SINGAPORE – In this series, manpower correspondent Calvin Yang offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: I am a fresh graduate who just started working. Are the skills I learnt in school outdated?

A: Digital technologies are forcing rapid changes in economies, which means what we learnt in school may not be relevant by the time we join the workforce.

“Many jobs that you may be used to seeing today did not exist five years ago, and we cannot even begin to imagine what kind of jobs will be created in the next five years,” says Ms Michele Nyrop, senior vice-president of employee success at software giant Salesforce.

“Technology will advance faster than the skills of the workforce. These future jobs will demand skills that we’re not proficient in yet, and the only way to narrow the gap is to keep learning.”

The reality is that you may already be behind the curve.

A global study conducted by Salesforce found that only 36 per cent of Singapore respondents felt “very prepared” and had workplace digital skills in collaboration technology, e-commerce and digital marketing.

Comparably, 44 per cent of respondents from the United States felt the same way.

That said, soft skills such as creativity, problem solving, communication, public speaking, teamwork, punctuality and learning from criticism that you picked up during school will still serve you well.

These soft skills, which are transferable across multiple industries, are among the top things employers assess when hiring, say experts.

They are essential in the workplace as it affects how well you work with others.

Also, the network of contacts made in school, including your schoolmates, hall mates and teachers, could be useful in the future.

Workers should focus on becoming adept at their roles, while taking stock of their current skill sets, identify possible skill gaps and plan what they need for career progression. 

However, this demands a mindset shift when it comes to learning, says Dr Timothy Chan, vice-provost at SIM Global Education.