Future of Work | A Pragmatic Defence of Career Fulfilment

What comes to mind when you hear ‘career progression’? There was once a point when we could count on a steady upward climb by progressively meeting work milestones. In the disruptive job market today, the path is no longer as straightforward as it seems. Find out what having a Growth Career means and how it can serve as a beacon to guide us through the new normal.

Our Stories
Wong Wing Lum

Hop by our home page, and you’d be greeted by our somewhat unusual motto.

“Growth Careers For Everyone”

If you’ve never heard of the term ‘Growth Careers’ before, fret not. That’s because it’s a relatively newly defined concept, an extension to what we have previously understood about career growth.

In this article, we explore 1) what is a growth career, 2) why it matters in our world today, 3) where Hatch comes into the picture 4) what we should work towards in the future.

What is a Growth Career?

Framing of our vision around Growth Careers was done by Victor, our CEO. Beyond job security and wealth creation, the concept intentionally shifts our focus onto job fulfilment, a crucial factor moulding resilient career mindsets.

It is no household term, but it will be safe to say that from the first glance, most of us would have a rough understanding of what it represents. Amidst variations in individual perceptions are the intersections around a few common characteristics.

The first element of Growth careers zeroes in on the tangibles.

Growth careers must have growth potential.

Objectively, growth potential has two facets. The first one refers to emerging industries and professions that are increasingly in-demand due to current trends in globalisation, breakthroughs in innovation, and demographic shifts. No surprise here when LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report found that jobs that have the greatest potential for tremendous growth in Singapore are mostly dominated by the tech industry. These are the jobs of the future, projected to bring booming opportunities to our shores over the next decades.

In our definition of Growth Careers, however, the focus is on the second aspect of growth potential, which reflects the opportunities for career progression observed through incremental changes in job responsibilities and salary. Compared to some jobs with designated career pathways, others are distinctly marked by their absence of a career ladder. Examples would be certain jobs such as drivers and food delivery. In these fields, there is no upward career mobility through the means of progressing to senior roles. The likelihood of progression is fairly limited, if not impossible.

From a Randstad 2018 Employer Brand Research in Singapore, 42% of respondents said that career progression opportunities are the most important criteria they look for in an employer. Almost one in two respondents who chose this option were between ages 18 and 24. Career progression is not just about making the climb and getting a fatter paycheck (though that matters too). At the root of it, multiple studies have proven that job advancements primarily serve as enablers for job satisfaction.

Growth careers must also provide value.

Value here is defined as experiences that can nurture an individual’s professional and personal development. Professional development refers to all forms of continued training aimed to help individuals succeed in their careers. This could be through the provision of industry certification courses, mentoring or education programmes aimed to build new or refine existing skillsets. Meanwhile, personal development is an individual’s conscious pursuit to make changes in their habits, behaviours or mindsets in effort to better themselves.

On a practical level, Growth careers should ultimately serve as an avenue for individuals to build a set of marketable experiences that can be carried across different industries. In the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world we live and work in today, transferability in the skills and knowledge gives individuals an advantage to stay relevant and differentiate themselves.

The second element of Growth careers is centred around job fulfilment.

Here is where it gets slightly obscure when we talk about what truly distinguishes Growth Careers. More often than not, intrinsic fulfilment is forsaken when more tangible considerations (such as money, status and practical circumstances) are at play. Yet, this widely-neglected component not only hones every individuals’ versatility to survive in our VUCA world, it also spurs them on to break down barriers to creativity and innovation.

When we look at intrinsic motivation, we evaluate whether individuals are able to derive gratification and meaning in what they do. This does not correspond to the nature of the job, but whether the impact of their work could be visibly seen, felt, or even measured. In doing so, the effort behind getting the job done is not just a mere investment of labour and time, but a manifestation of pride in knowing their work mattered or made a difference.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint as to the types of jobs that feed our souls. The motivation behind intrinsic growth varies from individual to individual. The key takeaway from this focus on intangibles is to challenge us to rethink how careers have traditionally been viewed only as a means to an end.

Have you ever wondered why so many employee-to-entrepreneur transition stories seem to follow the same script? They were first stuck, discontented, in a dead-end job. Then, an existential or mid-life crisis made them question whether they could envision themselves in the same job further down the road. Finally, they overcome the inertia to ditch the stability in their conventional careers, taking that leap of faith to pursue their dreams.

These stories are analogous: A roller-coaster journey peppered with its fair share of setbacks and triumphs. For some, success may not even be within reach yet.

But in retrospect – they sing in unison – that they would do it all over again.

Our strongest asset is the gift of fulfilment. In our VUCA economy today, a clear sense of purpose anchors our resilience to endure whatever comes our way.

Yet in recent times, the notion of freedom to pursue Growth careers seems to be getting further out of reach. With the onslaught of the pandemic, the pervasive societal inequalities in our own backyard have been brutally laid bare. Crises like these validate longstanding perceptions that job fulfilment is reserved only for the privileged, and they are not unfounded assumptions.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs | Credit: SimplyPsychology

The idea behind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that the lowest tiers – basic and psychological needs – have to be satisfied before self-actualization needs can be tended to. The reality stands that not everybody enjoys the luxury of having all their foundational needs met. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, budding thoughts about job fulfilment may seem absurd or even indulgent.

Where Hatch comes in

No matter where an individual stands in Maslow’s Hierarchy, adopting a mindset of apathy towards work can be dangerous to all. This is a common observation for many students who come to Hatch. A large proportion of them hold decent-paying office jobs, of which they have mostly regarded as a transaction of their time for money.

Severe job dissatisfaction aside, their mentality already renders them objectively redundant for their roles. To settle on mediocrity effectively cripples the need for these workers’ contributions. In the long run, workplace indifference reduces overall productivity and motivation for employees to reach their fullest potential. When an economic crisis like the COVID-19 hits, they are made equally as vulnerable to retrenchment. What’s more, this group generally enjoys higher consumption levels due to their higher disposable incomes, thereby tanking a far worse hit when they lose their jobs.

Our education institutions and training systems have not fully adapted to the needs of the VUCA economy. The curriculum in higher learning is still very much built around how jobs used to operate in the past. Unlike your parents’ time, chances are you will not be handed a free pass to your dream job simply because you are a degree holder. In today’s job market, we are starting to see a shift towards a demand for skills that are more inter-disciplinary in nature. Instead of highly specialised skillsets, employers are putting their money on workers who are able to make meaningful connections and synergise knowledge across multiple disciplines. This prioritises skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork and communication.

As we face off the fast-changing nature of jobs, industries and the world in general, a prepared mindset is something we can train ourselves to be ready for. People who thrive these days are those who can identify opportunities independent of the beliefs or structures that we have grown accustomed to.

Moving forward

On a structural level, right policies and systems should be in place to help empower the group of people who needs the most support. In this journey to empower someone these group of people, we cannot exclude the narrative of finding meaning and fulfilment in our occupations. If jobs are designed just to fulfil the most basic needs, it limits room for purpose to be part of the equation. This chicken-and-egg problem is why low-income workers largely struggle to move themselves up the value chain – a recurrent observation we see in our experiences too.

This begs the question of what constitutes an inclusive and productive workforce when we look into how different sectors of labour – especially those from low-cost industries – are structured and designed within our economy. That said, the ability to achieve innate work satisfaction is not contingent to one’s seniority in the workplace, but how their jobs are designed.

The key takeaway here is that without fulfilment, it’s difficult to move an individual’s up the value chain. The motivation to improve oneself has to be intrinsic, and intrinsic motivations are driven by meaning.

Understanding the role fulfilment plays helps people prepare for what the future of work entails. If you relate to this article, remember that Hatch is here to help you ease into the journey ahead.

Hatch is an impact-driven business with the mission to make digital and design opportunities accessible for all.

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