Future-proofing your career: Five vital soft skills for the future of work

Monday, September 14th 2020

A lot of hugely important news has understandably been buried under the emergence of COVID-19.

One such piece of news was the World Economic Forum’s announcement that the world is facing a reskilling emergency as more than one billion jobs are set to be transformed by technology by 2030.

It’s probably going to be the most monumental shift in the workforce makeup the world has seen.

We have already seen the political, economic, and social consequences of job losses due to automation across the US, especially in states which were heavily reliant on manufacturing.

This trend is likely to continue over the next decade, which makes it even more important that we take reskilling very seriously.

Those organizations and individuals that adapt and reskill can ride the tech transformation wave, where those that do not are putting their futures in the workplace at risk.

With this in mind, which skills will help future-proof you to the changes facing us?

Broadly speaking, you can think about hard skills and soft skills.

Examples of hard skills would be programming, data analysis, or speaking a language.

Soft skills are likely to overlap with general character traits and include things like leadership, organization, and creativity. They’re sometimes called interpersonal skills or people skills.

And this week we’re going to look at five of the most important soft skills you should be thinking about cultivating to thrive in the job market as it evolves over the next decade and longer.

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Adaptability

Adaptability will mark you out in many ways to both your current and prospective employers. The ability to easily handle constant change, whether it’s working with new teams and colleagues, new software, or in a new office, is a must in a fast-changing environment.

Adaptability means staying positive and professional, it means dealing with potentially stressful new situations with a sense perspective and good judgment.

Collaboration

True collaboration is more than teamwork, it’s more than getting along with your colleagues. As Professor Francesa Gino points out in this wonderful explanation of collaboration, to truly collaborate you need to practice a range of skills, including active listening, empathy, and giving and receiving specific and constructive feedback.

If you’re a natural leader you need to learn when you follow, and vice-versa, so you can collaborate in ways that lead to win-win situations. Do this and your company will notice, and you’ll be able to give specific, detailed examples of collaboration to prospective employers when the topic arises.

Emotional intelligence and cultural awareness

In her insightful article The Top Skills Companies Need Most in 2020—And How to Learn Them, Deanna (Lazzaroni) Pate at LinkedIn defined emotional intelligence as “the ability to perceive, evaluate, and respond to your own emotions and the emotions of others”.

Emotional intelligence is vital to adaptability, collaboration, and a vast range of other skills key for the workplace. Being emotionally intelligent will help you with customers, in high-pressure meetings, and choosing the best way to present information to colleagues.

Closely related to emotional intelligence is cultural awareness, which is a must-have skill as the world becomes more interconnected, and working with colleagues and clients from different cultural backgrounds becomes essential to both individual and organizational success. We will talk about this more in a future blog.

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Curiosity

McKinsey describes curiosity as the engine of intentional learning and preaches about how it can be cultivated in everyone. This resonates on many levels. Curiosity is the fuel for different types of learning, many of which will be essential to staying relevant and valuable in the evolving jobs market. Building and nurturing your curiosity will put you in a strong position to ride the tech-transformation.

A growth mindset

First brought into the public view by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s research, a growth mindset is a belief that - both in terms of intelligence and other capabilities - you can grow, expand, and evolve. It stands in contrast to a fixed mindset, in which you believe that intelligence and capability are essentially fixed and largely unalterable.

A growth mindset goes hand in hand with curiosity as fuel for life-longing learning and reskilling, and allows you to rebound from failure and view mistakes as part of a learning process and tools you can use to develop. Developing a growth mindset will help you give yourself space, patience, and time you need to develop new skills and take on new challenges and responsibilities.

These skills are learnable by everyone, so don’t be intimidated by the future of work

The future of work is complicated, and thinking about our relevance in it can make us anxious. But the soft skills we have talked about today are learnable by everyone, as are many others we haven’t touched upon.

And next week, as part of our month on the future of work, we will take a look at some of the hard skills you might want to invest in learning to future-proof your career.