Matthew Tarpey | February 16, 2017
Technology advancements have been changing the way humans work and live since the dawn of humanity, but lately it seems like it's advancing faster than ever. So how can you make sure you don't get left in the dust? These are the hard and soft skills you'll need if you want to make it in the future workforce.
It's possible that many of the jobs that will be most prevalent in the future don't even exist yet. And while no one can predict the future, an employee who is able to recognize trends and adapt to new situations has a great chance of thriving in the ever-changing employment landscape.
"Employees will continue to need to develop mental agility, to be able to be nimble and be able to adjust to the one constant variable that will continue to be inevitable: change," says Dr. Kristen Lee, lead faculty for Behavioral Science at Northeastern University in Boston. "The big discovery of modern day psychology is that we often make erroneous judgments, thus critical, reflective thinking is needed to maintain mental agility to rethink decisions and remain innovative and ready to see opportunities in creative ways. Rigid thinking doesn't have a place now, and will not in upcoming jobs either."
Employees who are able to learn, adapt and grow are in a great position to succeed in the future workforce – even more so if they're able to recognize those changes and willing to make the necessary adjustments.
"To be functional and to be successful, workers must develop good habits for pursuing ongoing self development. They must not rely on their employers to take care of their growth," says Halelly Azulay, speaker, leadership development strategist and founder and CEO of TalentGrow LLC. "Becoming self-directed learners and seeking development opportunities within and outside their current role will help them not just be employed, but remain employable."
That's not to say a dog-eat-dog strategy is the only way to go. Employees who are able to think critically and take matters into their own hands are valuable – doubly so if they can imbue their company with those traits.
"In order for businesses to succeed, they will need workers who can offer stronger and more creative solutions to problems," says Linda Passante, CEO at The Halo Group. "A self-starter who is confident, assertive and success-oriented can take on that responsibility, bringing value and new opportunities to the business place. Employing individuals with entrepreneurial spirits is a smart way to build a strong team."
Building and maintaining a strong professional network is already crucial to professional success today, and it will continue to provide motivated workers with not only employment opportunities, but exposure to new ideas and creative solutions.
"Although it's not a new skill, relationships and the breadth and depth of your network will become even more important in the world where six degrees of separation is a fast-shrinking number and opportunities are often discovered by those who are better networked than their competition," Azulay says. "In addition to having access to resources, opportunities and connections through a rich and diversified network of real connections (people who you're actually friends with), you also increase your value because of the 'network effect' – you can make connections between seemingly disparate fields and ideas to create new ideas and add real value to your work as a result."
Reacting to external changes and shifts is an important skill for long-term career success, but just as crucial is the ability to not lose sight of your own well-being.
"The skills of emotional regulation, self-compassion and self-care will help leverage brain power and ensure sustainability with all the demands," Lee says. "Employees will also need to be advocates to ensure work culture is positive and productive. Being able to communicate needs and voice concerns productively is essential."
In terms of concrete skills you can learn by taking courses or online tutorials, your best bet is learning to code. Already nearly every occupation involves some interaction with digital technology, and that's not about to slow down. Knowing simple computer coding languages can increase your chances of getting hired, regardless of industry.
"A basic knowledge of computer languages and programming languages will become more and more important," says Andy Chan, founder of career coaching center Prime Opt. "It is true that many kinds of programming languages are increasingly like human language now. They work with clear commands. So even people with no quantitative background stand a chance of mastering these languages. The key is not to be afraid to learn."
Specific in-demand skills change. This isn't the first time it's happened, and it won't be the last. By following these tips, you'll be better equipped to not only survive large shifts in the workforce, but thrive on them.