It isn’t easy keeping up with our ever-changing workplace. Technology is changing the way we work in dramatic ways, leading to what some people are calling the fourth industrial revolution; just as each of the past three industrial revolutions (the steam engine, the age of science and mass production) required workers to adapt their skills to keep up, this technological revolution is forcing us to rethink what we do, and how we do it.
Having new computer skills, or knowing how to code is only part of what new technology demands of workers — it is also about your ability to do the things computer cannot do — your uniquely human interpersonal “soft” skills.
The World Economic Forum reviewed labour market trends and identified ten skills that employees will need in 2020 to thrive in the new technical economy. Review each skill and think about your work experience: can you think of examples from your work history that demonstrate how you have used these skills?
1. Complex Problem Solving
The ability to take on a complicated problem and work on solving it has become a high valued asset. It is not just about the solution – it is the process of figuring it out.
Think of a time when you took on a complicated problem and worked to resolve it: what happened? What did you do? It may be a problem presented by a customer or client, or perhaps a challenge facing your team. Think about specific examples, and find ways to share them on your resume and in your interviews.
2. Critical Thinking
In this age of fake news and loud opinionated voices everywhere, critical thinkers who can tell fact from fiction, and challenge their own and other’s biases and illogical thinking bring a highly valuable strength to the workplace. A critical thinker can think differently about a situation, to gather information and develop new ways of understanding. Think of situations where you might have been able to challenge a client, colleague, or employee to look at a problem in a new way.
Creativity is about innovation, risk taking and the willingness to try something new. It takes courage and the ability to challenge the status quo. Think of times where you tried a new way of doing an old thing. Maybe you found a way of making something routine into something fun, or you were able to generate interest in a new idea or behaviour among your colleagues or clients.
4. People Management
If you have had an opportunity to take charge of leading a group, or even simply overseeing an individual, then you may have an interesting skill for employers in this new economy. Leading people is not a skill that technology can handle (yet). Managing others demonstrates your responsibility, initiative and maturity. It means that your employer trusted you. People management skills include an ability to be a role model, to solve problems, to think on your feet, to make decisions, to be supportive and assertive when necessary.
5. Coordinating With Others
Many companies are much less hierarchical than in the past. A lot more work happens in small teams; teamwork requires planning and coordination. Your ability to make a plan with others and think of a way to ensure that goals are set and met cooperatively is extremely valuable. Also, companies are striving for greater inclusiveness, which will benefit from your ability to work well with diverse colleagues and clients.
6. Emotional Intelligence
In the workplace, Emotional intelligence (EQ) is often described as even more important than standard intelligence (IQ). EQ is a set of abilities that relate to self-management and self-awareness. People with high EQs get along better with others and cope well with change.
High EQ employees tend to be:
- able to balance work and play
- excited about change and open to new learning
- not easily distracted
- aware of their strengths and weaknesses
- future oriented: not dwelling in the past
- able to set boundaries
These skills are often easier for some people than others, but we all can work on enhancing our ability to engage in these behaviours. Think through your work experience, and consider how you could describe what you have done in these terms.
7. Judgment and Decision-Making
No matter how much technology is introduced to our workplace, we still need to rely on humans to make ethical, thoughtful, and appropriate decisions. Employers will increasingly value decisive and responsible decision makers who are able to incorporate values, needs and morals into their decisions.
8. Service Orientation
Customer service is as important as ever, even if we are providing it using new tech tools such as social media or email. Employers continue to value a personality style that enables an employee to be helpful, patient and considerate, as well as inclusive, resourceful and informative in their work with customers.
The ability to negotiate with a range of people such as colleagues, managers, customers, buyers and service providers is still a uniquely human skill. Negotiation skills include participation in all stages of a negotiation:
- evaluating an issue
- identifying the interests of all sides
- setting goals
- preparing a position and clarifying terms
- listening actively
- communicating clearly, respectfully and professionally
- collaborating for a solution
- working in a team
10. Cognitive Flexibility
The fast changing nature of the world of work requires employees who are open, willing, and able to learn new skills. Employers especially value the ability to initiate learning and take responsibility for your own professional development. The flexibility to change the way you do things and unlearn skills is also important; workers need to be willing to try new ways of doing their work, using new tools.
Of course, don’t forget your hard skills — your technical knowledge is key.
Whether you are a server in a restaurant, teacher, office worker or architect, technology is becoming a part of all of our jobs; employees are expected to learn and master a range of new tools, both hardware and software.
“Hard” tech skills may include coding, social media, data entry, data analysis, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, scheduling and project management, and database management. Skills such as the ability to communicate well on email and via video, as well as learn to use new hardware are related assets, as well.
Make an effort to identify the new skills demanded by employers (job postings are an excellent source), and make an effort to learn them. Don’t wait for employers to train you.
All of us in the workforce, whether employed or job seeking, can benefit from carefully assessing ourselves against this list of skills. As a job seeker, let employers know which skills you have by describing them on your resume and LinkedIn profile, and demonstrating how you used them. In interviews, prepare examples of where you used those skills.
Consider setting yourself some goals to build new skills — engage in projects on the job, take on a volunteer position for find online or in person courses.
Soft skills are like muscles – you may have a natural strength, but it only becomes a valuable power if you build it and work on sustaining it.