Previously we discussed the basic tech skills everyone should hone in order to remain competitive in today’s job market, but soft skills are just as important. As has been much discussed, American businesses are facing a significant skills shortage that will challenge business development in the coming years. As business processes and technology improve exponentially, the workforce has failed to keep up, and the lack of workers with the necessary skill set is already high on the agenda of most employers.
The silver lining? Jobseekers armed with that knowledge have a fantastic opportunity to acquire new skills to make themselves even more competitive candidates and find the job of their dreams. But this is not without challenges: traditionally, workers have been trained on the job, and employers take responsibility for the professional development of their employees. However, a Prudential study has found that 1 in 5 workers feel that their companies do not adequately train them, and the ability of companies to provide not only basic training but also developmental training is hampered by those universal issues: time and money.
That is not to say jobseekers are without recourse: some companies are renowned for their incredible efforts in learning and development, and this list is sure to increase as skills development becomes more of a focus and learning solutions become more widely accessible and affordable. And jobseekers can also take their development into their own hands and take the driver’s seat in their career path by seeking out professional learning courses on their own time, or utilizing affordable solutions like Coursera, Udemy, and more.
But before you start your personal learning journey, it is important to know what you want to achieve and have a plan. Here are some key insights into skilling for your professional future that you should consider if you want to be a key candidate in any field.
According to the World Economic Forum, almost half of the skills seen as essential today will be different by 2025. So while adaptability may not be a work-specific skill, it is chief among the soft skills you should equip yourself with in order to survive and thrive in the future of work. Put aside your comfort and familiarity with old tools and processes, and be open and engaged when it comes to new approaches to old problems. This will not only display your personal capabilities but will likely improve your productivity in the long run.
Emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” is a key element of the modern workplace. Despite fears of robots “taking our jobs,” the overwhelming trend in HR the last few years has been the human element of tech-imbued business processes. The most important among this is understanding and regulating our emotions in the workplace, and empathizing with those of others. We are increasingly expected to co-work, communicate, and collaborate to drive business success, and this combined with the growing focus on mental health means EQ is more important in the workplace than ever. Make sure to sharpen your emotional intelligence just as much as you do your rational capabilities in order to succeed and help make the workplace efficient, cooperative and successful.
Leadership and People Management
Even if you are not directly managing people, knowing how to effectively “manage” and lead your peers, whether through projects or day-to-day activities, will enhance your ability to get the work done well. Harmonious and successful professional cooperation is achieved through effective leadership and people management, which includes not only managing the people working for you but “managing up,” as well. Show your employers or future employers that you are ready for higher levels of responsibility by perfecting this skill.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
These have been amongst the most important skills for decades, and not without reason: a computer can do administrative or menial work, but complex problems require complex thought, and this is the main reason why computers and robots will never “replace” human workers. Critical thinking and a problem-solving mentality will set you apart from the pack and propel you to higher levels of achievement in any workplace, from a retail stockroom to a Fortune 500 boardroom. These skills are not going anywhere, so if you are not confident in yours yet, it is high time to learn.
With bite-sized entertainment and a constant stream of stimuli occurring around us constantly, our attention spans are allegedly getting worse all the time. But the ability to focus is incredibly important in any job. If you find yourself constantly distracted from the task at hand, the math is simple: you will not get anything done. Luckily, in the new era of “an app for everything,” there are ample solutions for improving your focus right in the palm of your hand. Replace your favorite game with a focus app, or experiment with focus-enhancing music, to remedy this universal problem. The ability to hone in on a task and complete it thoroughly and efficiently will go a long way in improving your work life.
As businesses (and life) become more globalized, people are significantly more likely to encounter and work with people from a variety of different backgrounds. Enabling yourself for communication and collaboration with people from all walks of life will make you a more effective worker, and will display to both your superiors and your peers that you are able to work outside of your comfort zone and learn new things. Cooperation will be essential, and preparing yourself to work with and include everyone will only benefit you as globalization becomes the mainstream.
Wherever you are in your career, you can benefit from committing yourself to your own professional development. Whether you want to appeal to your employers, demonstrate skills for your employees, or simply want to keep yourself competitive, there is no better time than the present to take stock of your skillset and make sure you know that you have the tools to contribute in the workplace.