Avary Chong as founder of code-R, a NGO promoting Purposeful Living.
Worried about the future
I have a decent job, but I’m worried about whether I can continue to be relevant and stay employable in the long term. The cost of living in Hong Kong is high and there are so many uncertainties. It’s stressful thinking about the future and whether I’ll be able to keep providing for my family. For now, I can, barely…there’s only so much the salary of a mid-level manager can afford.
I’m conscious of the fact that I’m only somewhat average in my education, skills and career. I already feel that the next generation are much more skilled than I am. I’m not very technologically literate — technology was not as common an influence from childhood as it is to today’s young. I have a bachelor’s degree, but there are so many more people now getting their master’s. I’m fluent in English and have conversational Cantonese, but my Mandarin is terrible and the positions in my industry where being bilingual is advantageous are increasingly favouring Mandarin.
I know that companies are embracing technological solutions that are starting to reduce and replace the need for human workers, especially those who don’t have specialist skills. I also read that there are even A.I. lawyers doing legal research for major law firms and A.I. robots taking over certain surgeries, so not even highly technical fields are safe. So what hope do I have as an average Joe?
Even though you think you’re only average, the very real worries you have are actually shared by billions across the world, and a very large portion of the population here in Hong Kong.
I know how you feel. You feel squeezed between the costs to support your life, and the peanuts you have to stretch just to get by. Sometimes it feels like the glut of fancy titles you see in companies nowadays is just to make people feel important and make up for not really paying all that well. And you’re trapped. There are few to no options available for earning much more than you do, so the future is a dark and scary place where you can’t even be certain that the few opportunities you have will continue to exist.
Added to that is the anxiety of having to remain competitive against the next rising generation of youth who are more educated, more connected, more energetic, and more literate in the savvy technological skills and know-how that now dominate our society more and more. Not to mention the increasingly complicated international economic climate.
But you’re in a good place to be preparing early. It’s clear that a big motivation for you is being able to continue supporting your family. So think about the legacy you want to create for yourself. What does an acceptable level of support mean for you? What kind of lifestyle do you want for your family as a minimum? And what do you want for yourself out of your career?
With that in mind, evaluate your career and start creatively planning the transitions and up-skilling you will need to progress in order to achieve the legacy you want. Think big picture, and be prepared to plan for the long term over a period of many years. This might involve self study, part-time courses, and professional certification. At the very least, develop yourself enough that you can keep your career options open and access higher level positions. You can’t make the future less uncertain, but you can certainly make your ability to respond to unpredictability much more certain.