This famous quote by Albert Einstein can be applied to many areas of our lives, especially in our dynamic world when something exciting is invented every day. Not only that, but the information age we live in means we are bombarded with updates and have access to a great knowledge bank regardless of location. This can be a double-edged sword — yes, there is a lot more information easily obtainable in the world, however, due to the volume of the content, it is difficult to always get the full picture.
More so, it is becoming increasingly difficult for education systems to keep up with the demand for high-skilled jobs. By the time you graduate from the university, you will discover that what you’ve learned has already become outdated because many new jobs are invariably “invented”. Since most programs rely on textbooks, what ends up happening is that students are taught knowledge compiled several years before the textbook itself was approved, published, and finally distributed to students.
Furthermore, compared to the past when fresh graduates had specific skills they could apply in their first employment, many positions now demand interdisciplinary knowledge even at entry level.
This worrying situation raises some equally worrying questions: what skills are needed for tomorrow? How can we prepare for the uncertainty and insecurity of the dynamic workplace of today? What degrees should we choose that will be relevant?
In order to address these, we need to take a look at what the business world would look like in the future. New professions are emerging, and although many of these are in the IT sphere, advancements in each sector ensure continuous innovation, thus creating new jobs and even new industries. Most routinary, low-skilled jobs will eventually be taken over by automated systems, especially in developed countries. More than six years ago, this was already being discussed by Charles Fadel, a Cisco board member: “the demand for non-routine skills is rising fast, as the need for routine and manual skills falls”.
So what are the skills we need? Naturally, we cannot anticipate all the things we need to learn for the future. However, it is useful to put into some structure an overview of categories of skills that will be needed for the future workplace. Some organizations have already committed to this and have grouped the most important skills:
1. Learning and Innovation Skills
Being able to learn & innovate are recognized as skills that would separate the people who are prepared for a complex life & environment, and those who are not.
Disciplines include Creativity & Innovation, Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, and Communication & Collaboration.
2. Information, Media, and Technology Skills
In a world where one is bombarded by pieces of information and knowledge from an unprecedented amount of sources, the ability to effectively digest and utilize these information is crucial.
Disciplines include Information Literacy, Media Literacy, and ITC Literacy.
3. Life and Career Skills
Developing thinking skills, content knowledge, and having social & emotional competencies will be valuable in navigating the complex 21st century workplace.
Disciplines include Flexibility & Adaptability, Initiative & Self-direction, and Social & Cross-cultural Skills.
All of these skills are something that each and every one of us can learn on their own, without even going to the university. Arguably, the common denominator for learning is curiosity — if one is excited about improving themselves, then everything else is secondary and comes naturally.
What about university degrees? What should we learn in school that can be used tomorrow? Some degrees of the future can sound as exotic as quantum engineering or bioinformatics, however, most involve more traditional studies such as engineering degrees (any engineering degree is worth pursuing), hospitality management, law, business management and so on.
So then, what has changed? How is that different from what we studied 5, 10, even 15 years ago? Putting aside “exotic” degrees, traditional majors differ greatly in many ways — from the quality, relevance, and recency of teaching materials, to the data used to generate studies. Most degrees should involve computer courses so that students stay relevant since any future job you might have will likely involve a computer.
Going back to the introduction, the abundance of information and research results available online can be of great value to any of us, if we focus on the right materials. Identifying what skills and industries will exist 5, 10, or even 15 years from now requires up-to-date information and awareness of advancements in the fields that interest the job seeker.
Following tech sites and thought leaders is one way to keep ourselves updated, but we need to critically asses the content and compare findings from different sources. For instance, check out this article by Mark Cuban, where he discusses how our technology will advance and what that means for today’s generation. It is a worthy read and serves as an example of the type of materials you can read to better prepare yourself for the future.
Anton Bonev — a Bulgarian expatriate — is a marketing professional with a Master’s degree in Marketing Management from one of the top research universities in the Netherlands. Currently working as a Digital Marketing Consultant at John Clements Consultants, he is assisting the company in becoming the leading digital recruitment solutions provider in the Philippines.
(Editor’s note: This article was first published on John Clements Lookingglass. We are republishing it with their permission.)