Published on 09 Jan 2022

3 ways to invest in yourself in 2022

Even with some degree of remote working, you should be more aware of the need to amplify your personal brand to avoid being "out of sight, out of mind", says lecturer Mr Roger Pua

If you were feeling stuck and restless in 2021 amid a second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, you are not alone.

Invest looks at some steps you can take to grow your career and finances in the new year.

1. Grow your skills

The labour market is on the mend, but the pandemic has shown how quickly uncertainties can throw the employment landscape into disarray.

Besides leading to retrenchments in badly affected industries, it also accelerated changes that were already afoot such as disruption and automation.

It is clear that the way to stay relevant is to invest in sharpening your skills. But which skills and industries should you focus on in the coming year?

Recruiters and human resources experts say the first step is to look at your career goals, how far you are from them and what skills you need to get there.

A career coach can provide guidance and help you identify your strengths and limitations and map out a learning and development plan.

Certain skills will likely be in demand this year, especially as the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation at many firms.

Ms Rupali Gupta, talent solutions leader at Mercer Singapore, says skills like innovation processes, data visualisation, data science and predictive modelling are expected to be in high demand across industries.

This comes as organisations increasingly look for technical skills that support the development of new solutions and to use data more effectively, she adds.

ManpowerGroup Singapore country manager Linda Teo says that skills such as data analytics, cloud computing, cyber security, digital marketing, sales and supply chain management will be in demand this year.

PersolKelly Singapore country head Foo See Yang highlights other skills relevant to fast-growing sectors such as e-commerce, banking, financial services and insurance, and healthcare and life sciences.

These include e-commerce management, financial planning and risk management, public relations, operations management, and specialised engineering.

He notes that beyond looking across industries, workers should explore new skills relevant to their existing roles as these may have changed significantly in the last few years.

A detailed list of key skills needed for occupations in 34 sectors are listed on the SkillsFuture Singapore website.

These skills frameworks include information on career pathways that map out opportunities for vertical and lateral progression, as well as skills needed for those roles and training programmes available to help workers acquire them.

Experts also highlight the rising importance of soft skills, such as leadership and social influence, creativity and critical thinking.

"These will be relevant regardless of the job role and situation. Plus, employers also find it harder to train soft skills than technical skills, hence individuals with the relevant soft skills would have an edge," says Ms Teo.

More On This Topic SkillsFuture report pinpoints skills S'poreans urgently need in next 3 years Minor Issues: Skills, not clothes, make the man Start learning

After you work out the skills needed to progress in your current role or switch to a new one, there are a myriad of training options you can use to acquire them, from formal degree programmes and boot camps, to free online courses and webinars. What is most suitable for you depends on your budget, learning style and the depth of knowledge you will need.

Mr Foo recommends considering not just the latest courses that are popular across other industries, but also those that can refine the skill set needed in your current role and industry, which might be a lot less daunting to start with.

"Workers can also consider speaking with their employers or mentors to help define next steps in their training and professional development," he adds.

Ms Teo says one simple way to learn is to observe the exemplary behaviour of people around you and actively apply what you have learnt in your own work.

Focus on the best way that you learn and develop, says Ms Gupta. It could be by reading, listening or watching others.

She adds that many people have relatively poor self-awareness when it comes to core skills. For instance, many think they are "good communicators" but few actually are.

"Employees should therefore pay extra attention to feedback from stakeholders - leaders, managers, mentors, peers, team members and even customers - on what they do well and what they need to develop on, then invest in coaching to develop further," she says.

Certain skills will likely be in demand this year, especially as the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation at many firms.

It may not be easy to meet new people during a pandemic, but experts say networking is as important as ever.

With some degree of remote working remaining part of office life for many people, you should be more aware of the need to amplify your personal brand to avoid being "out of sight, out of mind", says Mr Roger Pua, a part-time lecturer at Nanyang Business School.

"Our actions determine whether our personal brand is either one of the most valuable or undervalued assets we own," notes Mr Pua, a former senior director for communication and brand at LinkedIn.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem adds that networking also enables you to find information on jobs and the skill sets required to do them.

Workforce Singapore principal career coach Dennis Chan adds that beyond opening doors to new job opportunities, networking creates long-term relationships that can bring mutual benefits to both parties.

"It also helps to broaden one's horizons and view on life, which in turn leads the individual to be more open to different perspectives and options," he says.

It may not be easy to meet new people during a pandemic, but experts say networking is as important as ever.

You can start to grow your network by creating a post on LinkedIn related to your interests or job, suggests Mr Chan.

You can also contribute constructive comments to other posts that target roles you want to move into.

Be active - comment and post regularly instead of treating it as a one-off project.

Mr Pua notes that there are plenty of topics that will not put you at risk of coming across as a self-promoter, if that is what is holding you back.

For example, if you share your experiences or perspectives on issues such as work-life balance or diversity, or technical topics directly related to your field of work, chances are someone else will reach out to connect with you.

2. Attend events - virtual or physical

Mr Chan also recommends attending virtual or physical industry and professional events held by associations and institutions' alumni to reconnect with old contacts or build new contacts in an industry where you do not know anyone.

His tip for breaking the ice on digital platforms: have a virtual background of a visually impactful picture that you have taken yourself.

"People tend to ask what's that all about and that's when your opportunity to sell yourself arises," he says.

Mr Pua adds that after an event, follow up on new contacts by sending a quick message on LinkedIn or forwarding a link to an article you referred to at the event to keep the conversation going.

"Networking doesn't end with the event. Otherwise, you end up collecting contacts like trophies that gather dust," he says.

Within your organisation, it is also important to be part of networks because they are critical when you need help to get work done across departments, says Ms Low.

Mr Pua notes that if there is someone senior to you whose radar you feel you need to be on, ask if they would be open to being a mentor to you, or ask your boss to help make the initial introduction. Be specific about the areas you want to learn from them.

You could also volunteer to work with other teams on cross-functional projects to prove your worth in the trenches, he adds.

Human resources expert Adrian Tan suggests using platforms such as virtual office Cosmos that allow people to come together to play games and meet up in a gamified environment, to replace dinners or gatherings for happy hour at pubs.

The key to networking well is to keep at it.

Mr Pua says: "Networking is like an investment. It's impossible to time it. If you wait till you need something from someone to start networking with that someone, it may not work as well as if you already have some level of relationship with that person."

3. Grow your money

Whether you have put aside some extra cash from not travelling or eating out as much in the past two years, or your nest egg took a hit from lower wages or a lost job, one thing is certain - saving alone is not enough to fight the surge in inflation.

Inflation last November came in at 3.8 per cent - the highest since February 2013.

This is why, after setting aside emergency funds, we should look to grow our assets above the inflation rate, says Ms Tan Siew Lee, head of wealth management Singapore at OCBC Bank.

"If inflation persists, we could see the worsening effects of negative real interest rates on our savings, which will lower our purchasing power over time."

There are tools you can use if you are new to investing, such as robo-advisers or regular investment plans with banks or online platforms. These do not require you to pick and monitor individual stocks, and some do not need you to set aside a large sum as there is no minimum investment, or one of just $100.

Prefer to actively manage your portfolio? Here are some possibilities to consider this year:

• Ms Jacquelyn Tan, UOB's head of group personal financial services, points to opportunities in European and Asian equities as well as United States financial institutions, which are likely to perform well on the back of the continued economic recovery.

She recommends avoiding long-term government bonds as they are more vulnerable to rising interest rates.

There are also investment opportunities in long-term megatrends, she says, including global healthcare and green bonds or other bonds in renewable energy.

• OCBC's Ms Tan cites opportunities in remote work and play, online learning, healthcare, shopping and virtual experiences, as the pandemic has accelerated disruption in many traditional industries.

Environment, sustainability and governance is also a growing space investors should keep an eye on, especially when governments, companies and customers are putting greater emphasis on reducing carbon emissions and sustainable practices, she says.

• DBS Bank's head of financial planning literacy Lorna Tan recommends adopting a barbell strategy to portfolio construction, which means investing in assets at both ends of the risk spectrum.

On one end, there are high-growth stocks in digital computing technology, China equities, and firms that benefit from the rise of millennial spending.

The other end involves dividend shares, Reits and corporate bonds for a steady income stream.

DBS' Ms Tan notes that time in the market beats timing the market, so ensure that you can leave your funds invested for five to 10 years or more.

Source: The Straits Times