Who’s “The One” Now? Good Timing Makes Great Minds
When FUNDAY set the theme for this issue, “Today’s Hottest, Most Talented Minds,” one-time deputy director of TVBS Hong Kong and FUNDAY’S current director of programming, Yuan Xin-Zhong, recalled with a sigh: “When I was a student I chose to go into the less popular liberal arts program, instead of science and engineering. I was beaten by my father for it. I didn’t expect that today’s scenario would be so different.” This sentiment speaks to the fact that industries are changing more rapidly than ever; therefore, young minds need to adapt. Talented minds can’t rely on their intellect alone; they must also be in the right place at the right time. So, who will be in the next wave of “sought-after” talent?
For some perspective, think about those living in the late Qing Dynasty. Recognizing that the Xinhai Revolution was coming would have been paramount in choosing whom to work with. If a scholar was aligned with the Qing, they would have to quickly recalibrate their thinking after the dynasty fell, and become a follower of Sun Yat-sen. At that point, they might find themselves working with the dictator Wang Jing-wei, a puppet ruler who collaborated with the Japanese.I If one was to become loyal to Wang, they would probably regret it in the end; after the war against Japan ended, anyone who had worked with Wang Jing-wei was shot to death. As they were nearing death, they probably thought, “Why didn’t I work for Chiang Kai-shek, like my classmate?” That same classmate, however, might have also been second-guessing himself as the Chiang Kai-shek-led Kuomintang was later driven from China. At that point, even that classmate would have been considered an enemy of the Cultural Revolution and marked for death by the communists. Which brings us to the question: in tumultuous times, how can a talented mind choose where to lay their head and funnel their energy?
Fortunately, we’ve grown up in an era without war or revolution. Despite this, we still have to face constant changes. Take Taiwan for example. In the not-so-distant past, if one person got into college, their whole village would set off fireworks in celebration. Today, we have Ph.D.’s roaming the streets, just trying to make ends meet. It is obvious that a higher education no longer ensures that anyone will be a sought-after “talent” after graduation. Doctors, teachers and accountants were all lauded in the past, but they now face an unknown future. The medical profession, for example, is losing its luster due to malpractice claims, overwork and AI encroachment. Today, physicians are no longer the ideal choice for a woman choosing her husband! Engineers working in the high-tech industry in the Hsinchu Science Park once made millions of dollars a year (with stock options), but they don’t seem to be doing as well now, with the industry facing a wave of factory closures and layoffs.
Although money is not everything, salary does reflect the value of an employee. In fact, there is a direct correlation between salary and how “sought after” you are. Judging from a salary distribution chart published by the Executive Yuan’s Bureau of Accounting, people with an annual salary of less than NT$800,000 account for about 80% of those employed in Taiwan. Are you at the top of the pyramid? Of course, there are some jobs that are very hot right now, but are not very high-paying. Most of these jobs have low standards and the workers are easy to replace. These workers are not considered “sought after talent,” despite market demand. According to data from 104 Job Bank, 2018’s top 10 highest-paying jobs in Taiwan were all in the software or biomedical R&D fields (except for pharmacists who ranked 4th). In particular, digital IC design and analog design engineers ranked first and second. Apparently, the development of the 5G industry has led to a huge increase in the demand for AI, big data and blockchain experts. Since these tech-driven minds are in short supply, their wages naturally rise.
In addition to professional competence, talented minds must also maintain enthusiasm toward their work. They must not only integrate into the corporate culture as quickly as possible, but also have the ability to think critically and be innovative, while dealing with complex yet ambiguous problems. This requires the ability to focus and solve problems. However, great talent first needs to be recognized in order for it to flourish. As the saying goes: “In order for a company to thrive in the long term, it must have the right talents in place to lay the groundwork; it is they who will pave the way.” Corporate leaders must know how to guide talented minds, as it is their execution that allows employees to take positive action. If a company lacks strong leadership, a “talent” who has yet to demonstrate their value soon becomes a hot potato that merely consumes company resources.
Every year, senior employees retire and new ones are hired; some are offered high salaries and others are laid off. Waves of employees arrive as new generations replace the old. The workers of this era must continuously learn and make adjustments to new terrain as they become slashies and hybrid talents. As the Great Learning in the Book of Rites goes: “If you can one day renovate yourself, do so from day to day. Yea, let there be daily renovation.” A person who continuously renews their skills and evolves can always remain a “sought-after talent.”