We were taught to study to become someone: a teacher, a marketer, a nurse, a financial analyst or pilot. However, the idea that same professions will exist in 10 years is naïve considering the exponential change in our society. With the growth of automation, AI and offshoring, professions are less important and should not be planned for. Instead we should focus on continuous learning and skill development that will be crucial in the near future.
We need to rethink career planning and instead call it skill enhancement to reimagine our career every few years. This does not necessarily mean changing jobs every few years, but it does mean continuously educating ourselves as AI progresses.
A study from Georgetown University showed that in 2020, only 35% of job openings in America will require a bachelor's degree. The vast majority of the jobs, many of which are highly paid, will not have such a requirement and candidates could be trained on the job with the particular skills needed. Some companies, such as Futures Inc, are tackling the issue by helping their clients and government move away from career matching to skill matching, which is particularly important for veterans who after many years serving the country have a real need to put their real-life skills to use in the private sector.
So, what skills will actually be important? Most analysts agree that employers will seek cognitive skills such as communication and analytics from employees rather than physical skills traditionally associated with manual labor.
Here are the top three that in my opinion are worth developing. These are more important in shaping your character for a lifetime than technical skills which often can be learned on the job.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share feelings of another person. This is the skill that is often developed by children when their parents teach them not to hurt a neighbor's kid because it might hurt him. The reason empathy is taught is because it develops fear of punishment. For doing something could cause a retaliatory reaction by family or friends in the future. It is a very important skill that helps a person become more self-aware and over time develops an instinct of what to do to make others feel more open to that person. According to Susan Lanzoni from The Atlantic, the social psychologist C. Daniel Batson, who has researched empathy for decades, argues that the term can now refer to eight different concepts: knowing another's thoughts and feelings; imagining another's thoughts and feelings; adopting the posture of another; actually feeling as another does; imagining how one would feel or think in another's place; feeling distress at another's suffering; feeling for another's suffering, sometimes called pity or compassion; and projecting oneself into another's situation. Empathy is a very important skill in any type of negotiations - if you know what the other party's inner motivations are, you can manage their expectations and achieve a win-win outcome. It is also critical in building any type of human relationship, which is critical to any and all business connections.
Ethical behavior is defined as acting in ways consistent with what society and individuals typically think are good values. However, one might ask which society and why in the age of individualism do we need to adhere to the values of the masses? The issue of ethics and values becomes even more significant when we consider the idea of equality. On one hand equality is a cornerstone of democracy and on another, it causes redistribution of income which is anti-capitalistic. Use taxes to take away from the well-to-do to help the less fortunate, in essence disincentivizing hard work. It also entrenches on individual rights of wealthy individuals who might argue that it is unethical to punish them for creating jobs and driving the economy forward. It is the type of cognitive dissonance that questions the idea of ethics and its core definition. However, society aside, ethical behavior includes key moral principles such as fairness, dignity, diversity and the pursuit of common well-being. These are the values that people can rally behind. Our ability to behave ethically in the eyes of others will give us an advantage in the future. Would you rather invest money with someone who has behaved ethically towards others or someone who bends the idea of commonly accepted ethical principles?
A strong desire to constantly learn something is a critical skill of the future. It differentiates the 21st century from the 20th century when people could stop studying after college. Today, education is ongoing - you need to learn on the job, from others, from music, TV shows and by sometimes attending professional courses. The amount of data and information in the world doubles every 12 months, hence it is impossible for us to succeed based on the knowledge we acquired from books and professors 20 years ago. It is often at times irrelevant what we have learned before. Curiosity is the skill we need to develop because it will keep us relevant and creative. It is something we need to teach kids by taking them to museums, reading them books about epic adventures and imaginary worlds. It is curiosity that makes travel to foreign countries fun and fascinating. Without curiosity inventions would not exist and the world would stand still. Flying would be impossible if not for the curious Wright Brothers dreaming about flying like a bird; listening to music on your phone would be impossible if not for Steve Jobs and we would live in the dark ages if Tesla and Edison did not dream of a "brighter" night.
As Socrates once wisely said "I only know one thing - is that I do not know anything". The man knew best, and we should all learn from his approach to never-ending improvement. Even skills that we feel we already possess must be polished throughout our lifetime, especially if we are in a field that is highly competitive and going through disruption, such as advertising, technology, retail, finance, or healthcare. If we stay curious, behave ethically and empathize with people, in ten years odds will be in our favor.