By Aaron Lim, Group HR Director, Park Hotel Group
While a global pandemic has been a looming risk for decades, COVID-19 has come as a shock to society worldwide. In the midst of extraordinary challenges and uncertainty, and countless personal tragedies, all of us are under pressure to make decisions on managing the immediate impact of the pandemic and its consequences, decisions that will shape the state of our world for years to come.
In order to survive and thrive post-COVID-19, we need to use fresh strategic framing and create our own structures that promote agility. The market will reward those that can deploy their skills and services with this attribute. We will need the courage to embrace and experiment with ideas outside our comfort zone by adopting new norms and diversify our experiences through Career Diversification—spreading your career path across several opportunities as opposed to maintaining a single, specialised skillset.
So, what is diversification?
In financial investment terms, diversification is used extensively as a way to manage and minimise the risks of a range of investments held by a person or organization (portfolio). Similarly, in managing your career, having different exposures to several industries, and even different functions, can reduce any negative effects associated with having just a single specialisation.
“The future is always coming up with surprises for us, and the best way to insulate yourself from these surprises is to diversify”—Robert J. Shiller
The advantage of diversification is that it protects the assets of the investor. One loss making investment does not affect the financial returns as a whole. Similarly, your career can be limited an/or put at risk with a lack of diversification of work experiences.
Some pointers on why career diversification is essential:
1. Multi-Functional Work Experiences
Having multi-functional experience is important as it can train you to be well-versed in multiple work streams that require a diverse skillset, which protects you by making your career more value adding, and in turn more employable. No job is ever fully secure.
There are so many ways to have multi-functional exposures:
- Internally—volunteer or take up new (sometimes multiple) roles when opportunity arises
- Externally—deliberately make a career switch or choose a different industry
- Passively—side hustle or hobbies that may value add to your career or skillset
With the ever evolving economic environment, changes in regulations, a disaster (such as SARS and COVID-19 crisis) can occur which can affect your business or the company that you work for. Having more than one specific skillset can be a life saver in these moments as you would have a safety net to take on new roles required to keep yourself employed.
2. Increases Your Career Choices
Having a diversified career increases the number of options that you have available as potential career choices. As an example, you may have a day job and a side hustle (not asking you to moonlight with a second job here, but to work on things you may be passionate about like website development/coding during your spare time maybe?).
When done well and as early as possible, a diversified career experience can support you in the event of a market crisis, or when an opportunity comes along in a new field. There are several examples of persons who diversified into a particular area sometimes first as a hobby and eventually was able to transition into it as a full time career. Who knows? Perhaps your hobby can give you an edge compared to other candidates to secure yourself the dream job!
3. Reduces Job Burnout
At times doing the same thing over and over can become stale and monotonous which can affect our overall motivation and happiness. Do yourself a favour by expanding your skills and creativity into a variety of areas to reduce the possibility of a job burnout.
If you have a good mix of experiences, you may be able to better balance your mental well-being too. No one wants to end up in a job that they dread, but financially obligated to continue—the recipe for career burnout, elaborated as chronic work stress that is not properly managed.
“It’s never too late to start something new, to do all those things that you’ve been longing to do.”—Dallas Clayton
Seize opportunities during times of adversity
It will require new mindsets and a combination of the best brains and talent, young and old.
In Singapore, we are grateful for programmes such as the Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) introduced by the Workforce Singapore (WSG) agency in 2017, for mid-career PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians), to undergo skills conversion and to move into new occupations or sectors that have good prospects and opportunities for progression. Here’s a recent story of Mr Gregory Chua, who benefitted from such programmes:
We are indeed at war now against an invisible and persistent enemy that will continue to plague us until an effective vaccine is developed and globally distributed. This is the time for us to make changes to our mindset and be even more resilient because the world has fundamentally changed and there is no turning back.
If you know of someone who is experiencing difficulties in managing career changes in their life and finding it hard to handle, my previous article on managing change may help:
We must hold on to the dreams that brought us this far, and be open to change in order to better prepare us for the future, good or bad.
Never. Give. Up.