I am just out of a mini-funk.
Not the downright depression kind but the kind where you feel you are viewing the world through grey-tinted lenses.
When you go from this:
Yeah, for those full-time employees out there who think my life should be all rainbows and unicorns now that I am self-employed, let me tell you that I have my fair share of unhappiness and worries about work too.
And in this stagnating economy, like most people, I do worry about my job. Or in my specific case, the amount of work I have. Or, don’t have.
Last week, my flyers/brochures campaign bombed really badly. I spent about two thousand bucks sending direct mailers to condominiums near my place. I was hoping to expand my work and increase my income through conducting small group lessons.
In the end, I got fewer than 10 enquiries and till now, zero confirmed sign-ups. In short, it was a disaster and not surprisingly, I was momentarily down. It probably did not help that the Mrs was also really disappointed with the results.
But right now, I am back to normal, after a staycation at MBS over the weekend and especially after gaining some interesting insights from the U Future Leaders Summit 2016 organised by NTUC.
The most important insight I gleaned
This is a diagram shared by NTUC Secretary General Chan Chun Sing that I feel that all workers, including me, need to adopt.
1. Staying Alert
Do you know the trends in your industry or line of work?
If you are a stock broker, more and more investors are relying on online platforms and this commission-based job is likely to be competed away by technology. If you’re a housing agent, same thing unless you play the game differently.
And if you are a geography tutor or even a teacher, it’s time to start worrying since less students are picking up this subject. In fact, I was told by my nephews and nieces that their schools do not offer Pure Geography for O Levels.
One needs to know what is happening before he/she can make the necessary adjustments to adapt to the external environment.
If sending out flyers is not working, what’s my alternative to better reach out to potential students?
2. Staying Relevant
You might be the best furnace or central heating salesman in Iceland. But after migrating to Singapore, it would be a big folly to continue selling heating systems. No matter how good you are, no sales will be made. You would probably need to make a slight adjustment and sell air conditioners in Singapore.
Three years ago, I decided to start a personal finance blog. An alternative would be to write about philosophy, but I seriously doubt that if I had done that, I could still get up to a few thousand eyeballs per article.
It is wonderful to be able to do what one is good in. However, what is probably more important is to learn something the market needs.
Instead of spending your SkillsFuture credits on learning French, why not pick up Spanish, the third most common language used on this planet. And for a tutor like me, instead of getting up to date with the Geography syllabus, it’s probably better for me to spend more time becoming more proficient in subjects like Math and English.
Since I have found out that it’s so much harder to get a customer through cold calling in my line of work, I have to work harder at getting recommendations from my current set of students. And I have also realised that marketing myself online is cheaper and probably more effective. So that’s where I will be spending more resources on to get more work.
3. Staying Ahead
Writing is a hobby of mine. For the past three years, I do not write when I am free. More often than not, I make time for writing on this blog and it has even developed into a skill where it complements my main work.
Parents are pleasantly surprised whenever I told them that I am also a writer and they are often impressed when I show them samples of my articles that are published on mainstream websites.
Therefore, I am appalled when I read news that there are security officers who are too busy to fulfil their training pre-requisites to get promoted. Specific modules like Counter-Terrorism could also prove to be essential skills in their work. In fact, I hope to see things shaking up in the security industry, so that the workers can be more spurred to upgrade themselves to handle higher-value work than just being warm bodies on-site.
Training or re-training is something that we need to make time for, not do when we have free time.
I do not wait till the end of the year to keep up to date with changes to the school syllabus. It is an ongoing process to ensure that I can help my students to the best of my ability. Only by doing that can I ensure that I will always be ahead of my competition.
4. Staying Calm
Brexit, Trump becoming POTUS and the state of our economy are all recent causes for worries and anxiety. And yes, unemployment is rising. However, at 2.1%, it’s reassuring that most Singaporeans are still relatively quite well-sheltered from the storm.
At the same time, the government and the Labour Movement are not sitting still. In fact, just recently, a new NTUC unit, the Future Jobs, Skills & Training Department (FJST), has been set up to focus on future job opportunities and training needs for workers. Basically, the FJST aims to encourage workers to come to them to find out more relevant information before they pick up a course. We should upgrade our skills but also do it wisely.
So as long as you are alert and prepared to take the opportunities to stay relevant or even ahead of your competition, there is probably no need to fret or worry too much.
As for me, I was probably both a little greedy and a little naive to expect that I could exponentially expand my business in a short space of time. Afterall, I have only been a full-time tutor for only a year.
If I were to put things in perspective, I am already much better off as compared to a year ago. I have twice the number of students and I am on track to earn an income higher than the median for 2017.
So I am grateful for what I have now while at the same time, adopting a growth mindset that enables me to stay alert, stay relevant and stay ahead.
Being mindlessly anxious will only just make things worse, as I have always found out.