Future-proof your career with these five valuable human skill sets

Future-proof your career with these five valuable human skill sets

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It’s easy to see why the world loves modern technology. For companies, it’s opened up marketplaces, driven productivity and multiplied profits. In society, it’s advanced healthcare, created new communication channels and forged platforms for social change. It’s even made everyday activities, like shopping, faster and easier.

Mind you; this modern life has its challenges.

Technology has eliminated many jobs, like checkout cashiers and factory workers, and will continue to automate ‘routine’ office work over the next decade.

In some ways, technology has also reduced humans’ need to think. By acting like a personal memory bank, search engines have made us better at remembering where to find information, but worse at remembering the information itself. Today, we outsource thinking and rely on the convenience of technology to manage our daily lives. In theory, this should provide us with more time to improve our decision-making, reflect on our values and assess our own biases. But in reality, many of us are walking around on auto-pilot, outsourcing more and more, and mindlessly following the scripts of others.

This modern life has its challenges.

While technology has made us more connected with text, email, video and social media, some experts argue that our ‘real-life’ social skills have significantly deteriorated. In a digital world, where we communicate through keyboards and touch screens, people no longer understand the basics of simple conversation. The ability to sustain eye contact, and know when it’s appropriate, is a vital social tool that’s disappearing. Speaking clearly, confidently, and concisely on the phone is also becoming a thing of the past. Actively listening and reading other people’s physical cues are quickly becoming a lost art. Attention spans are suffering too, with the human average decreasing from 12 seconds to eight seconds in just over a decade. As a result, empathy, friendships, family bonds, rituals, memories, interactions—even activities like exercise—are weakened or diminished. It’s no wonder we’re seeing an increase in mental health issues and other unhealthy habits.

Furthermore, platforms like Uber, Airtasker and Fiverr are driving the ‘gig economy’, which means that many workers aren’t operating under the health, safety and wellbeing practices present in traditional organisations. For those who still work in-house, mobile technology has created an expectation that they’ll be ‘constantly available and responsive’, leading to a reduction in health, happiness and productivity.

All of this begs the question: In the race to be first to the technology market, have we shared strategies to navigate the pitfalls of technology fast enough?

In his dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell said, “The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what’s happening.”

Today, I’m asking you not only to look up but to look forward. Now’s the time to future-proof your career with these five valuable human skillsets:

1.      Entrepreneurial skills

Artificial intelligence will continue to automate a range of routine and low-cognitive tasks in the workplace. But, for now, it struggles with higher mental processes. As a result, technology will leave behind skill-gaps like innovative thinking, strategic decision-making, complex problem-solving, prioritisation, creativity and commercial awareness. Increasingly, organisations will seek out people with these capabilities, on top of technical skills. So, start investing in your entrepreneurial skills today. They’ll soon become your most treasured asset.

2.      Change skills

“Courage is not an absence of fear. Courage is fear walking.”

Today’s rate of change is the slowest we’ll ever experience. Technology has come a long way, but it still has far to go. The tools you’re using today will be gone tomorrow. So, expect constant change, with life-long learning and reskilling.

To effectively handle ongoing disruption, you won’t just need resilience; you’ll need grit. If resilience helps us to bounce back, then grit helps us to sustain interest and effort towards long-term goals. Grit takes endurance, optimism, creativity and courage. To quote award-winning psychologist, Susan David, “Courage is not an absence of fear. Courage is fear walking.”

To maximise your grit, think about pursuing your genuine interests. After all, it’s easier to stick to goals that fascinate you. Also, relentlessly practice your craft, because hard work leads to competence. Try to connect to a higher purpose and consider how your work contributes to the well-being of others. Then, create hope, because, to achieve your goals, you’ll first need to believe they’re possible.

Remember, a lot of people talk about doing something, but far fewer actually do it. Be someone who keeps progressing and gets real results. Through real-world experiences and immersive learning, you can develop a powerful and gritty set of change management skills that will always be in demand.

3.      Social skills

The need to belong—to love, share affection, and be part of something meaningful—is a fundamental human desire. At this stage, artificial intelligence is unable to form and sustain authentic, lasting relationships. Your ability to be self-aware, self-regulate, communicate, influence, inspire and show empathy are all unique human traits that cannot yet be replicated.

Social skills form the foundation of almost all business transactions. But, to truly understand and become skilled in personal relationships, we need to build our emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence helps you to recognise, manage and express emotions in an effective manner. It can help you to make hard calls, like change business direction, give constructive feedback, retrench someone or change their job role. These decisions are not always simple, but they do become easier as you develop your emotional intelligence. On top of that, emotional intelligence also helps you to understand when it’s appropriate to use personality, humour and passion in any given situation.

The need to belong—to love, share affection, and be part of something meaningful—is a fundamental human desire

Emotional intelligence skills include:

Empathy: The ability to understand others’ emotions.

Self-awareness: Reading your own emotions and keeping them in check, knowing your strengths and limitations, and having an accurate sense of self-worth and value.

Social awareness: Sensing others’ emotions, understanding different perspectives, considering news, networks and politics, and recognising and meeting team member, client or customer needs.

Self-management: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check, managing integrity and taking responsibility for personal performance, flexibility in adapting to changing situations, overcoming obstacles, your drive to improve performance to meet your standards, and seeing the positive in events.

Relationship management: Guiding and motivating through leadership, wielding a range of tactics for persuasion, developing others’ abilities through feedback and coaching, initiating, managing and leading in new directions, resolving disagreements, cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships, co-operation, and building and maintaining teams.

Don’t forget; organisations will increasingly want to leverage these valuable social skills for competitive advantage. So, start tapping into your emotional intelligence today. Your future self will thank you for it.

4.      Self-care skills

Every day, we perform many different roles, tasks and experiences. Often, we try to be everything to everyone. Work regularly intrudes into our home lives through mobile technology. The result? Burn out. Many of us carry this emotional state from one activity to the next, occasionally with disastrous consequences.

To achieve and sustain success in the future, you’ll need to master self-care. Start by introducing simple practices into your life. Healthy eating, resting, meditating, minimising distractions (like turning off your phone), setting reasonable challenges and working in manageable blocks will all help you to realise your potential without harming yourself or others.

In his book, The Third Space, Adam Fraser says, “Use life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness. Take that time to mentally ‘show up’ for whatever comes next. You will consistently be your best for your work, your family, your friends and yourself.”

Don’t wait for a crisis before you develop self-care skills. Lay the groundwork for your future health and wellbeing now. That way, you’ll be able to quickly bounce back from stressful situations and stick to your long-term goals.

5.      Learning, unlearning and re-learning skills

Unlearning is about recognising that the old mental model is no longer effective, finding or creating a new model that can better achieve our goals, and then ingraining new mental habits. 

As progressive professionals, we need to think carefully about our skill development. Today’s challenges are different from yesterday’s. We need to stop operating with outdated or incomplete mental models and embrace new logic. 

Unlearning is about recognising that the old mental model is no longer effective, finding or creating a new model that can better achieve our goals, and then ingraining new mental habits.

For example, in organisational design, we’re evolving from formal hierarchies to fluid networks, where we no longer think of companies like org charts. Instead of escalating to managers, we’re looking to collaborate across silos. This means we need to learn autonomy and unlearn many traditional leadership and governance practices.

Again, unlearning and relearning isn’t about forgetting—it’s about choosing an alternative way. It’s about adding new skills and knowledge to what we already know. So, consider which of your mindsets and skill sets are no longer effective, and upgrade them to something more useful for the future.

Remember, leaders and organisations around the world are waking up to the value of their most important and least-automatable asset: The human mind. The secret to your future career is you. To help prepare yourself for the future of work you need to start developing and practicing these fundamental skills today. 

2 Comments

  1. Scott James

    To link your Facebook and Twitter accounts, open the Instagram app on your phone or tablet, and select the Profile tab in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

  2. Edna Watson

    To link your Facebook and Twitter accounts, open the Instagram app on your phone or tablet, and select the Profile tab in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

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