Skills for the future of work

cartoon that says your guide to skills for the future of work

Oh, the times they are a-changin' and with that comes a whole new set of rules for landing a job. Once upon a time, getting hired was all about tangible skills – Do you have a driver's license? How many words can you type a minute? As the workforce shifts, so too have the qualities that employers are on the lookout for.

These days skills like clear communication, teamwork and a knack for problem-solving are what people are on the lookout for. Unfortunately, last time we checked there are no universities offering Bachelor of Problem Solving – but you can master these skills in your day to day life.

Read on to find out the top skills you'll need in the future, and ways you can start developing them now.

cartoon that says complex problem solving

WHAT IS IT: It might sound fancy, but chances are you're solving complex problems daily. When your bank account is looking a little thin, and it's a week out from payday, negotiating the last few dollars between food, fun and friends is an excellent example of complex problem-solving.

PRACTICE: Sharpening your problem-solving skills can be a bit of fun. Board games like Settlers of Catan or Risk are an easy way to get your mind thinking in the right direction while playing a social sport will present a series of problems (in rapid succession) that require solving.

HOW IT CAN HELP YOU: Getting by in the workforce today is all about problem solving. Whether you're in software, design, or creative work, you'll be asked to come up with solutions to tricky problems.

We’ve also got a whole guide here.

cartoon that says critical thinking

WHAT IS IT: Critical thinking is when you look at a situation, take in all the facts, weigh them up, assess them and make a decision.

PRACTICE: It's easy to test your critical thinking in a world of #fakenews. Next time you hear a story in the media whirlwind that doesn't sound right, try to break it down. What about this seems incorrect and why? What do you think the real story might be?

HOW IT CAN HELP YOU: This is also a relevant way of showing employers your critical thinking skills - if the opportunity presents itself during an interview to drop in an example of the last time you sniffed out a #fakenews story, then go for it!

cartoon that says creativity

WHAT IS IT: A quick Google will offer up a simple definition like 'an ability to think outside the box', but creativity is all about birthing an idea from scratch using nothing but your big old brain and the power of imagination.

PRACTICE: The greatest creative minds will tell you that your imagination is at its brilliant best in the morning. Start the day off by putting some time aside, even 15 minutes, to do a brain dump. Write down any thoughts you have, whether it’s about ways to solve a problem at work or a creative idea you can’t stop mulling over, then revisit them later on. It's also worth switching off, to switch on. Going screen free for a while will work a treat for your brain.

HOW IT CAN HELP YOU: As you might have heard, many researchers believe that in the near future, jobs which aren't creative are at risk of being automated. So not only will your creativity help you solve problems and inspire the people around you, but it might even keep robots away from your workplace!

cartoon that says coordinating with others

WHAT IS IT: A talent for working well within a group environment, this skill comes complete with a bunch of memorable catchphrases: Teamwork makes the dream work!

PRACTICE: A smart (but fun) way of practising group coordination is by offering to host a weekly dinner based around a common interest.

Let’s say you’re all mad for Marvel movies – and who isn't? – make every Monday Marvel-night and invite them over to watch a different superhero flick. Designate them each a dish to bring along, while ensuring there's no crossover! That way you can hone your coordination skills, while also sharing a feast with friends.

If you have access to an Escape Room, get your friends together and book in. The challenge of having to rely on one another to work through each stage of the game will help you sharpen your communication skills.

HOW IT CAN HELP YOU: Like it or not, a lot of work in the real world involves working in teams. If the group work assignments you get in school stress you out, don't worry - it gets a bit easier with time. But having great teamwork skills will make the experience easier and even a bit of fun.

cartoon that says emotional intelligence

WHAT IS IT: Emotional intelligence is all about reading other people and empathising with their thoughts and feelings. Proving to employers you can realise, react and respond to different personalities and situations is priceless.

PRACTICE: Understanding yourself is an excellent place to start when working on emotional intelligence.

Set a reminder on your phone for different points in the day to check in with yourself. Take a few deep breaths and make a note of what you’re feeling. After a few rounds of this, you’ll find yourself getting in touch with your different emotions – that’s practising empathy.

Realising what sets you off can also help increase emotional intelligence. Next time you notice yourself becoming upset by something – an unflattering picture someone posts of you online, a poorly worded text from a friend – focus on responding rather than reacting. Step away, collect your thoughts and return with a considered response. You'll be amazed at how a little patience can increase your empathy for others.

HOW IT CAN HELP YOU: Earning a living is all about providing someone with something, whether they're a boss, a client, or a customer. Emotional intelligence is helpful because it can help you understand that person, their needs, and how to best serve them.

cartoon that says fast five 5 more skills to think about

Judgement and decision making: This is quite the double act. Together this is all about using common sense to figure out the best result, and sticking by it. More tips here.

Service orientation: A jazzed up way of saying ‘customer service’, this is an increasingly important skill as the number of service-based businesses (think Uber, Airbnb) continues to rise.

People management: This is all about juggling personality types and being able to identify and manage a mix of working styles to achieve good results as a team. A good place to start is knowing your own style and preferences.

Negotiation: Negotiating relies on knowing your worth and knowing how to come to an agreement, which is always a useful skill. Walking away from a situation with a win-win result means both parties are happy. Want some help with communication? Check out our top three tips here.

Cognitive flexibility: In real life speak this translates to being flexible in the workplace, being able to switch from one task to another without slowing down.

Ultimately, it pays to remember that while the world may be changing, so too are the people that work in it – that’s you! And while ‘skills for the future of work’ can sound a little scary – admit it, we all pictured robots in uniforms – the qualities listed are already part of your day-to-day life.

These are all skills we use today, and with a little practice, they will be the skills that shape your tomorrow.

What can I do now?

  • If you need some goals to motivate you, here are some handy tips on setting them.

  • While you're busy trying to kick ass at whatever work you're doing, remember, you've still got to take care of yourself!