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10 Skills You'll Need in the Job Market of Tomorrow
300 years ago, blacksmiths were pretty much set. No matter where you moved, there were always going to be horses that needed shoeing, pitchforks that needed mending, etc. Cut to today, and it’s pretty safe to say that blacksmithing is most charitably described as a “super-duper-niche” line of work.
As the world changes and technology advances, the nature of work changes with it. The skills that people need to fill roles today could be completely different than the skills they’ll need for the jobs of tomorrow. With that in mind, we reached out to a wide array of experts to see what kind of skills today’s workers should be developing to thrive in tomorrow’s workplaces.
Here’s what they had to say …
“Sure,” you’re thinking. “The people who write blogs all day just so happen to think that writing is an important skill!” And it’s true, we do think that! But it isn’t just because writing things is our job. Being able to explain things clearly and concisely on the page (or, more likely, on the screen) is already important. And it’s going to grow more important in the future.
“Based on my experience, writing is becoming more and more of a valuable skill for almost every industry," said Clair Belmonte, founder and CMO of Belmonte Marketing , adding that it “astounds" her how many people lack writing skills.
“While communication may be seen as a soft skill,” she continued, “writing ability is becoming increasingly marketable as college students forgo a liberal arts education for more specialized degree programs. However, writing skills remain necessary in the workplace for effective project management, communications, and sales strategy.
“As even more of our communication goes digital, it’s imperative that everyone on a team— from developers to designers to analysts and beyond—have the necessary writing skills to communicate ideas effectively and sell the benefits of a product or project.”
Technology has revolutionized healthcare in many of the same ways that it’s revolutionized, well, everything else. People are living longer than ever and previously untreatable diseases are becoming quite treatable, indeed.
Still, there are many aspects of healthcare that require a human touch. And as a large portion of the U.S. population enters their golden years, healthcare-related skills are going to be in high demand.
Timothy G. Wiedman, a retired professor of Management and Human Resources at Doane University laid out the kinds of occupational areas in healthcare that will see strong future demand, ensuring a “lifetime” of employment opportunities:
“Healthcare support occupations (including home health aides and Certified Nursing Assistants working in institutional settings). Given an aging U.S. population coupled with regular advances in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, increased life expectancy will require an increasing supply of healthcare workers.”
“Healthcare practitioners and related technical occupations (including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapist assistants, and imaging technicians). The same reasoning applies to these occupations as well.”
3. Construction and maintenance
Wiedman also named tradesman-type positions in the building and maintenance fields as ones that held promising futures and required specialized skills. He cited occupations including construction managers, plumbers, electricians, HVAC specialists, and masons.
"A growing population needs additional housing, so demand in the building trades will grow—especially as more and more baby-boomers retire from those jobs,” said Wiedman.
“While robots continue to take over jobs in other types of production, they haven't made a dent in on-site construction work—and probably won't for a very long time!"
4. Creativity and creative technology
Zach Weiner, CEO of Emerging Insider Communications, offered his thoughts on the importance of gaining expertise with creative technology, especially within the marketing field:
“As nearly all major advertising and marketing platforms are becoming exceptionally robust and democratized to allow participants to target audiences with ease,” he said, “the next line of marketers will be living in a world where creative has once again become king and the core way for brands to differentiate their value.
“This will mean a marketing workforce that understands how to use tomorrow's technical tools to create, measure, analyze and integrate exceptional creative formats that can cut through the clutter.”
Meanwhile, Creative Innovation Group CEO Julie Austin spoke to the prominent role that creativity, in general, would play in future job markets dominated by technology.
“I don't mean in the traditional sense of painting and screenplays,” she said, “Although these jobs should be secure for a long time. What I'm referring to is bringing creativity to any position, in any industry.
“If you can solve problems with ingenuity, or make things more beautiful, then these skills will always be valued. Creativity is going to play a bigger role in the future of job skills as we transition into the AI revolution.
“According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report, creativity and problem solving are listed in the top three skills that employees will need by 2020,” she continued. “Critical problem solving is one of the most important attributes that employers look for in a new hire because no organization is without problems, and every industry will eventually be disrupted.”
“Be prepared to be able to think on your feet and ace the problem-solving tests your new employer will throw at you. Employers will be looking for employees who have the curiosity to seek out new opportunities and new markets.”
Jason Patel is a former career ambassador at George Washington University and the founder of Transizion, a college and career prep company. He shared how important clear communication skills are as a job skill—both now and in the future.
“Now that teams and companies are working at lighting fast paces, you need to sharpen your communication skills,” he said. “This means providing feedback to coworkers, managers, and customers quickly and efficiently.”
“Being able to move from product development to touchpoint and vice versa is the foundation of successfully addressing customer problems. Be quick, concise, and honest.”
6. “Soft’ skills
Communication is often considered a “soft” skill, which is to say it’s a skill that's less grounded in specific technical expertise. Instead, it’s about how we interact with other people, which is much hard to quantify.
But as technology takes over the quantifiable aspects of many jobs, those softs skills are going to become even more important.
“With the rise of AI in the workplace, I feel that soft skills are an employee’s differentiating factor, said Career Management Specialist Sara Curto. Drawing from both her own experience and from the Future of Jobs Report, she identified five different soft skills that are most important to master across the board in all roles:
“Complex Problem Solving: Increased need for individuals who can look at problems from many different angles to assess solutions and their impacts.
“Critical Thought: Individuals who can see the big picture and make intelligent decisions and more efficient processes.
“Creativity: Pushing boundaries of how organizations are structured, processes are created and how we read and analyze data.
“Leadership: Leaders that inspire and empower their teams to greatness, especially those that recognize and hire top talent to build high performing teams.
“Emotional Intelligence: This is key, our ability to read other people, to understand how our roles and decisions have an impact on others and how that all ties together - things that robots just can't do!”
“20-40 years from now, most tasks that can be automated will be automated by intelligent automation or artificial intelligence or whatever else you want to call it,” observed best-selling author and co-host of the Practically Passionate Podcast, Alex R. Strathdee.
“If you're not good at creating those automation tools (even though those jobs are now even getting automated themselves), you must excel at the ability to communicate with people.
“It seems like an easy thing to master," he added, “but it's really not.”
In addition to communication, the soft skills that Strathdee cited as most important included Time Management, Social Selling, Conflict Resolution, and Inclusiveness. He went onto highlight just how important these skills will be by lamenting the ways in which they were already on the decline:
“Not only will these skills become the only ones worth measuring, but they're also currently in rapid decline amongst the Millennial/Gen Z generations. This is due to the onslaught of virtual experience whether it be social platforms, gaming, and what will be the next technological revolution: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
“The increase in intelligent automation, married with a decrease in social skills of the most recent generation has left this set of skills, the most important as we move through the next few decades."
7. Tech skills like IT, web development, and coding
The flipside of more technology meaning a greater emphasis on soft skills is that more technology also means a greater emphasis on … being able to build and maintain said technology. So while you work on your communication skills, you might also want to pick up some Information Technology (IT) or web development skills as well.
“The IT industry is one that is constantly evolving and growing,” said Gillware Data Recovery CEO Brian Gill. “If you have a passion for learning about new technology and figuring out the newest ways to innovate and adapt, then IT is definitely for you.”
He offered that the ideal candidate for an IT role as someone who mixed soft skills with hard technical expertise:
“The ability to think strategically is critical in this landscape, as new opportunities are always arising and trends are rapidly changing. A great IT candidate is extremely versatile and is able to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty while making a positive impact on their organization.”
According to Jason Patel, a working knowledge of web development would also be an in-demand, valuable skill to obtain.
“In order to best understand the needs and pain points of your company, you need to know how its digital storefront works,” he said. “After all, that's where customers find you. This means knowing Python and Java, and the differences between a static and dynamic website. It also means having some familiarity with SEO.”
“Skills that are becoming essential and will only become more important in the coming decades are almost all technical,” said Rafi Zikavashvili, the CEO and Co-founder of Pramp, a mock interview platform for software engineers, developers, product managers, and data scientists.
“Companies are looking to hire competitive candidates, not comfortable industry veterans who learned their craft once and never built on it in their spare time,” said Zikavashvili. “This will apply to so many positions in the future and help workers to stand out when applying for jobs, not necessarily just in tech but other sectors like finance or product management, where having these cross-departmental technical skills will make a worker a huge asset to a team.”
8. Familiarity with industry-specific software
Patel also pointed out that many industries have software programs that are specific to their needs. Becoming proficient with this software ahead of time could not only give you a leg-up on other job candidates.
“Things are becoming automated faster than ever before, which means companies are looking to hire professionals who have a short learning curve," he said. "Learning a software can be intensive and slow, so job applicants who know how to use relevant software and platforms have an edge in hiring and succeeding in the workplace.
“If a team within a company is running at full speed with automated systems, it'll need new candidates to hop on board and contribute right away.”
And if you think that your particular industry is safe from this trend, Patel warned against it.
“Now, you might be thinking that your industry or position is safe from automation because it's service- or people-based. Think again,” he said. “Learning these types of software and platforms can take a long time, but if you already know how to leverage them, you have something new to bring to the team.”
This goes back to the soft skills we mentioned earlier. Leadership isn’t so much a skill by itself as it is a combination of many different soft skills.
“The job skills of tomorrow are leadership skills,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “Excellent leadership skills can help get those on your team to feel inspired to follow and give back.”
“Although this can be exhausting, it's excellent leadership. Not everyone on your team will have the motivation and drive that you do (or that you are looking for) but continue to be the inspiration. Set the bar high by giving it your all and you will find that others will meet you there.”
On a more basic level, you would do well to develop your skills as a project manager.
“Project management skills are desirable in any field,” said, Deanna Parkton, Director of Experiential Learning in the Center for Student Professional Development at Delaware Valley University.
“Employers seek individuals who can lead and implement projects, taking into consideration the risks, challenges and benefits. If you can develop strong people skills, project management skills, and problem-solving skills those will continue to serve you as times change.”
Parkton also highlighted the importance of developing your ability to understand and work with people with diverse viewpoints and cultures. “As technology brings people together and populations change, listening and understanding diverse viewpoints will be essential for success in any career,” she said.
If you aspire to rise in your career, then we advise you to listen to this great advice from Ed Batchelor, Managing Partner for executive search firm Hardman Batchelor International. According to him, the best job skill that you can master is … resilience.
“In our line of work I am often impressed how some of the C-level executives we meet are able to overcome enormous adversity that others have found debilitating,” he said. "They seem to come back stronger than ever, absorbing life’s “body blows”, rising above them and finding a way to change course and move on to bigger and better things.”
“The last several years, especially through the global financial crisis, have highlighted these traits and a particular type of individual—they are the ones who have been focusing on what has gone wrong, and have persistently driven themselves and their employers forward to succeed through their positive outlook, optimism and focus on long-term goals rather than these short–term setbacks.
“So how do they do it? One theory is that they seemly look at failure differently,” he said. “These theories reinforce the notion that these setbacks, humiliations or disappointing outcomes are not only overcome but are in fact a catalyst for their future success. They often patiently reflect on what has occurred, quickly adapting to what they learn and taking the necessary steps to overcome what often others see as an insurmountable mountain to climb.”
“This 'post-traumatic growth', as it is sometimes called, is often used as an opportunity to make a course correction and come back stronger and better prepared with complete optimism about their future, rather than letting the strong emotions and fears engulf them.”
“Finally,” he added, They retain their belief that they are in control of their own destiny A study at the University of Michigan confirmed this notion, finding that one of the most dependable predictors of positive thinking is an individual’s sense of being in control of one’s own life. They accept the realization that they may never fully understand what occurred, but this does not mean that their future is out of their control.
“They quickly compartmentalize the components, identifying what is open to change, and move past those items that are outside of their control. This confidence in their own abilities and trusting that they control the path forward is clearly pivotal to achieving these attitudinal turnarounds and starting on a realistic plan to achieve positive outcomes.”
The future of many industries is very murky. Jobs that seem secure right now could end up totally obsolete in a decade. At the very least, resilience will help you get through the change from one career field to another. Goodbye, blacksmithing; hello IT manager!
Julie Austin is an award-winning author, inventor, futurist, innovation speaker, and member of the World Future Society. She’s an internationally known thought leader on the topic of innovation and CEO of the consulting firm Creative Innovation Group (@createforcash). She’s been an innovation keynote speaker for corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Northrop Grumman, and Cognizant Technology Solutions. She’s also been featured in the books “Patently Female” and “Girls Think of Everything”. Julie's patented product, swiggies, wrist water bottles, have been a NASDAQ product of the year semi finalist and are currently sold in 24 countries; Her new book “The Money Garden: How to Plant the Seeds for a Lifetime of Income” is currently available on Amazon.
Ed Batchelor (@batcheloredward) is the Managing Partner for Hardman Batchelor International. He has more than 25 years s of experience living and working in the U.S., Australia, Venezuela, India, China, and the UK. Ed recruits CEOs, board members, senior executives and digital leaders for a range of technology and consumer companies. Prior to HBI, Edward worked as a leader in Egon Zehnder's Technology Practice and later with Russell Reynolds Associates as a Managing Director and Partner.
Clair Belmonte (@clairbelmonte) is an NYC-based search marketer and content strategist. She helps business owners tap into their intuition and combine their natural insight with time-tested marketing strategies to craft a content marketing foundation that withstands time, trends, and Google’s algorithm changes. You can find her at www.ClairBelmonte.com.
Sara Curto (@jobcoachsara) is a Career Management Specialist who helps people find their dream careers and gives them the tools and strategies to make those dreams a reality. She spent 15 years recruiting top talent and uses that experience to let individuals in on the behind the scenes secrets of what it takes to actually get hired. You can find her at www.SaraCurto.ca.
Deanna Parkton is the director of experiential learning at Delaware Valley University (@DelVal). As a member of the staff in the University’s Center for Student Professional Development, she helps students navigate the process of gaining real-world experience before graduation. Through DelVal’s Experience360 Program, 100 percent of DelVal’s undergraduates gain relevant, real-world experience that prepares them for success as young professionals. She is a career counselor, experiential learning educator, and workplace happiness researcher.
Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion (@transizion_), a college counseling and career services company that donates a portion of profits to organizations that serve veteran and underserved youth. Transizion has been cited for its work and expertise in the Washington Post, Opp Loans, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Fox News, and a host of other great outlets. The company features a 100% satisfaction rate and guides students and adults through college admissions, internship searches, and job hunts.
Alex Strathdee and Rishav Khanal came to the U.S. from different countries at a young age excited for what America had in store for them. After both graduated from Virginia Tech, they landed jobs usually impossible to get with GPA’s like theirs and were constantly asked by peers how they did it. That led them to start their popular Practically Passionate Podcast (@PracPassion) which has thousands of downloads. They also recently published their Amazon Bestseller, Experience Over Degrees.
Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney) is the CEO of MyCorporation.com (@mycorporation). MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.
After 13 years as a successful operations manager working at two different ‘Fortune 1000’ companies, Dr. Timothy G. Wiedman spent the next 28 years in academia teaching college courses in business, management, human resources, and retirement planning. Dr. Wiedman recently took an early retirement from Doane University (@DoaneUniversity), is a member of the Human Resources Group of West Michigan and continues to do annual volunteer work for the SHRM Foundation. He holds two graduate degrees in business and has completed multiple professional certifications.
Zachary Weiner is the current CEO of Emerging Insider Communications (@emerginginsider), a boutique technology communications agency. He has acted as founder, incubator, and adviser to a range of technology startups and consultancies. He is a frequent lecturer and writer for publications including Entrepreneur, AdWeek, The Guardian and INC discussing marketing, business development, and venture capital.