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Learning new skills provides great insurance for an uncertain future

By Yang Zekun | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-02-22 09:15
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Workers clean a window at the Shanghai World Financial Center on Feb 9, just before Spring Festival. YANG JIANZHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

External wall cleaners get up at 5 am and work from 8 am to 5 pm. They earn about 8,000 yuan ($1,240) a month, sending about half to their families.

The work is physically and mentally tiring, leaving them with little time or energy to learn new skills. Some said they wanted to change jobs, but they had no other skills.

Few employers hire cleaners age 50 and older because of their declining health, meaning many of today's workers may lose their jobs in the coming years.

None of the people I spoke with knew what they would do if that were to happen.

A lot of white-collar employees face similar situations and are trapped by work and life.

Many companies assure their employees that their hard work will result in promotion and they pitch the 9-9-6 schedule-working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week.

In 2019, Jack Ma, former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, said the 9-9-6 schedule was a great blessing, but few companies or workers are in a position to implement it.

Although white-collar workers receive extra pay for working overtime, they eventually discover that the hidden cost may be time and health, two of the most valuable things in life.

While we have been taught that hard work pays off, the effort of repeating the same actions every day is not conducive to personal development.

A friend of mine who has two master's degrees copied documents and served tea at a university for a year. His supervisor assured him that he would be promoted sooner or later, but he quit the job.

The knowledge and technologies in various fields are being upgraded fast, and machines can even replace humans in some positions such as bank tellers and assembly line workers.

So, if we fail to keep learning new things and broaden our horizons, we become less competitive.

Many people who lose their jobs at about age 40 due to company reforms and layoffs find it hard to land new work because most companies prefer to hire younger employees who learn quickly.

We should be well-prepared and make full use of our spare time to learn new things and try as many new fields as possible. Fresh knowledge and the ability to learn are not only helpful for our current jobs, but they may also offer an edge in the event of being laid off.


Yang Zekun
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