Millennials find their calling in unheard-of jobs

AR filter creator, genetic counsellor, ethical hacker and drone specialist are among new jobs that have been created amid rapid advances in technology, changing marketing strategies and a shift in how people view certain industries

Visitors at the opening of Sengkang Community Hospital in March got to enjoy an unusual treat.

If they pointed their smartphones at a sculpture on the building's central fountain, virtual cherry blossoms bloomed and virtual fish splashed around in a lake.

The augmented reality (AR) effects were created by 32-year-old Eugene Soh using free Facebook software. The hospital paid him a five-figure sum for the project.

Within the past two years, Facebook and Instagram have started allowing third parties to create customised AR filters, a move which has inadvertently spawned a new job - that of the AR filter creator.

Since taking on commercial AR projects at the start of the year, Mr Soh has been earning an average of about $9,000 a month.

A national sports agency also paid him a five-figure sum for developing AR effects that allow the user to shoot a football at an animal goalkeeper.

He is just one of many millennial workers pursuing jobs that did not exist a decade ago.

  • 65%

  • Estimated proportion of children entering primary school today who will end up in jobs that do not exist now, according to the World Economic Forum's Human Capital Outlook for Asean.

EVOLVING JOBS

Today, we are seeing new jobs emerging more rapidly than at any other time in history. However, this is not a case of old jobs dying and fresh jobs being born. Traditional roles are shifting and evolving into new hybrids - with jobs that sounded obscure and niche yesterday becoming less unusual today.

MS FEON ANG, vice-president at LinkedIn Talent and Learning Solutions for Asia-Pacific, on the changing nature of jobs.

THE EDGE

Companies still struggle to find the necessary talent to implement these new technologies so such workers have tremendous potential for not only job security, but also career advancement.

MR MATTHIEU IMBERT-BOUCHARD, managing director of recruitment consultancy Robert Half Singapore, who said jobs such as those in IT are unlikely to disappear any time soon in Singapore.

THE CHANGE

In the past, people thought cyber security was about making your systems robust and defending them, but today, people are paying for hackers to attack their systems to spot vulnerabilities. Hacking is a legitimate job now instead of always being associated with the illegal.

MR DARREL HUANG, an advisory services manager at Ernst & Young Advisory, who has done "ethical hacking" at Ernst & Young.

  • EMERGING JOBS

  • Instagram/Facebook filter creator

    Job description: Create augmented reality (AR) filters on social media platforms for commercial brands or partners

    Qualification or skills needed: Photoshop, 3D modelling and animation, programming

    Salary range: Varies with project


    Pay-per-click specialist

    Job description: Manages Internet pay-per-click advertising campaigns, including the strategy, design, implementation and analysis of ad performance

    Qualification or skills needed: Diploma or degree students who possess Google Ads certification and data analysis skills

    Salary range: $2,500 onwards


    Genetic counsellor

    Job description: Providing information to patients and family members on the inheritance of, or risk of inheriting, illness through interpreting genetic test results and supporting them in dealing with these illnesses

    Qualification or skills needed: Master of Genetic Counselling, and communication and group facilitation skills

    Salary range: $3,000 onwards


    Ethical hacker

    Job description: Hacking into clients' systems to find loopholes or vulnerabilities as part of cyber security measures

    Qualification or skills needed: Crest certification, technical knowledge in security controls, networks and operating systems, and understanding of internationally accepted information security standards and local regulatory guidelines

    Salary range: $4,000 onwards


    Drone specialist

    Job description: Design, assemble and operate drones to meet clients' needs - for instance, for surveillance

    Qualification or skills needed: Diploma in Aerospace Electronics, Bachelor's in Engineering, specifically in the aerospace field, and skills in computer-aided design

    Salary range: $3,000 onwards

An estimate from the World Economic Forum's Human Capital Outlook for Asean said that 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will end up in jobs that do not exist now.

Its 2016 Human Capital Outlook report said that the pace of change will only get faster thanks to rapid advances in robotics, driverless transport, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, advanced materials and genomics.

The top five emerging jobs here are all linked to technology, according to a study carried out in Singapore from 2013 to 2017 by job aggregator LinkedIn.

These roles are data scientist, cyber-security specialist, user-experience designer, head of digital and content specialist.

"Today, we are seeing new jobs emerging more rapidly than at any other time in history. However, this is not a case of old jobs dying and fresh jobs being born," said Ms Feon Ang, vice-president at LinkedIn Talent and Learning Solutions for Asia-Pacific.

"Traditional roles are shifting and evolving into new hybrids - with jobs that sounded obscure and niche yesterday becoming less unusual today."

An example is the emergence of the drone industry, in which new technology and equipment are used for surveillance, gradually replacing security officers for monitoring and inspection.

Co-founder of drone company NimbusUAV, Mr Tai Yi Long, 26, said: "There are still very few jobs out there that involve the designing and flying of drones because many companies are more used to the old methods of surveillance."

Mr Tai and three other aerospace systems coursemates started the drone company six months ago after graduating from university.

New jobs also arise when companies tap technology to reach more targeted audiences or customers by rethinking old ways of marketing.

Mr Elvis Ong, 26, recalled being "fascinated" after visiting an online shop to buy something and straight afterwards seeing advertisements for the item on Google when he used its search engine.

That led him to take on a job called "pay-per-click specialist", a person who creates advertisements with keywords aligned with what people search for on Google so the ads will appear - preferably at the top of the page - when people use the search engine.

This is a form of re-marketing, a type of online advertising that enables sites to show targeted ads to users who have visited their site.

New jobs are also created when there is a shift in how people view certain industries, such as cyber security.

Mr Darrel Huang, an advisory services manager at Ernst & Young Advisory, said: "In the past, people thought cyber security was about making your systems robust and defending them, but today, people are paying for hackers to attack their systems to spot vulnerabilities.

"Hacking is a legitimate job now instead of always being associated with the illegal."

The 31-year-old was the top "white hat" hacker who took part in the Ministry of Defence's (Mindef) bug bounty programme last year, and walked away with US$5,000 (S$6,800) after finding nine vulnerabilities in Mindef systems.

He spent five years carrying out "ethical hacking" at Ernst & Young, although his job scope has expanded to include project and people management.

ARE NEW JOBS TOO SPECIALISED?

Labour economist and Nominated MP Walter Theseira wonders whether work is becoming more specialised - to the extent that skills for a particular job are not relevant anywhere other than in that one role.

"That would have profound implications because it would mean, for example, that employers would likely have to bear more of the costs of job training; contracts would probably aim to tie workers down so that expensively trained skills wouldn't be lost and workers would face more significant adjustment costs on losing a job," he said.

Some emerging jobs may not even have career frameworks yet.

Take the job of genetic counsellors, who advise patients and their families on whether genetic testing is appropriate, interpret test results and explain how the results may impact treatment.

The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) started offering this position in 2015, and has four full-time genetic counsellors and one who works part-time. Singapore has about 10 to 15 genetic counsellors.

"Genetic counsellors are a relatively new and growing field in Singapore. SingHealth cluster is currently reviewing the career progression for this job," said Ms Jasmine Goh, chief human resources officer at NCCS and SingHealth.

Still, Ms Ang said specialised and generalist skills will be equally important for the jobs of the future.

"Specialised skills that are required for the jobs of today will need to be supported by generalist skills such as adaptability, resilience and communication skills - evergreen traits that employers are constantly looking for," she added.

Being a genetic counsellor like 28-year-old Ms Jeanette Yuen, for instance, requires specialised skills and qualifications. She obtained a master's in genetic counselling from the University of Sydney and started work as a genetic counsellor three months ago.

Genetic counsellor Jeanette Yuen, 28, works at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, and advises patients and their families on genetic testing. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH 

Yet soft skills, such as having empathy, communication skills and knowing how to manage the emotions of patients, are important too.

Mr Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, managing director of recruitment consultancy Robert Half Singapore, said jobs such as those in the IT industry are unlikely to disappear any time soon in Singapore.

"Companies still struggle to find the necessary talent to implement these new technologies so such workers have tremendous potential for not only job security, but also career advancement."

SELF-LEARNING AND PASSION

As training centres or educational institutes here may not offer the latest in new emerging specialised skills, young people are seeking other ways to sharpen their skills.

Said senior human resource consultant Martin Gabriel: "Self-learning is now a new trend. YouTube tutorials are just a click away, and the young are Internet savvy."

 
 
 

Mr Huang would read up on the latest hacking trends on the Internet or industry newsletters.

Mr Tai turns to the Internet and networking partners to learn skills on creating and handling unmanned aerial vehicles.

These young people's drive to learn is fuelled by genuine interest.

As a boy, Mr Tai enjoyed playing with remote-controlled helicopters. And even though he already flies drones a few times a week for work, he still flies his own for leisure at Old Holland Road on weekends.

Mr Soh makes it a point to create his own "nonsense" filters for fun. These are available to others free of charge.

Mr Eugene Soh, 32, showing Instagram filter effects he created on a photo of his sister Jane, 30. His filter, which transforms faces into those of aliens against a backdrop of Mars and UFOs, has had 12 million impressions since March. Since taking on commercial augmented reality projects at the start of the year, Mr Soh has been earning an average of about $9,000 a month. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE 

His top filter is a face emoji filter that has been viewed 38 million times since last December.

Another filter of his which transforms faces into those of aliens against a backdrop of Mars and UFOs has had 12 million impressions since March.

Like many others of his generation, he is in a privileged position to pursue passion and fulfilment instead of worrying about one's salary.

Mr Soh said: "It doesn't feel like a job. Some people may find the filters silly, and it is, but it is also fun."