Apr 16, 2007

Tomorrow's Model

In response to my previous post, a reader wrote:
Any comments on the legal industry in general and why you have chosen to leave the legal industry?
I enjoyed my previous job, and I like my ex-colleagues (a few of them, including my ex-boss, even read this blog from time to time). I left for reasons which I think they respect and understand very well: (a) new learning opportunities, and (b) better remuneration prospects. They wish me well, and so do I. And that’s that.

My father, who has retired, is always a little alarmed to hear that I’m changing jobs again. He belongs (obviously) to an older generation. For more than three decades, he worked for the same company. I don’t think it ever seriously crossed his mind to change jobs.

Times are different now. My current organization gives out “long service” awards for employees who reach the five-year mark – in other words, five years of service is already considered long. Another anecdote - during my recent induction course, each new employee received his security access pass, which had a five-year validity period. Someone quipped, “Wow, this bank sure is optimistic.”


Employee loyalty is dead, because employer loyalty is dead. This is the reality of the modern working world. People are just digits, and departments are just little square boxes, on a corporate organisation chart. Tomorrow, the organization chart could change - because of a merger or acquisition; or an outsourcing of jobs into India; or a restructuring exercise to cut costs. And some employees will just have to go.

So the modern employee must learn to take care of himself. Employability is more important than employment. You have a personal responsibility to keep your own skills and knowledge relevant. If a better opportunity comes along, take it if an objective, hard-headed analysis tells you that you should.

In my opinion, there is a common mistake that many people make when planning their careers - they rely on yesterday’s model of the world. In fact, they should rely on today’s model of the world, or better still, tomorrow’s model. Of course, no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy. However, because the world is changing so quickly, yesterday’s model, even if true today, will almost certainly be wrong by tomorrow.

I left the legal industry for my new job, because I felt that this was the strategically optimal move for me. Of course, yesterday’s model of the world would suggest that I’m making a bad move. After all, in yesterday’s model, Singaporeans who can should always strive to be doctors, lawyers or PSC scholars, shouldn't they?

However, in a possible tomorrow’s model,
Singapore will be flooded by hordes of doctors from India, and doctors' salaries will be dampened. The noble aspects of the profession will become increasingly obscured by the profit-driven, commercial aspects, as Singapore strives to become a regional medical hub.

Meanwhile, PSC scholarships may become viewed as career traps for the bright but unwary. Outstanding young people may become tied down to a little red dot, even though they are so talented that the whole world could have been their oyster.

As for lawyers in private practice, they may continue working harder and worker to help the investment banks make more money. Their personal lives suffer, and yet in the end, they may end up earning considerably less than the investment bankers themselves.

Some would say that I am wrong. Others would say that my model of tomorrow has already happened today. What do you think?

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang, you are describing your latest job switch. How about the previous one? (public sector to private sector) Were you also employing your idea of ensuring/maximising your "employability" factor (which I like very much btw) by that switch?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Partly, but there were many other reasons. Among other things, I felt that the criminal legal system sucked, and that the people who could do something about it were not going to do anything about it.

I have to say that there seem to have been some improvements, ever since a new Chief Justice took over. One improvement is his setting up of a Community Court, designed to better handle underaged criminals, mentally ill offenders etc.

Anonymous said...

It's a well known fact that one cannot expect to remain in the same job for his/her whole life. I think it was pointed out by SM Goh while he was still PM a few years back.

But knowing is one thing, doing like what Mr Wang did is another. Great move.

moomooman said...

Hi Wang,

At what you are earning today. Would you give it up and serve our nation as a minister at your current pay?

Or let's put the patriotism is any aside.

Just say, at current pay and there is a job of a minister out there, would you take it up?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

I think this will be a wake up call to any aspiring doctor who wishes to enter the medical profession due to the lure of money.

The bright side is that we might have more students who will be committed doctors after they graduate from medical school. I know I will be one.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Wang,

Your sympathy towards your fellow professionals is noted.

However, don't you think it is hypocritical to expect continued government intervention and restrictions on supply of able & qualified foreign talent into the fields of law and medicine just to ensure that compensation-effort ratio in these industries remain high?

..especially when other professions and industries are already open to competition through the effects of globalisation?

Join the rest. Start running...

Jack Ryan

Exodus said...

Mr Wang: Others would say that my model of tomorrow has already happened today. What do you think?

I agree. I'm also doing career switches to ensure employability :-P

exodus said...

Oops, what I meant was to "improve employability" not "ensure" as the world is changing very fast.

As one FT friend wryly noted, Sg govt policies subject Sg to higher peaks but lower trough and shorter+sharper economic cycle. Left unsaid: Is it really a good thing for its citizens?

Liju said...
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Liju said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ice331 said...

you ar right, boxes get changed/reorganised ever so often. in corporate world, you either move yourself or be moved.

changes is constant. needless to say, the former give one the upper hand.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"At what you are earning today. Would you give it up and serve our nation as a minister at your current pay?

Or let's put the patriotism is any aside.

Just say, at current pay and there is a job of a minister out there, would you take it up?"


Assume that there are no other issues - eg whether I have the ability; whether I can agree with PAP ideology etc etc ... and the pay has become the sole consideration.

Then sure, I would definitely consider the job.

The opportunity to do public service at the top level would indeed be highly attractive. And adjusting for the higher costs of living in Japan, in real terms I would probably be earning about as much as Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan. What's there to complain about?

Even the highly cynical job-seeker (with no genuine passion for public service) can see that there are numerous attractions about the minister's job:

eg power;
respect;
high profile;
unusual life experience;
chance to meet many interesting people eg world leaders;
exciting challenges for strategic thinkers;
chance to appear in the history books.

Focusing on the money side, you get:

lifelong pension;
probable future senior management role with a GLC;
5-year tenure of job stability (which is much better than the average senior mgmt role in the real private sector).

Why then does PM Lee say that he has difficulty getting talented Singaporeans to join his party? You can see that in many cases, money isn't probably not the real issue.

In my opinion, many talented Singaporeans whom the PAP has been trying to recruit are probably staying away for other kinds of reasons. Like, they have no enthusiasm for PAP ideology and they really don't think that they can work with Certain Senior Figures in the Party.

The PAP can keep offering more money to some of these talented Singaporeans, and they will probably still stay away. Why? Because they know that there's more to life than money - and they, like Mr Wang, are already earning enough to live quite comfortably. The money is not the point.

Nathan said...

Of course money IS the point.
P65 MP Hri Kumar (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) put it thus: “If people demand that politicians take an oath of sainthood with their oath of office, then they are just asking to be deceived.” Unless you discount a Sylvia Lim

Porcorosso said...

Rome fell because of the Romans started depending on slaves for its economy and mercenaries for its armies - tomorrow's model has been here (well, not exactly here)before.

Anonymous said...

The PAP can keep offering more money to some of these talented Singaporeans, and they will probably still stay away. Why? Because they know that there's more to life than money - and they, like Mr Wang, are already earning enough to live quite comfortably. The money is not the point.

Exactly...the PAP is materialistic and thinks everyone will degenerate to their level.. that everyone has a price...It is also very capitalistic...if you are not contributing to the economy you are not worth anything in their estimation. Which is why many of the younger generation are giving up on Singapore. So sad..

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, you are right;loyalty is dead. More and more long service workers feel shame to go on stage to receive their certificates of dedication. Where can a degree holder with more than 20 years of civil service go if he is not happy wih his performance bonus?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang:
The PAP can keep offering more money to some of these talented Singaporeans, and they will probably still stay away. Why? Because they know that there's more to life than money - and they, like Mr Wang, are already earning enough to live quite comfortably. The money is not the point.
_________________________________________________________________
You are right, $$$ is not the issue nor a strong factor of consideration.

What you highlighted is basically the admixture of intention or motivation (the why), and purpose or goal (the what for). If politics is treated as a career, it explains itself. If politics is seen as a $$ spinner, it also explains itself. If politics is abt grabbing power, it is also obvious. If politics is to prove to everyone how good u are, then it also explains. If politics is abt losing yr conscience or soul, then it better be clear in the first place.

So $$$ is not the only issue or the most fundamental issue to begin with.

loupgarou said...

It's a well known fact that one cannot expect to remain in the same job for his/her whole life. I think it was pointed out by SM Goh while he was still PM a few years back.

---
indeed, thus we have job titles such as SM, MM and SO (Sith Overlord)

Anonymous said...

Well...it's kind of difficult for these "M"s to go somewhere else anyway. Who says the government doesn't take care of its' people? *sniggers*

Anonymous said...

This is just a theory, kopishop talk.......the Ms have to be in power. If not, all the dirt under the carpet will slowly start to leak out (to make use of ISA/ISD, you need to be in power).....look what happen to Mahatir when he steps down totally.

I am very sure MM will choose to remain in power even though if he gets no salary at all. Who needs $ when you have that kind of power.....1 call, u get all the things done and also gets what you want.....

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, about your April 16, 11.10pm comment:

I fully agree with your view about our criminal legal system. Sometimes, I feel that the people setting up and keeping this system going are the REAL criminals.

I have actually experienced a brush with the law sometime back when my brother was involved. The IO himself handling the case said the law sucks, and because his own relatives had once been in the same hot soup, he did his damdest best to help obtain the lightest sentence possible, which was only possible through some invisible dealings with the AG's. My lawyer warned against trusting them, because there had never been a precedent. We took the leap of faith, and it worked. We never forgot that IO.

I really hate our criminal legal system and its draconian laws.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr Wang,

How about blogging about the ways to keep yourself employable? This would be useful for everyone especially for the civil servants out there eager to make the switch.

moomooman said...

Hi Wang,

On your last para, if you guys are earning quite comfortably and thus do not want to sacrifice for the job in the office... would 3 times the salary be sufficient compensation?

Where I'm leading is that while we all complain about Minister's salary, the matter of fact is that at many's current salary, especially yours, the motivation to serve the nation at current pay is just not worth the sacrifice.

Then, the next question is... if you are in this for the money, you are probably not suitable for such a job.

But sometimes even if you would like to serve the nation, you are also bound by your obligations towards family, spending more time etc.

Perhaps 3x salary may just do the job of compensating for family time. Though again there are people who feel that family time should not be "bribed".

If we feel the same way about ministers serving the nation and be highly paid, how about Specialist Doctors who charge astromical fees to cure patients? Shouldn't they be doing at a fraction of the cost for the good of the world?

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute... isnt this topic about globalisation and the influx of foreign talent in traditional professions? How did this become a discussion on ministerial pay again...

So rather than digress towards Ministerial Salaries, what solution would you suggest to prevent 'hordes' from overseas from coming over to Singapore and depressing salaries? What is your learned view on this? How would Singapore, as a society, benefit from this prevention?

Jack Ryan

Mr Wang Says So said...

Moo Moo Man:

Hahaa. First, ask yourself - what do you mean by sacrifice? You mentioned "family time".

The average minister does not spend more hours at work than many professionals - eg the average lawyer or doctor.

Two anecdotes for you:

Eg my wife goes into labour, checks into hospital at 10 pm; the obstetrician doctor shows up by 11 pm, works till 6 am when my daughter is born -

and then later that day, the doctor carries on with his work as usual. He has to start on his hospital morning rounds at 7 am, to check on all the hospitalised patients.

On another occasion, my young son had very high fever. We called our paedatrician, he said bring him to the hospital immediately. We got there at 11:30 pm and the paedatrican got there at 11:45 pm. It was close to 1:00 am when we were done. I thanked the doctor and apologised for disturbing him so late - he laughed and said, "Oh, it's noting, I'm used to it. It happens all the time."

So don't be too mistaken about ministers having to sacrifice so much more of their time than other professionals, ok?

james said...

what sacrifices???? LOL. In life, ppl sacrifice all the time - they dun directly do things for themselves.

They can't be doing nothing or meditating on their backside eternally.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, "borrow" your blog to clearify something. Many students want to be doctors because they think it's the job to save lives. Actually the job that saves lives is social work. You save the person during the initial psychological depression before it becomes expensive clinical treatment most can ill afford in Singapore.

Those who cite wanting to "save to the world" in becoming a doctor earn such dubious sentiment from many of us.

Why don't most of them (the fakers I mean) owe up to only wanting the glamour and status more than the saving lives part?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, digress since it degenarated into Minister pay again. Would you not suspect the PAP raise Minister pay so that whoever qualified persons the opposition recruited at current market can still be listed as "wanting higher pay more than wanting to serve" in tomorrow's market.

The same old yesterday market strategy which works so well, it is current and tomorrow market too. Hehehehehehehe

Anonymous said...

I, too, do not buy that "sacrifice" argument.

I work in a business development position. My job has no official hours because any of my company's overseas clients and associates may call me any time of the day to discuss our projects and contracts.

I also had to travel to any country when assigned, be it a first world or a third world city. One week, I'm in New York and the next, I'm in Vietnam. Frankly, it is not "jiak hong" because business trips are not scheduled with R&R slots.

I also get to entertain all kinds of clowns, whether I like it or not. Try drinking and talking cock the whole night with some China men. As I am female, I also have to learn to reject unnecessary advances from the men diplomatically and watch over my own safety in foreign lands.

Sacrifice? the ministers think too highly of themselves....

moomooman said...

Hi again,

I agreed my choice of word "sacrifice" is too overfetched in my argument.

The doctors you quoted are well compensated for the irregular hours, the nature of job, plus sacrifices to family. But if hours are what we are talking about, the domestic maids should be rich.

But should the compensation not in line with the nature of work, would your paedatrician still do night calls? I'm sure some would. Just like some lawyers would remain as lawyers. Others like yourself chose a different field for a better monetary prospect.

The question would then be, at what compensation would be enough to attract talents like yourself to quit what you are doing to join the office?

I'm not good enough. But I feel I'm smarter than George Bush and I should run for US presidency.

Saying that, this is just for argument as I think this "forum" is too one sided.

If you ask me, I think half of PAP Mps are overly paid. And I think the opposition are lowly paid.

Celestial said...

Nobody will ever think that he/she is overpaid.
So the best professional is still being a mxxxster, cos u get a blank check to write on...u decide ur own salary. If you are after money but not smart enough to be in the corporate world..then u go and join MIW.

Anonymous said...

"Tomorrow's Model" is a very depressing view of the New Economy for Singaporeans. Unlike the more developed economies, Singaporean have to work much harder & longer hours to afford the basic things in life. Not a swiss standard of living by any means.

Singapore does not have any substantial creative industries which can growing exponentially eg. MMORPG gaming development, media/reality show programming, music/video content amalgaters, etc. These are new wealth builders, eg. Myspace, Youtube, etc.

Censorship, innate fear and strait-jacketed educational system have destroyed the Singapore mind.

The reality in Singapore is simply we are living past glories and the leadership does not have what it takes despite being richly and not justifiably rewarded for their weak administration. I fear for the future of Singapore and all Singaporeans cos we will be like Penang, Malacca after the wealth is gone!

Anonymous said...

China and India or for that matter, the Globe, is the reason why Singaporeans have to work much harder & longer hours to afford what is deemed as the basic things in life.

Singapore does not have any substantial creative industries, which explains MOM's current policy - an injection of foreign objects (talented or otherwise).

Censorship, innate fear are but tools of social engineering. Exists everywhere but to differing degrees.

Are we living on past glories? Perhaps. But I would give credit to the current administration for trying to move towards future glory. Can't say much about the previous 10 years though.

Singapore has seen a remarkable transformation over the last year, adapting and changing with the times. Look at the transformation of PSA (esp. the part before) and that bears some semblence to what Singapore is going through.

Ned Stark said...

Mr Wang,

In your opinion what are the prospects of new people entering the legal profession? Besides the fact that you work rather long hours and all?

Anonymous said...

What is today model? What is tomorrow model? They are nothing but illusion create by Visionary and sell by salesman. The fool will buy it, only to know, overtimes, that they have been conned. Hence, the need to update to justify the "conning".

Everything is changing and changing. They are nothing but illusion. No past, no present and no future.

Anonymous said...

"China and India or for that matter, the Globe, is the reason why Singaporeans have to work much harder & longer hours to afford what is deemed as the basic things in life."

Why do Singaporeans equate their lot with China/India - 3rd world countries? We're already a 1st world nation. We should compare ourselves with the US, UK, OZ or the Swiss. Globalization has nothing to do with working harder & longer hours - it's a fallacy! Developed countries have minimum wage laws to ensure even the disadvantaged gets a fair wage!

"Singapore does not have any substantial creative industries, which explains MOM's current policy - an injection of foreign objects (talented or otherwise)."

Again, 2 fallacies here! 1. Talent do not equate to creative minds. MOM criteria for talent = academic qualifications ~ hardly a measure of creativity. 2. Creativity is nurtured/encouraged from young and not imported. It is a state of free mind to explore and make mistakes without penalty. Does our education system allow for this? I don't think so! In the end, MOM's foreign talent policy is about employment and eroding wage levels & not about propagating creativity and entreprenuership.

"Censorship, innate fear are but tools of social engineering. Exists everywhere but to differing degrees."

Have you heard of 1st Admendment in the US Constitution? They "exists everywhere" but developed nations have checks & balances to prevent abuse. Social engineering is passe! - used only in communist countries which is also passe.

Future glory? to whom? the people or the government? Do we have a clear picture of Singapore's future for the next 50 years? I don't think so!

"Singapore has seen a remarkable transformation over the last year, adapting and changing with the times. Look at the transformation of PSA (esp. the part before) and that bears some semblence to what Singapore is going through."

Transformation to what? It's the same old, same old. The entire point is missed - we clearly need creativity in the New Economy, not some old "Port Services" economy. Anyway, here we don't have any manufacturing base so it's mainly transshipment. The remaking of Singapore is purely cosmetic and does not address the long term issues of gainful employment, entreprenuership, retirement, age discrimination, wage levels and living standards.

In fact, we have rolled backwards during the last 10 years the advances we made since 1987. The future as I see is very dim even with the IRs. Macau has already taken the 1st mover advantage in this area.

Anyway, you're like those PAP vigilaties prowling the net to "rebut" in favour of PAP policies.

Anonymous said...

What is today model? What is tomorrow model? They are nothing but illusion create by Visionary and sell by salesman. The fool will buy it, only to know, overtimes, that they have been conned. Hence, the need to update to justify the "conning".

Everything is changing and changing. They are nothing but illusion. No past, no present and no future.

Are you on "ice" or "e's"? You're like a frog not knowing you're cooking in hot water until it's too late! Talking rubbish about illusions and con-jobs! You must be a ghost awaiting reincarnation if there is "no past, no present and no future".

What Mr Wang is saying is that there is no more employee loyalty, no more long term employment and you got to look out for yourself & find your own niche to survive. Tomorrow's model if you do not get the gist of it is gonna be your own funeral.

geriatric_eunuch said...

Some would say that I am wrong. Others would say that my model of tomorrow has already happened today. What do you think?

Come, come. Shurely there hash been shome mishtake here? Er, sho shorry, didn't mean to call you Shirley, Mishter Wang.

Consider. The good ship RSS Titanic S'ore sailing on majestically into uncharted waters, as it has done since time began, using yesterday's technology. Immensely strong. Unsinkable. Under the baleful eye of its architect, left hand proudly fondling the infallible crystal ball, inflexible right grasping the tiller, its hyper-talented ultra-efficient incorruptible crew is simply raring to rock. Grog rations have been increased beyond the dreams of avarice; sweating pawns tend the mighty engines. Even while emptying the bilges, bedraggled aunties and uncles in their dotage shed tears of humble gratitude for the meagre scraps cast their way by a magnanimous scholar. On the topmost decks, the cream of the nation parties the nights away, supremely confident in the precision course and heading set by their brand new captain, a person of rare intellect and vision. Ave C├Žsar, Morituri te salutamus? Nah, what could possibly go wrong?

Some might say you're being unduly pessimistic about tomorrow's new economy, Mr W. Some might, but...

I'll just get my lifebelt.

Josephine said...

The Titanic analogy is most apt. Especially when there are only enough lifeboats for the elite class. Others can drown for all they care.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I would not say that I am pessimistic. What I think is that the world is changing quickly, and people who are insufficiently aware will be caught wrong-footed and suffer the consequences. Change, however, also brings opportunities, for people who look out for them.

When I speak of "tomorrow's model", I wasn't thinking of a single "tomorrow's model" that is an illusion created by some visionary and being sold by some salesman.

I was actually referring to a tomorrow's model that each individual has for himself, based on his own personal circumstances.

Eg given YOUR age, personality, educational background, work experience, ability etc ...

... and taking into consideration the trends that affect YOU will go in the future ...

where would you be in one year's time ... or two years' time ... or five years' time ..... if you just carried on doing on whatever you've been doing? Is that where you want to be? If not, should you start doing something else starting now, today?

What you choose to do differently will of course depend also on where you are right now. There could be several different ways for you to survive and thrive; of course, there could also be several different ways for you to suffer and perish.

Small example - I am investing in Chinese and Indian equities for the long term. In the short and middle terms, there will be periods when their very volatile stock markets overshoot themselves, and I have to cut exposure and start climbing back in again after the market dips / crashes. So there are risks. But in the long run, I believe that Chinese / Indian equities are a great way to get rich, a great way to tap into the economic growth of these two countries.

That's just one little example, of Mr Wang arranging his matters based on his personal tomorrow's model of the world.

Anonymous said...

OT into parliament salary hike:

Let's look at MPs and their "sacrifices".

PAP MPs got their grassroots to do all the work for them. Their rewards is not the $13k/mth MP allowance but business connections, status and power. Whereas opposition MPs really is doing social service, they got the most to lose and least to gain. Seeing things in this light it is not hard to see who are the self-serving ones.

Anonymous said...

"PAP MPs got their grassroots to do all the work for them. Their rewards is not the $13k/mth MP allowance but business connections, status and power. "

Sorry but I fail to see how this applies to PAP MPs only and not the opposition MP. Same can be said for both.

"Whereas opposition MPs really is doing social service, they got the most to lose and least to gain."

Same for this. Why can't PAP MPs be doing social service? They have nothing to lose, but everything to gain? I fail to see again why this cannot be applied on both parties.

Dunno leh. Clarify Clarify.

Anonymous said...

Opposition got defamation suits, CCTV and foul words hurled at them, all the time....

What power? what connections?

Anonymous said...

Well, one obvious reason is that Singapore's biggest corporates all have strong connections with the PAP.

Eg SPH has Yeo Ning Hong and Tony Tan on its board of directors; PM Lee's wife is CEO of Temasek Holdings; Lee Kuan Yew, Richard Hu and Lee Hsien Loong are with GIC etc etc. Among the PAP MPs, you also find many significant personalities among the local business community - eg Davinder Singh, managing director of one of Singapore's top law firm etc.

So if you are seeking to make powerful business connections through political means, you'd naturally join the PAP rather than the opposition.

Anonymous said...

Well, one obvious reason is that Singapore's biggest corporates all have strong connections with the PAP.

Eg SPH has Yeo Ning Hong and Tony Tan on its board of directors; PM Lee's wife is CEO of Temasek Holdings; Lee Kuan Yew, Richard Hu and Lee Hsien Loong are with GIC etc etc. Among the PAP MPs, you also find many significant personalities among the local business community - eg Davinder Singh, managing director of one of Singapore's top law firm etc.

So if you are seeking to make powerful business connections through political means, you'd naturally join the PAP rather than the opposition.

Ned Stark said...

Mr Wang,

With regards to the legal profession, is there any way for the issue of high turn over rate and lack of lawyers to be resolved? Is it possible, given the new economy and new stressful lifestyle which follows?

confused-kid said...

Hi Mr Wang,
I like the phrase about "Employability is more important than employment". Employment is entwined to every Singaporean's mindset.
Gone are the days where one can: armed with a degree, get a bossy job, sit in an office with an old ceiling fan, read newspapers and have clerks handling the administration. To draw an analogy being in SG IT industry, its so much of a hub with foreign talent and all. Would one take a hiatus from employment pursue certification/studies and rejoin the market?
Is it an acceptable norm to employers to see a lull period in a candidate's CV?
What all say?