If you asked a graduate in the 60s what they should do with their lives they would never have imagined that in the near future jobs might require social media or app development skills. Yet, this is where we are today. Job descriptions are destined to get more complicated with the birth of new technologies. While there will (probably) always be teachers, doctors and car mechanics, many children in UK schools are preparing for jobs that have not yet been invented.
The future of job hunting rests in a world where:
- The economy is driven by innovation and creative thinking: Think Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who had ideas and followed through on them.
- Everyone is connected: Skype, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp – we connect with people instantaneously no matter where in the world they are.
- There is an awful lot of Information: Head spinning amounts of information is flung at us every day – we need the logical reasoning skill to understand what’s important, what can be trusted and how to make use of it.
- Everyone has a voice: Social media, crowd lobbying campaigns and online communities give people a powerful voice. The ability to influence both local and international issues in a way that was previously impossible.
So, just how do you prepare to succeed in the future?
What Are 21st Century Skills?
Technology is essential to doing anything in the 21st century.
Along with a fearless approach to being able to use the latest technology, other more traditional skills are necessary to succeed in the workplace of the future. Thankfully, artificial intelligence has not overtaken the world just yet and must still provide the brain power behind all great technological innovations. In fact, there is nothing too different about many of the traditional skills needed in future employment. What is different is how we use these skills.
What skills do you really need?
For starters, we still all need to know how to read and write. However there are some skills that we need to get to grips with to really succeed in a technological age:
- Critical thinking and problem solving – Out-of-the-box thinking is a bit of a cliché at this stage. However, it is still a vital skill. Something goes wrong – what is the work-around?
- Collaboration – Collaboration means working with other people to achieve an end goal. What is different about collaboration in the modern world is that we must often be able to use the technologies available to us to communicate effectively with a team member based in another time zone. It is essential, however, that team members know how to communicate in the first place!
- Communication – ll the old rules apply: be clear, respectful and helpful. It makes a huge difference to virtual and face-to-face collaboration. Some people are really good at writing emails but are hopeless when it comes to the basic social skills of speaking to people. The good news is that all skills can be improved.
- Social skills – Getting along with others is always going to be crucial to a happy working life. From physical interactions in the workplace to ‘netiquette’ and respect in the digital world, a healthy dose of social skills is going to make every transaction that little bit easier.
- Creativity and innovation – Creativity is not just about painting a perfect portrait or composing a beautiful sonata. It is about unleashing the power of the mind and considering possibility. Combine this with a solid dose of innovation, and you have a very powerful recipe for success.
- Flexibility and adaptability – The ability to move with technology is crucial. Being able to adapt to new challenges, different ways of doing things and different demands will set you up for a future in an agile world.
- Initiative and self-direction – Taking the initiative is crucial in every element of their career and this relates back to confidence and self-belief. A manager needs someone in their team who can think for themselves and get the job done.
- Leadership – Leaders have the ability to motivate, enthuse and use the strengths of others to achieve a common goal within the team. Not everyone is a born leader, but leadership skills and decisiveness are necessary in all situations.
The key to working in the 21st century is not about throwing out the traditional skills, but adding to and adapting those that already exist.
Because, of course; skills such as honesty, promptness, fairness, efficiency will always be important. So perhaps 21st century skills are not as much about technology as we first thought. Maybe we will just need to think quicker, communicate more effectively and be open to whatever is around the next corner.