problems and all those kinds of stuff… less and less repetitive because whatever that can be repeated will be automated.

In the past, people care about their physical health a lot because if you think about it, the more hours you can spend at work, the longer your work hours, the more you can carry, the more you can do, it really directly translates into economic value. The more you make lah, essentially. Which is why you care about your physical health, you want to be healthy. All the many, many years of medical research has… a lot have been about keeping the human body strong and productive in that sense. But as we move into a world where a lot of things are about creating, thinking, ideating, solving problems, everything is about the brain. 

You need to then take that same care that you have for your physical health. Like you sign up for the gym, you eat well and all those kinds of things, into the mental aspect. Because all your productivity, all your capacity to produce and create will be from the brain. So if you can better manage anxiety, better manage uncertainty, and just broadly speaking, have a better mental health, very likely you will have an edge in this space… you’ll be more productive and the future of work because it’s all from the brain. 

So like it or not, I hope you spend some time to learn about mental health. How do you manage anxiety and how the human psyche works? Because that will help you thrive into the future. The key word is thrive, okay? If you just want to survive, you just want to be one of the many… then so be it lah. But I doubt that is what you want because you’re listening to a podcast, it’s about personal finance. So you are here to want to be better and do better. So if you want to thrive in the future, care about your human psyche, care about your mental health.

Which brings me to point number 2, and that is you must be able to self-learn. Okay, I know it’s very cheesy. A lot of people talk about it, but I’m going to share with you some stories and insight as to how do I recruit people to join my team. And to me, self-learn is extremely important. So we’ll talk about this after a word from our sponsor.

As we venture into an era where things change faster and faster, macam we change underwear like that huh, the reality is you will never be sufficiently skilled, okay? You will never be sufficiently skilled because everything you thought you knew, two years later, there’s some enterprise, upgrade, new software that we are going to use, some changes to the practices and all those kinds of stuff… and then what’s next? You are never prepared sufficiently for the future. If you think of it from a consumer experience standpoint… so in the past we use Facebook, right? Or maybe earlier people use Friendster. Okay, I know if you are even earlier, you… maybe your ICQ [laughter]… like super old messenger platforms. But these days, people use Instagram, Snap, TikTok and what have you not. And over the few years, more and more of these kinds of social platforms are coming up. 

Just on this consumer interaction, social media kind of platform, you see the way businesses are changing, the way marketing mix are changing. And every few years, there’s some sort of new thing. In the past, people write blogs and that is enough. Nowadays, you’ve got to do video content, you got to do podcasts, you got to do paid advertising and all these different dynamic interactions and medium changes will bite back into the business change. And then we have a lot of downstream changes that will come along from hiring different people to, you know, understanding different content mix to producing your product. Everything will change. 

And actually, change has always been around and the problem is not with change, but the rate of change. If you think about it, nowadays companies got TikTok manager, you know… like TikTok is such a young platform, but it has grown so fast that companies cannot not look at it anymore. It has to be part of their marketing mix. So then they hire people, they hire professionals in this space that understands TikTok and then whut, it becomes a job! So companies are moving so fast because consumers are changing their experiences so fast. 

And one of the other things is if you think about it, in the past, companies use a lot of enterprise software, which are big and bulky, very hard to move. But these days, more and more companies are using SAS products. SAS products, software as a service, whether you’re using Zendesk, using Slack… you’re using whatever kind of SAS software out there, they update so fast, there are always new features, new things, they are creating new stuff. So the rate of change is getting faster and faster, so you have to keep up with it. The faster you can keep up with it, the more creative you can be, then you can be always on the job, you’re always on the forefront. 

And I’m telling you all these not to be like your cheerleader and say, “yeah, you can do it!” No, no, no, no, no, no, no… I’m just trying to give you a reality that this is what is going to happen. And of course, I know you can tell me that “Oh, I work in a bigger company. I work in a corporate. I’m not like in a startup, things don’t change as fast.” Yes, in a startup, things change a lot faster, but what is relative in a corporate space, it is relatively slower does not mean it’s slow, okay? If it’s slow, it will.. you know, eventually get killed. If you look at, just on the personal finance space… in the past, people have to talk to insurance agents, have to talk to a broker. But these days, you’re just a scan away from all your robo-advisors, your brokers… you can invest off the cuff on the road, you can do so many things everywhere. 

And the faster these startups are moving, there’s a relative speed that all these big corporates have to keep up with. If you don’t keep up, their businesses get attacked and they eventually fall out of favour. Same for government, same for big businesses, as long as the general speed is moving, everybody will be moving faster. So in an environment where rate of change is higher and there are all these information online, if you can assimilate things in a shorter period of time, then you have an advantage to move up, to be a valuable member of every single organization that you’re with. And that will render you forever a valuable member of the organization that you are in. If any one point in time… okay I know, honestly, it’s very tiring to keep learning and keep, you know, keep up with the times, but touch your heart. If any one point in time you feel like “wah, I may lose my job”. Then that is a red, red light. You really got to think, think, think, think, think, and recognize that “hey, maybe I have slackened off for some time, I’m not keeping up”. So yeah, do your thing and get back together, guys. 

Which brings me to point number 3, and that is: to be likeable and relatable. Okay… yes, yes, yes, yes, I know it sounds very cheesy also. It sounds like one of those things that will appear on “top skills companies are looking for”, “the next 5 soft skills that you must focus on” blah, blah, blah. I know a lot of HR articles are very repetitive and very broad strokes and it don’t really makes sense, so I’m going to try to help you make sense as to why you should be relatable and likeable.

Too many people talk about two things: networking and be authentic. To me, these two things are very rubbish, okay? And  I’m going to explain to you why it’s very rubbish. Number 1, networking. So networking is the idea that you go out, you connect with people, you make friends, then you get opportunities, which is not fundamentally wrong. But if you think about it, one step before networking is you must have some sort of value. You must be good at some thing. If you’re not good at something, then network with , what can I do with you? Right? We can hang out and drink and be drinking buddies, but there’s no value exchange that can happen… maybe other than drinking buddy then value lah. So in the early days of your career, in the early days of trying to find your footing in this broad capitalistic system, you really got to be good at some stuff.

While we all agree that change is going to be very fast, you got to keep learning new stuff, but the fundamental is there are certain core skill sets that you need to have to be in whatever field that you’re trying to be. It’s like, you want to be a designer and then you don’t know how to use Photoshop, but you keep networking, right? It’s kind of weird. So please go and brush up on your skills. But after you brush up on your skills, you reach a point where, okay, you’re quite good while you do, you know what you want, then you have to make friends. Then you have to be out there and opportunities will start to come because you have value exchange, you get all these kinds of connections out there. They will help you go further, but first make sure you know what you are trying to do lah. 

And the other thing is about being authentic, right? It keeps repeating. So I keep hearing this thing, but how authentic are we? If you think about getting to know someone as a multiple tier kind of thing, when you first get to know someone, you always talk about very surface stuff, because everybody’s trying to sense what is going on, what are certain places that mutually we’re interested in that we can spend time to talk more about, and then as we move deeper, I will share with you more and more stuff. And some of these things at the very, very, core of every person, you may never ever know. They may just carry them into the grave and you know, nobody will know what’s going to happen, right? So when you go into a place, it’s not really about being authentic, it’s just about being likeable. The problem comes when you fake a personality, when you are not that person and you’ve got to keep up with the act. That is a problem. 

But if you’re trying to be valuable in the society, if you’re trying to get a job, you’re trying to make friends, you want to have connections then yeah, you have to be likeable and relatable. So all that being said prior, although I suan xiao the HR guys, I think they oversimplify in the articles. It is true that up to a certain point, when you are actually good at what you do, the deciding factor is really about likeable and connectable. I can connect with you, you’re relatable, I like you. Okay, I promote you. Or I like you, you’re relatable. Okay, I hire you. And I think Singaporeans are not very good at that. Wah, I think the angmohs are very good at that. I’m sure by now you’ve experienced, at work, there is this angmoh… okay, not all angmoh are like that, but the stereotypical idea is that there is this angmoh at work that is very good at talking, maybe not so good at their skills, but they keep getting promoted. They’re very likable. The boss like them. They are very sociable. They got a lot of friends… but in your head, right. you will be like “wah lao eh, everything also I do, but you are taking all the credit.” 

So then let me just put it to you that we are humans. Everything seems rational, but we are very emotional actually, right? So from a rationality standpoint, you may be better than them in whatever skills that you are, but in the future, as more and more… these kind of skill sets can be automated and we can outsource a lot of these work, then we really have to talk about likeability and relatability. That is very, very important. So be likeable, be relatable and build that trust, build that comfort to work with you, to connect with you. And in that sense, in the future of the world where things are changing faster than you know it, well, half the time maybe you’re just picking up new skills, there must be a reason why I’m keeping you in the company. And that is because I trust you, I want to work with you, I enjoy spending time with you. 

So with that, I’m going to sum up the 3 pointers as to how you can potentially thrive in the future of work. And number 1 is you gotta be better at managing anxiety and hanging out in an environment of uncertainty. In essence, you gotta be better at understanding your mental health and keep that mental health up because things are going to be more dynamic, changes are going to be faster and we’re using more and more of our brains in our work. 

Number 2 is that you must be able to learn on your own, because like I said, things are dynamic, so problems are always changing. So if you can assimilate new information, be inquisitive and understand new problems, you always become a valuable member of the organization. 

Of course, number 3 is to be relatable and likeable because like it or not, at some point you got to realize that it is a choice between you or the other person. If everybody knows how to do that same thing, then it is really about who I trust, who I like to work with. Of course, in an environment that is even more dynamic where half the time, you may not even know what you’re trying to do, then this becomes extremely important. So all you Singaporeans out there, try to be more lovable and likable, learn to socialize better.

We will continue this chat another time and I hope you learnt something useful today. See ya.

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Test test. Okay, I hope you learnt some interesting, good juices today. Personally, in my view of the world, things are going to be a lot faster, and so to me, all these kinds of soft, you know, people management, likeability kind of things become more and more important. Because half the time, you don’t know what you’re doing lah. Because that is kind of how I see it lah. Half the time, I’m trying to figure out new problems. So why do I want to figure the problem with you and not with the other person? I must trust you, I must like you, and you must be able to manage yourself very well in that sense.

And later this week, I’m going to be spending time with Ricky Willianto from theravenry.com. Essentially, they are what we are talking about the whole time today, which is white collar jobs going remote, white collar jobs going on these kinds of platforms to, essentially, you know, matchmake. And yeah. So I think he has a lot of good insights to share about how do you better position yourself and what is the future of work going to look like in a white collar job thinking economy, where for a very long time, we think it will take very long to outsource and take very long to change.

But yeah, apparently we are wrong. So he’s in the forefront, he has a lot of good juices. We had a great time. So yup, that’s for later this week. And next week, I’m going to spend some time to talk about risk in the markets. I know, supposedly today, this month’s theme is about the future of work. But I think there’s a lot of discussion in our Telegram group and there’s this whole part about risk, which I thought was a good discussion that we should bring onto the podcast. I don’t want to delay that, so next week, we’re going to interject the originally planned episode to talk about what are some risk that retail investors should actually care because not all risks are the same, just like, your espresso is not the same as kopi-o, okay? So have fun, I see you around. I hope you learnt something useful all the time and take care. Bye.

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