Thriving In An Employee’s Market

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Long gone are the days of a 9-5 job, working in a corporate position in the office, and planning to spend a few years in the job till the next promotion comes along. The workplace no longer belongs to an era of job security and pensions upon retirement. We all understand the fear of getting retrenched during a recession or the anxiety when you hear rumours of mergers and acquisitions about your company.

In recent years, employees are starting to take control of their jobs as we understand that there is no such thing as a secure job, just as how life cannot always be smooth sailing. Mid career changes, entrepreneurial start ups, asking for better work-life balance, flexible working arrangements, you name it. These are signs of an employee’s market, signs of employees taking back control of their careers from employers. How did all these come about?

Life Gets In The Way

As employees, we used to wait for the company to provide us with the relevant training and skills. We rarely connected with people outside the company. We focused on getting the biggest paycheck, joined the biggest companies for job security and tolerated strenuous working conditions involving hours of OT. While this is still relevant, the truth is employees now want more than that. Younger employees want flexible working arrangements, development opportunities and meaning in their work. Older employees want more aged-friendly and pro-family policies so that they can take care of their parents and children. We also want a sense of belonging to the organisation, our bosses to be less anal about working hours, mutual respect between employers and employees, the list goes on. We have finally realised that there is more to work than just work and are gradually clawing back control from our employers. Therefore, companies need to be sensitive to their employees’ needs and consider restructuring job benefits and compensation packages to fit their employees.

And of course, we can never escape the issue of low salaries. After all, who doesn’t want more money? Yet it can still be tough leaving the job you are familiar with and going for a job that pays better. However, it still remains one of the main reasons for employees to leave their company, although it is not the main reason.

Changing Work Environment

The nature of work is constantly evolving. Employees know that having only one skill set will only make them lose out in the long run, thus no matter how many carrots you dangle in front of them, they will still be proactive in their learning if they feel that they are not growing professionally. Technology has also helped employees become more mobile and resourceful, thus they are no longer reliant on the company to get in touch with the industry trends and how other industries are hiring. Online education programs such as Coursera provide courses for employees to learn new disciplines of knowledge at the fraction of the cost an undergraduate would need to pay in university. Thus, we can see how employees have gained more occupational mobility across industries over the years. When the right opportunity comes knocking, they will gladly cross over to the other side.

The big companies are not spared from the competition either. Think of start-ups, online companies or even freelancing. Employees are beginning to appreciate the perks of being your own boss or at least working in a smaller company. Such environments provide the benefits that few large companies can provide; flexible employer-employer working arrangement, better work-life balance, and sometimes even a better salary. More importantly, employees are looking for future growth potential, in terms of both the company and individual growth, and they can afford to have options because of the greater demand for professionals and skilled labour.

It’s time to rethink our career goals and go back to the drawing board. Start exploring different industries and beef up your knowledge and skills. Consider going overseas to work to build up a broader regional or global perspective which will significantly increase your employability. By knowing your bargaining position in the job market, you will be able to negotiate better employment terms for yourself. Seize the opportunity to evaluate your career and start thinking about what you want from your job, and not what the job wants from you.

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Russel Yee

Former Headhunter


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