AS PART of the Government’s bid to increase productivity, employers are now recommended to develop T-shaped skills among their workforce.

According to the recommendations spelt out by the Government, domain expertise (represented by the vertical stem of the letter “T”) will earn an individual the respect of the rest of the team, while horizontal T-skills will empower him with soft skills to manage a team, be aware of changes in the market, make tough decisions and look into the future.

From a management perspective, T-skilled workers are better value for any organisation. They are able to manage projects and spot gaps in market needs with their “broad” business skills while offering technical expertise in the particular field.

Their versatility makes them suitable for positions ranging from managers and professionals to technicians and executives, especially in fields where leaders need both technology and business knowledge to leverage the right information to serve their clients.

T-shaped skills

The typical T-shaped worker is empathetic, inquisitive and willing to explore areas beyond his comfort zone.

* Being empathetic allows you to be able to put yourself into others’ shoes and see the world and its complexities from another point of view. Understanding different perspectives and insights are crucial in managing a team.

* Being inquisitive fuels drive and passion in almost every occupation. An inquisitive individual never stops learning.

* With your love for learning, you can be a professional who is not only comfortable in your area of specialisation, but is also willing to explore new areas on top of and above your original job scope.

Singapore’s challenging economic environment threatens to replace companies that fail to reflect the nation’s agenda of increasing productivity and employers who do not increase their hire of graduates with capabilities similar to that of a T-shaped worker.

Keeping in mind this latest trend, what can undergraduates do to increase their competitiveness and appeal to employers who are seeking to bring onboard T-shape-skilled capabilities?

As an undergraduate, what can you do to succeed in this era of productivity?

1. Take on an active role in a student club

Being part of a student body brings together individuals of different characteristics to attain a common goal and, in the process of doing so, cultivates soft skills such as teamwork, communication skills and initiative needed to survive in the corporate world.

Employers on the lookout for graduates with “broad” business skills such as teamwork, leadership and situational awareness will be further enticed by your ability to manage and motivate peers within a team.

2. Do volunteer or charity work

In clocking your compulsory community hours, you should also consider streamlining volunteer work to reflect a cause that engages you.

This is because, more often than not, employers are interested in getting to know and understand the personality behind a name: What motivates you? What do you believe? What is your passion?

And therein lies the answer to the question: “How will you fit into your organisation?”

Being a committed volunteer requires time, passion and effort. It is about committing yourself to a service where you see a higher form of reward that far outweighs monetary benefits.

This adds another dimension of empathy and drive to the impression you imprint onto your future employer.

3. Cross-faculty programmes

Most students are exposed to a deep specialisation of knowledge that will earn them the domain expertise required in their future occupations. They tend to lack broad-based business and language skills.

How can you attune your undergraduate education to make yourself more appealing as T-shape-friendly candidate?

Cross-faculty education, where students specialising in a subject are exposed to broad business concepts and vice versa, is an opportunity you can seize to attain relevant T-shaped skills.

Soft-skill sessions are sometimes inculcated as part of the programme, where added elements like presentation skills, cross-functional team building and active listening are included to develop a well-rounded graduate.

Many things can be done to shape you into a well-rounded, T-shape-friendly graduate. These activities expose you to new life experiences and create a ground for people of different characteristics and personalities to interact.

It is important that you learn to be open-minded in accepting other people’s approaches to issues, however different and contradictory to your own views and opinions they may be.

Only by doing so can you begin to empathise with people, be inquisitive about different perspectives and gain the courage to walk the path less ventured.

Not only will you become a more mature person, you will also be more employable.