Jobs in the future – Part 2: The skills you need

How to prepare for the uncertain careers of the future.

In Part 1 of this series we looked at some emerging industries, but hit on the fact that many of the jobs that will exist in the future are not even around today. So how do you prepare for a career that may not exist now? That may be difficult, but there are some common skills that will be needed across sectors and those abilities can be transferred to many industries and careers.

Multiple organizations have come up with lists of skills needed for the 21st century, including National Institute for Professional Practice’s “The 21st Century Workplace Skills for Success,” Envision’s “13 Essential 21st Century Skills for Today’s Students” and Widget’s “16 skills for the 21st Century.” They differ some on their emphasis, but all have common threads. I have condensed these down into the four C’s.

  1. Communication. Being able to communicate to a wide range of audiences will be essential. The audiences may differ by generational, cultural, socioeconomic or be diverse in other ways. The medium of communication may have to vary as well. Being technology literate is vital to almost any future job prospect, yet how we use and interact with that technology will be essential. We still need to talk to and communicate with each other.
  2. Creativity. One of the aspects of schools in the past has been to squash creativity; now it needs to cultivate it. Basic skills in math, language and science are still needed, but there is also a need to develop creativity and foster imagination in a safe environment, one that allows for failure but encourages one to dream. Innovative thinking to solve problems will be a strength for future generations and even today.
  3. Collaboration/teamwork. Working with others to solve problems will be more and more essential. What those “teams” look like will change, too. There will ultimately be a more diverse workforce – multicultural, multi-generational and multi-national, therefore having good communication skills coupled with social and cultural awareness we be an asset in this future workplace.
  4. Critical thinking. Few are the jobs that just require an employee to pound in a rivet or just put a part in place. Now more than ever employers are looking for employees to solve problems and make crucial decisions. Critical thinking skills are valuable in any workplace setting and can be transferred across industries. Employers will ask more from their employees, looking to them to be the face and force to change the company’s direction with innovative ideas.

The atmosphere of the “office” is changing as well. Where and when we conduct business is shifting. How we all adapt to this and work with others will make the difference. This can not only be beneficial to a diverse population, but can also be a positive fit for a changing lifestyle and the next generations.

These generations to come will have different needs and desires from their employers than past generations. Generation Z and Millennials demand more from their employer – not job security so much, but flexibility. Balancing work, home and social life is a must. These generations are always connected (social technology and networking), so this should not be a problem. They can and may work from home, but working late at night between taking the kids to school and seeing a movie may become the norm. New generations will not necessarily be loyal to a company unless they believe in its mission and purpose. They are not in it for the paycheck, but for passion. Check out “No job security, no problem for Generation Z” by CNBC.

Isn’t the future all about change? Yet a lack of preparation for it can be detrimental. However, if you armed yourself with the needed skills to succeed in any field, and the fields change, you should be confident to conquer any of those challenges.

Visit the Michigan 4-H and Michigan State University Extension websites for more information on career exploration resources.

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