TL;DR – Yeps, one of the ways has NOC’s sassy Sylvia sharing career tips on IG.
This is not how you imagined your last few weeks as a student would go. Cooped up at home, going out just for grocery runs, avoiding people—these are the stuff of doomsday films, not graduation plans.
But here we are. You’re a senior student or young professional rearing to start your career, but life has thrown a wrench in your plans in the form of Covid-19.
Being on a circuit breaker doesn’t have to mean you can’t go chasing your dreams, though. You can do so by improving your portfolio, joining virtual career fairs, and brushing up on your skills.
In fact, upskilling is one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a professional career post-Covid-19.
Here are seven ways you can do so.
1. Work on a virtual project with your friends
Boredom spurs creativity. Being stuck at home during the circuit breaker might just be the boost you need to start a fun project with your friends. It could be anything from a comedy vlog to a chatbot specialising in all things home cooking.
What’s the point? In response to Covid-19, most companies have asked their staff to work from home. By working on a virtual project with your friends, you’ll build skills in remote team collaboration, communication, and project management. You’ll get practice in the nuances of remote work (such as over-communication) and understand the challenges that come with this mode of working.
This means you can show your potential boss that you’ve got what it takes to work with a remote team, and deliver outcomes even when working from home. That’s important, as chances are remote work will be part of the “new normal” post-coronavirus.
2. Master tools for remote working
While working on a virtual project with your friends, you’ll come across tools that make it easier to collaborate online.
These tools will help you produce your best work whether in or out of the office. They range from personal productivity and project management to communication and collaboration.
CB Insights has mapped out the startups offering these tools, but keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list:
Other popular examples are:
- Trello – a fun app for making Kanban-style lists
- Notion – like a digital version of a weekly planner
- Workona – a workspace organiser to end the nightmare of keeping dozens of tabs and windows open
- Zapier – a time-saver that connects your various apps and automates your repetitive workflows
And of course, you should get the hang of more basic, widely used apps for storing, sharing, and organising files, such as Google Drive.
3. Hone a skill that complements your expertise
When you put together two different fields, magic happens.
Just look at the most influential products of the past decade. Steve Jobs sat in a calligraphy class in college, and it inspired the typography used in Apple products. Mark Zuckerberg described the work behind Facebook as being “as much psychology and sociology as it is technology”.
So take a look at your field, and identify a skill that could help you perform better than others. Are you a Marketing major with poor layout design skills? Now’s a good time to improve. Sure, you could use Canva, Piktochart, and similar tools, but templates can only get you so far. You need to at least grasp the basic elements of design.
Or you could be studying to become a data scientist. It’s certainly a ”sexy” job right now. But the best data scientists aren’t just the smartest statisticians-cum-coders in the room. They’re also storytellers who help people understand what the data says. So brush up on your presentation and persuasion skills if you want to be one of the best candidates in your field.
Some skills are useful in almost any field, so it won’t hurt to hone them, too. Think bookkeeping, writing, basic coding, and understanding simple data visualizations. Or start exploring on NTUC LearningHub to check out the free online courses! With over 100 free courses spanning across different fields, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
4. Learn how to do deep work
What do you think will be the most valuable skill in the future?
Cal Newport, a computer scientist, believes it’s the ability to do deep work. Many agree with him. His book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, is a bestseller on the lists of The Wall Street Journal and Amazon, and was an 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Week. It’s been praised by influential thought leaders like Seth Godin and Daniel Pink.
Think about it: robots and AI will be able to perform and automate most tasks we do today—from manual stuff like flipping burgers to white-collar work like financial forecasting. AI systems will even be able to create neural networks, without the need for human help.
To be irreplaceable, we need to learn how to do deep work, which Newport defines as: “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
Newport offers four rules:
- Work deeply: Transform deep work into “a regular and significant part of your daily schedule”. Build rituals that address: where you’ll work and for how long; how you’ll work once you start to work; and how you’ll support your work.
- Embrace boredom: Deep work requires intense concentration—but how do we do that when we’re often distracted by our smartphones and the Internet rabbit hole? Some strategies include scheduling your Internet time, practising memory training, and meditating productively.
- Quit social media: If that sounds extreme to you, try scheduling and limiting your social media time each day. You could also do a regular digital detox.
- Drain the shallows: Eliminate (or at least reduce) shallow work. These are tasks that don’t require much thinking, don’t add value to the world, and can easily be replicated. Analyse what you do with your time and see if you spend too much of it on shallow work. You can then replace this with deep work, like practising a life skill, solving a problem, or working on a personal project.
Doist also offers a comprehensive guide to deep work with actionable steps.
5. Find a virtual mentor
Not all of us are fortunate enough to find a mentor. But technology has given us ways to connect with people we admire and professionals who can give us advice.
For instance, Young NTUC’s (Youth Wing of National Trades Union Congress) LIT virtual programmes lets graduating students and young professionals find virtual mentors in various industries. You just need to book a slot in the mentor’s calendar to get “tips and advice on how you can progress in your career”.
For those of us who are too shy to ask a stranger for a coffee chat (virtual or not), online mentorship programs help take the awkwardness away.
Of course, make sure you’re prepared for your chat with your virtual mentor. Learn about their expertise and industry, and prepare questions beforehand.
6. Attend webinars or virtual dialogues
Online courses tend to be expensive, but most webinars are free. A quick search on Google, MeetUp, EventBrite, and the like will yield lists of online events in Singapore. You can also visit the social media pages of career platforms and specific companies. It is good to also keep up with the latest in your industry or hear from professionals and learn from their experiences.
One example is LITerally Online by Young NTUC, a series of webinars for students seeking careers in Marketing, Cyber Security, Social Service, and other sectors. For six sessions—starting on 22 April at 7pm—Sylvia Chan, co-founder of Night Owl Cinematics, and other speakers will be sharing career insights via the Instagram page of Young NTUC. There will also be a virtual conference/marketplace coming up in June!
7. Learn more about industries likely to thrive post-Covid-19
After Covid-19, certain sectors will come to play more prominent roles in our lives. Think, for example, fintech, digital health, e-learning, online gaming, e-commerce, remote-work tech, and more.
Chances are, the job you land could be in one of these areas, or will significantly interact with them. Now would be a great time to learn more about how these industries work, what their hottest developments are, and how they might overlap with your own field.
Life after coronavirus
What will life after this pandemic look like? We can only venture guesses.
But you can influence how your professional life will be like once Covid-19 eases. By upskilling, you can prepare yourself to chase your career dreams—and, in the meantime, chase your boredom away.
(Featured image via LIT)