In this age of technological disruption and economic upheaval, many jobs have come under threat of automation or artificial intelligence. Many countries are trying to find ways to help their labour force navigate and adapt to these changes. Others have suggested that universal basic income is the solution as machines replace almost all human labour. Beyond feasibility, I don’t think this is the right philosophy.
There’s a reason why people often talk about their work when they first get to know each other. Our work is an extension of our self-identity and beliefs. The best way to get to know a person is to know their work. This is also why job loss is devastating for people, as there is a loss of purpose and self-worth.
I’m not saying that we should pursue our career to the exclusion of everything else. That was the mistake of past generations, resulting in the broken families and weakened social institutions. We all need to find the right balance. But I am against the diminishing worth and value of work in our culture.
As a Christian, it is symbolic for me that God created man to work right from the beginning. Even with all our needs provided for in the Garden of Eden, humankind had a clear mandate for work:
Then God blessed them and said, “…Fill the earth and govern it…" - Genesis 1:28
More importantly, God showed the importance of work through creation:
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation. – Genesis 2:2
If we are creatures made in His image, we would do well to follow His example.
Even if work is important for us, will there be jobs available for us in this new economy? I strongly believe so. Studies by thought leaders have unequivocally agreed that the new economy will create more jobs than are made obsolete. Here are articles and infographics by WEF, OECD and Deloitte to support this.
These thought leaders also pin the blame for structural unemployment on skills obsolescence, advocating training and re-skilling as the solutions. To a certain extent, they are right. Even in my own country, most policies focus on incentivising and promoting skills upgrading. There is, however, a missing link that has been unaddressed.
What should I study? What course should I take? What job would be suited for me? Should I switch out from this career? Policy makers assume that everyone can arrive at their own answers or know how to get help if they don’t. In my personal and work experience, however, this is evidently not the case.
Many of us have no idea how to answer these questions, resulting in poor choices, lost time and disengagement at work. This is where career development comes in. Career development is a cross-disciplinary field encompassing everything from job search activities (e.g. resume writing, interview skills), psychosocial factors (person-environment fit, psychological capital etc) to labour market analysis. Greater awareness and application of career development principles by individuals is critical in helping nations transit to this new world of work.
As I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated both lives and jobs. Hopefully, this is the catalyst to re-examine your career and make decisions you have been putting off. This blog will share how career development has helped me and others. Hopefully, it will pique your interest and give you useful insights as you navigate your own career journey.