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4 Ways to Boost Your Competitive Edge at Work

Career advancement is desirable, but it's not easy. Here are a few ways to boost your value within the workplace.

In Singapore's competitive landscape, it can be difficult to stand out and earn the promotion you've been working towards. In order to gain a competitive edge and impress your manager, consider the following 4 ways to progress your career.

Fill the Skills Shortage by Learning to Program

According to the Hays Global Skills Index 2019/20, there is a significant talent mismatch in Singapore. In fact, "as market participation in Singapore continues to grow, those who possess digital skills–no matter their occupation–will be the most attractive to Singapore’s expanding industries." In following, one way to step in and boost your competitive edge at work could be to master skills like programming and coding.

At first, learning programming, coding, or any similar skill may seem intimidating. However, such skills are becoming increasingly accessible with the advent of low-cost online courses, on-site tech bootcamps, and courses available through local colleges and universities. NUS, for example, offers a free 6-week online coding class. It's also possible to find free trial classes locally through platforms like Eventbrite.

Mature consumers can enjoy up to 90% off courses with the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy

Mature individuals have access to special grants for continued study. The SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy [MCES] covers up to 90% of course fees for Singaporean citizens aged 40+. Ong Ye Kung, the Education Minister of Singapore, recently stated how the state of education is changing, and how it's becoming increasingly important to intersperse work and learning up until retirement. Learning to program has the potential to benefit all ages.

Become a Pro at Public Speaking

Research in the US, UK and Indonesia has identified public speaking as one of the biggest fears of employees worldwide, influencing career progression, workplace stress levels, and success on key projects. While most people might associate public speaking with client-facing roles, it's also integral to management positions and even desk jobs involving team presentations. Given the importance and challenge of communicating professionally, practicing and gaining confidence can significantly boost your value in the workplace.

There are a few easy, low-pressure ways to begin practicing your public speaking skills. Those on a budget or with particular anxiety may want to start off small, reciting magazine articles in front of the mirror or teaching a friend something using words alone. Tutoring locally can also help with practice, while potentially earning income on the side. In general, these methods are free and require limited investment.

Public speaking is one of the biggest fears of employees worldwide

If you're more serious about shoring up on communication skills, you may be interested in joining an organisation. The Rotary Club of Singapore's vocational service offers career mentoring for a variety of skills, and Toastmasters Club of Singapore provides an avenue to practice public speaking on stage, amongst others seeking to learn and improve. While these clubs offer more defined services, they also have membership dues which may make them a bit less accessible. Toastmasters, for example, charges a S$50 joining fee as well as a S$480 annual membership fee. If your job doesn't involve a significant amount of public speaking, it may be better to opt for an informal, less-expensive option.

Spruce Up at the Spa & Get Fit at the Gym

There are more pleasant ways to boost your career as well. In fact, it may be as easy as taking a trip to the spa or adopting a new workout regimen. Research has found that physically attractive people earn 20% more than their counterparts at the office, and employees who are considered "well-groomed" tend to earn substantially higher pay. In addition, global studies have found that people who engage in regular physical activity tend to earn 4%–17% more than their peers. Fitness and maintaining a well-kept appearance may therefore impact your yearly compensation.

While it's impossible to change foundational features, it's far less difficult to set a spa appointment or sign up for a gym membership. Developing a self-care regime doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, the average cost of a spa treatment is just S$130/hour, and an average gym membership costs about S$194/month. These prices can be offset by using a rewards credit card, and may end up being fully countered by a boost in salary down the line.

People who are physically active tend to earn higher salaries

Take Time to Connect with Your Team

Finally, another way to boost your status at work is to simply make friends with co-workers. Building a positive relationship with those you manage (or those who manage you) increases the likelihood of cooperation and willingness to help one another when in need. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that warm office relationships boosted employee engagement with their work sevenfold.

Nonetheless, it's important to understand the difference between a workplace friendship and a more casual relationship. Spending too much time talking and joking with your deskmate can lead to distraction and hamper productivity. The best way to manage relationships in the office is to establish goodwill, build mutual positivity, and create a standing offer of support. As a manager, you might consider taking your team out to lunch. Even if the bill is big, you can take advantage of discounts with a dining credit card, or perhaps expense it to your office (always ask first). Non-managers might consider taking coffee breaks together, eating lunch as a team or coordinating a volunteering day outside the office.

Carrie Arndt

Carrie is a Senior Analyst at ValueChampion, helping consumers find the best credit cards and other financial products based on quantitative and qualitative analysis. She previously led consumer studies worldwide as a Senior Research Executive at MMR Research, and led development & operations and BellaVetro. She attended Duke University and Penn State University, graduating with a degree in Political Science and Government. Her work has been featured on a variety of major media such as Yahoo Finance, Asia One, Buro, Zuu Online and more.

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