By Chee Jo-Ey
WE are in the throes of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) where we are increasingly dependent on high speed and safe technology.
Combined with a shortage of skilled talent, demand for tech skills is on an upward trend. This is especially so for people who are equipped with in-demand skills in emerging technologies from highly-competitive and large service providers.
Randstad Malaysia head of technology and banking Fahad Naeem says, “Malaysia is on an accelerated roadmap to become a leading digital economy in Asean. Many global firms as well as large regional and local firms are expanding their presence in Malaysia, which will create an innovative community that is filled with highly skilled experts who are driving digital transformation.
“However, the shortage of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent continues to be a challenge that employers face. There are not enough STEM graduates to meet the growing demand for highly-skilled talent in the market.”
Tech and soft skills in demand
There is also a general mismatch between the workplace readiness of local talent and expectations of large multinational corporations (MNCs).
“Global companies often seek candidates who can effectively communicate and collaborate with colleagues from all around the world, as well as have strong conceptual and thinking skills. Many entry-level jobs in Malaysia also do not require candidates to have degrees.
“With the lack of relevant skills to meet sophisticated job requirements within the STEM fields, many degree holders choose to take on entry-level roles that they are overqualified for to reduce their unemployment period. This approach will lower the average salary in the long-term.” adds Naeem.
Now that we are in the automation era, soft skills will be more valuable than ever. Based on findings in LinkedIn’s 2019 Emerging Jobs in Malaysia report, well-rounded workers who have a combination of hard and soft skills are very much in demand in the labour market.
Kelly Services Malaysia MD and country head Brian Sim says, “The usual hiring criteria for graduates often include soft skills like communication, problem-solving and creativity.
“The ability to express your thoughts accurately has become increasingly important in the digital era when there’s a lot of data that needs to be analysed and verbalised.
“On this note, it is also important to constantly advance your digital skills that will set you apart from others to increase your income.”
Even if you may not be in the field of technology, companies expect employees across all specialisations and functions to be confident in using technology to map trends and identify areas of opportunities to scale.
For example, a financial analyst is expected to use historical client data and existing information to estimate investment appetite in today’s economic environment, so that they can promote the right products to their clients.
“As more and more processes become automated as part of the fourth industrial revolution, it is important that employees understand how technology can help make their jobs easier.
“As part of the revolution, employees are also expected to take on new responsibilities in business partnering, data analysis and project management.
“Building long-term relationships with customers, partners and stakeholders have also become increasingly critical to business sustainability.
“Hence, candidates who have good communication and people management skills would be highly sought after,” adds Naeem.
According to him, jobs that are significant in the country’s push towards IR4.0 will continue to be in high demand, and would likely be some of the highest paying roles in Malaysia.
“Companies in economy-impacting industries such as manufacturing and supply chain, construction and property as well as banking and financial services are doubling down on their technology investments to keep pace with the competition and transform their businesses,” he adds.
Continuous learning and upskilling plays a vital role if you want to raise your salary or land a higher-paying job. Achievements, relevant training and courses that translate into tangible results like sales revenue increase your worth.
As we move into the digital era where automation might displace traditional jobs, employees need to pick up skills that will help them manage more technical or digital-oriented tasks.
For working adults who want to undergo after-work training, training institutions under the Manpower Department operate up to 11pm on the instructions of the Human Resources Ministry.
According to Talentbank founder Ben Ho, participating in more curricular activities and taking up key roles in organising campus events in universities help you stand out from the rest.
Fresh graduates should gain more working experience by applying not only for internship but also volunteer to work for companies or projects that are of interest to them.
“Graduates should take the initiative to partake in lifelong learning and improve their skill sets that will contribute to the company are valuable.
“In my observation, employers prefer graduates who are able to provide creative solutions to problems they face on the job.
“It is also important to take ownership in your work to excel and secure a job with a good pay,” says Ho.
Talentbank is a Malaysian-based career discovery centre that also created the Graduate Choice Awards to help raise the awareness and importance of employer branding, an often overlooked aspect of a company’s branding or marketing.
“Industrial experience, internships and relevant part-time jobs are highly valued when seeking a higher paying job. IT companies that are more task-oriented tend to outsource some of the work so keep an eye out for these part-time gigs on online job portals and employment agencies,” adds Sim.
Look beyond salary
Naeem advises graduates who are looking for jobs to be more realistic about the remuneration packages that they will likely receive from employers.
Besides the basic salary package and employee benefits, candidates should also consider the training and career growth opportunities that the employer can offer them in the long-run.
In interviews, candidates should also demonstrate a willingness to learn and adapt in an environment that they were previously not exposed to.
Employers are looking for learning potential in candidates to pick up skills in corporate governance, teamwork and managing-up in a corporate environment.
“We also recommend undergraduates to proactively search for internship opportunities to expose themselves early on, so that they are more attractive to future employers when they graduate,” says Naeem.
“A tip for fresh graduates when looking for a job is to refrain from setting a benchmark for what they should earn by comparing salaries with their peers.
“Instead, they should focus on accumulating experience and set salary expectations according to basic expenses in the first three to five years of their work life.
“It is important to know the market rate through online research and such but they should also understand that what one should earn may differ according to individual needs. Experience is most important when it comes to increasing your salary,” says Sim.
Average pay is not the go-to number for everyone. It is an average from all the salaries collated but it does not necessarily equate to the salary one should expect.
The amount one should earn depends on a variety of factors and is unique to each person. There are plenty of salary comparison tools on job sites like Glassdoor’s ‘Know Your Worth’ for employees who want to find out where they stand in the salary scale.
But it is recommended that employees speak to trusted mentors to find out more as well.
“You must be willing to go the extra mile for your undertakings so that you will be able to negotiate not only for better salary but employment benefits as well.
“Salary is just a number. I believe graduates should follow their passion and not to pursue a job just because it offers a high salary. Pursue something that can offer you a long-term career path,” explains Ho.