Answer from Quora:

Things are changing rapidly, both in Singapore and in the wider world.  While lessons from your parents and grandparents generations are still useful, they will need to be adapted to the new reality.  Being frugal is good. Save more.  Be humble, you’ll learn faster. Listen. Be kind and generous – it will pay dividends later. Pay attention to your surroundings, as well as to world news. For the more risk averse amongst you, the civil service (including academic professions) continues to offer the most job security – something which has pretty much evaporated in the private sector.  But following the old rules of keeping your head down and working your way up the company ladder (or even hopping around) will not work for you in the way it did your parents.

Once you turn 40, have made it into middle management, you will likely be replaced soon by someone younger, cheaper and with fewer family commitments than you have (note, you won’t have this problem if you never make it up the career ladder and stay a grunt through your 20s and 30s, getting small pay raises, which is a different issue). This person is likely to be the right hand man or woman that actually does most of your work.  If you don’t have one,  congratulations, you’re the grunt.  You will still probably get laid off as soon as someone notices how old you are.

This is true in almost every modern economy, not just Singapore.  The only insurance you have against this is to be a rainmaker (the man or woman that is simply too valuable to fire, because you bring deals into the company and make it tons of money), or if you join the capitalist system as an owner (even if only in part) of your business, or have a large enough investment portfolio that you are financially independent.  I can tell you what rainmaker jobs aren’t – anything backroom, administrative, non-customer or supplier facing.  Example rainmakers are partners in law firms with lots of clients, investment bankers that regularly raise large amounts of money and make profits on their investments, designers with high popularity etc.  The common theme is these are all people who are valuable because they are rare.  Obviously, not everyone can be a rainmaker (“rare” being the defining term).  Plan your career accordingly. Strive to be rare.

It’s not all bad news – you have greater exposure to the Internet than we did and are likely Internet natives, whereas the best we could muster was being Internet immigrants (some of us are still tourists).  It’s an entire playground of opportunity that has created hundreds of billionaires and millions of millionaires.  Try not to get so crushed by the daily grind that you become blind to opportunities.  No one owes you a living, so you need to be able to grab your chances when they come.  Pick up as many skills as possible – Dilbert Creator Scott Adams states, and I agree, every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.  You really have no excuse to stop learning – there is so much good, free information on the Internet that it’s mindblowing. To illustrate, I taught myself the basics of Javascript, PHP, MySQL, server administration, product design, office administration, US corporate formation and accounting from the comfort of my desk. School is never out.

Broaden your horizons – be prepared to travel for work.  You belong to a far smarter generation than mine – which means a great deal more competition from your peers.  Don’t be intimidated by them.  Do your thing, do it well, and succeed.

What advice do Singaporeans have for Singaporeans in their early 20s?

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