Opinion: Wake me up when September 2022 ends

Last month, the hit song by punk-rock trio Green Day “Wake me up when September ends” kept playing in my head. I guess for many of us including myself, there’s still the hope that we will one day go back to our normal lives pre-COVID-19. I miss those days.

The reality is that we are moving into a new world order. And the future talent scene as well as the marketing and communications industries might never be the same as before. What if we let our careers go into sleep mode and wake up in September 2022? How would the talent and hiring scene have evolved by then?

Based on current observations of where things are headed, I try to foresee what the near future might look like and here are five shifts to note:

  1. Specialist over generalist

The debate between generalist versus specialist talents has been going on for years and post COVID-19, the truth is that the hirings are leaning towards specialist talents in areas to help deal with future growth. Despite the looming economy with most hirings on hold, eCommerce, performance marketing, digital transformation related roles are still being given concessions to hire.

The work-from-home arrangement and how it has changed the way we work will also build the case for a bigger pool of specialist talents. With a reduction in huddling for discussions and less supervision by superiors, there’s a greater amount of autonomy for employees. This leads to higher expectations for them to be experts in their own domain when they are mostly left to do their work before coming together as a team.

Though there will be less room for generalist talents, they are pivotal to every organisation to provide the big picture thinking and orchestrate the wider game play especially when more silos are created and compounded by the remote working arrangement.

  1. Specialists within specialist

It used to be that you are considered a specialist if your focus was in newer disciplines such as performance, UX, data or eCommerce. These disciplines have gone through massive proliferation to a point where there’s many sub specialisation within these disciplines.

If you are looking to change your career trajectory towards that direction, make sure you speak with enough people in those disciplines to know specifically what roles you are looking to transit into.

For example, getting a general user experience certification is a good starting point but might not land you a role in the UX field still. You need to get a good grasp of the intricacies to know what role you are capable of handling. Can you tackle experience design for product? Service redesign? UX Research? UX Design? Some organisations expect you to be able to handle the full end-to-end scope while some organisation with a bigger scale would prefer talents with a more in-depth focus in specific areas.

  1. The definition of seniority will increasingly be rewritten

I won’t be surprised that the 40 under 40 list might be revised to 30 under 30 at some point. Get comfortable reporting to someone younger than you more than ever. This has disrupted the conventional wisdom that one achieves certain seniority through the years of experience, maturity and people management skills accumulated.

The new definition of seniority is increasingly defined by their boldness and vision to launch a new idea or start up. It’s defined by their experience in newer and progressive domains, experience often accelerated and compressed into much lesser years than someone in traditional domains.

There will be young leaders who know the need to surround themselves with talents that can bring with them capabilities and corporate world experience to complement their gaps. There will be some who would prefer to hire talents with similar mindset and experiences. Know where you stand and if you have value to add to the type of management style.

  1. The rise of the fullancers (full-time freelancers)

Compared to the western markets where there’s a strong gig economy, Asia has predominantly been a more full-time employment market. COVID-19 has reframed perspectives and priorities for some and climbing the corporate ladder may lose its appeal against the bigger scheme of things.

Before you make the decision to switch your career trajectory to contract work, look at your nature of work and ask yourself:

“When the economic and virus situation clears, will these roles largely go back to the full time employment market?”

“Are these roles easy for companies to plug contract talents in and out?”

“Will I be up against a global pool of remote talents where they circumvent any need for employment pass to work for Singapore-based companies and probably at a fraction of the price?”

It’s interesting to see the trend of influencers in the western world engaging the help of content creators in this part of the world. They make full use of the time difference and have fresh content to post by the time they wake up. Who could potentially be your employers if you put on a global mindset?

  1. Resume 2.0

Career switches tend to be more linear in the past. Now, many new roles that didn’t exist before are created and resulting in more lateral job switches.

For example, an agency planner’s career trajectory could go various directions. Apart from growing further in an agency environment, I have seen many recently taking on creative strategist, partner marketing lead for tech companies, head of marketing, experience design lead on the client side or consultant for the consulting firms etc.

What that means is that it gets harder for hiring managers to sieve out the right candidate just by looking at the CV alone without a like-for-like past experiences for the role.

Put together a portfolio (such as past work, decks, thought leadership) that will help to contextualise your experience beyond the CV. Portfolios are no longer just meant for creative or artistic talents anymore.

Another thing I find useful to include at the start of your CV is outlining what roles you would be suitable for. Job titles are increasingly becoming varied and sometimes can be hard for hiring managers to put a finger on the exact roles they should consider you for.

With job postings getting overwhelming responses in this current climate, the reliance on AI-screening tools to help filter candidates before it even gets to human resource will become more prevalent. It’s important to be honest to your competencies. Don’t load it with keywords that the role looks for in order to beat the system. There’s many articles out there that can help shed more light on this area.

The whole narrative currently has been largely about the need for talents and businesses to undergo transformation and stay relevant. If the whole world zags, is there a case to be made for remaining steadfast as well? I do caution that the room will be much much smaller for those who stick with this strategy. You would need to be the best-in-class for what you do.

I’m looking forward to when Green Day returns to Singapore for their concert. They are a class live act and watching them online will never be the same watching them from the mosh pit.

The writer is Jimmy Yar, chief detective and founder at The Talent Detective, a boutique executive search firm that focuses on the advertising, marketing and digital industries.

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(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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