Skills for future success

When we think about the skills required for career success we need to consider not just the jobs that exist today, but the sort of jobs that may exist in the future, as Bernard Marr explains

Many children growing up nowadays will follow career paths that don’t yet exist; for those of us already in the workforce, the jobs that we do will undoubtedly change with the introduction of new technologies and ways of working. Below is a selection of what I think will be the top traits for long-term career success, plus some advice on how to get ahead with your skills development.

Data literacy

Whether its customer feedback or employee engagement surveys, data has become a prized business asset in the digital world. It can help you better understand your target audience, spot gaps in the market, and improve your decision-making. As such, organisations of all sizes and within all industries are looking for data-literate individuals to join their workforce.

Essentially, data literacy means being confident accessing and working with data, conducting tasks such as gathering, updating, analysing and communicating any insights to others. Critical thinking is also a key tenet of this skill, as finding meaning in the numbers requires an interrogation of the data’s integrity and validity.

Being able to understand and use data is a vital workplace skill for people in all sorts of roles. If you’re wary of data or simply ‘not a numbers person’, there are many online courses available, as well as learning resources from the Data Literacy Project, that can help you grow in confidence and knowledge – covering everything from basic data skills to advanced machine learning skills. The important thing is to not let fear or hesitancy hold you back from developing your awareness of this skill area.

Emotional intelligence

In the future, machines might become better at understanding emotions, but this won’t replace the value or need for human emotional intelligence. In fact, I’d argue that it will become even more important. If we’re going to thrive in the digital age, we must retain our humanity – and EQ is a critical part of what makes us human.

Emotionally intelligent and empathetic people are better equipped to work collaboratively, resolve conflicts, diffuse negative situations within team dynamics, and manage their emotions – especially in times of stress. It can also help combat some of the side effects of shifting to remote or hybrid work, as emotionally intelligent managers will be more aware of the challenges that others are facing and quicker to spot when someone needs support.

Consider how your feelings affect your actions and be mindful of what’s going on around you. With our busy lives, we don’t often take a moment to stop and think about how our surroundings affect our behaviour – let alone how other people would react in our situation. Practice seeing something from a different perspective and listen to how others would approach a task. You could discover some great new lessons that you can bring into your own way of working.

The importance of collaboration

Businesses will always want people on their teams who can work well with others, and as our workplaces become more remote and digitally focused, individuals who can build human-to-human connections with others from across the world will be well-placed for career success.

Collaboration encourages efficiency, creativity, innovation, and productivity, all of which drive business success. It also helps individuals and teams build better relationships, which in turn can boost factors like employee engagement and the employer’s brand.

To become a better collaborator, you must be open about what you need from others and ask what they need from you. Everyone will have their own way of doing something based on their own expertise and personalities, so it’s important to be adaptable and respect these differences as you work together towards a shared goal. Active listening is also an important factor of good collaboration. Focusing on what others are saying, rather than formulating a quick response, helps you to better understand their perspective and improves your connection.

Embracing change

Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace and almost all jobs will change to some degree. Staying ahead and embracing this new world requires adaptability and resilience, as well as an acceptance that change is not to be feared but to be embraced.

When you’re facing change, it can be tempting to feel wary and want to leap into immediate action. But change has always been a part of life and, although it can be hard at first, it can also be a powerful force for good. So, take a deep breath, ask some questions, and gather all the information you need to help you assess what exactly is changing, how it’s changing and why it’s changing. You may not be in the driving seat, but you can look at your own actions and how you can make this change work for you, such as learning new skills, networking, or looking at new and exciting career paths.

Whatever your age, whatever your industry, having the mindset of a lifelong learner will stand you in a strong position for a career that can surf the waves of change. Being curious is what introduces us to new people, new information and new experiences. It keeps life interesting, ensures your skills stay relevant, and helps you approach change from a more positive mindset. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to access the materials you need to keep learning. From audiobooks and podcasts to online courses, learning can be done on your terms – all you need to do is get started.

Decision-making ability

As a result of AI, automation, and vast quantities of data created every day, organisations are turning to machines to simplify their decision-making processes. But whilst they may be able to analyse the data at speed to determine what looks like the best way forward, machines are unable to consider the wider implications of that decision – such as how it will impact the company strategy, the people who work in the business, and the organisational culture. For that, we need individuals who understand how to make good decisions.

We make countless decisions every day. Therefore, it’s important to recognise how your brain processes information and work to improve this important skill. When we make a decision, the brain can either deploy a quick, intuitive approach where we can rattle off a decision within a split second, like catching a falling glass, or it takes a more considered approach that looks at the pros and cons to assess the right way forward. When stressed or overwhelmed, our brains can often take mental shortcuts or simplify information, leading to what can look like bad decisions.

Some top tips on improving your decision-making ability involve putting everything into perspective. Good decision-making comes from a combination of the head, heart and gut. Define the situation, outline your options and act accordingly. If you dedicate too much time and focus to some smaller decisions, it can drain the energy you need to make the big ones. Setting a time limit to your choice can help with this and prevent procrastination. Also, never be afraid to experiment. Part of being human is making mistakes and there is never usually one right decision, just different consequences.

Bernard Marr is a futurist, strategic advisor to many of the world’s best-known organisations and award-winning author of new book Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World (Wiley, £18.99)

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