5 Skills for expert future proofing

Photo: Kevin Jarrett www.unsplash.com

Back to the Future was on TV recently and it reminded me that we’re now 2 and a half years ahead of Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s future. By October 2015 we were meant to be travelling around in flying cars and on hoverboards. We’re not quite there yet, at least not for the vast majority of us. I did notice that Nike tried their luck at self-tying shoelaces and Google have their Google Glass so they’ve definitely won some and lost some.

It’s exciting isn’t it, imagine what the future of work will be. All of the analysis and all of the research doesn’t really account for the fact that we’re heading into the biggest change in the way we live and work since the industrial revolution. In fact, this one’s coming bigger and faster than any that have come before it.

So how can you ensure that you’re looking to the future with hope and excitement and not sheer terror? All of the most recent future of work reports and data coming out of places like the World Economic Forum is saying that we need to keep upskilling ourselves. We need to become “lifelong learners” as the new phrase has been coined.

We all know that the new languages being taught at schools aren’t the ones we’re using to travel the world. Coding has become the new French, just as IT boomed in the 90’s and naughties. All of this is great but there’s another group of skills that we need to turn our attention to. A group of skills which are going to be pivotal to safeguarding ourselves against a future of unknown. These are our soft skills. I absolutely hate the name but call them what you will, they’re the fundamental skill sets of the future.

After reviewing various workplace learning and future of work reports, World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report and a variety of other research in this area, I’ve compiled a list of 5 vital skills that are going to ensure that you’re ready for the jobs of the future.

Great communication

All of the research suggests that communication and particularly skills such as active listening, persuasion, influence and empathy are all pivotal in the jobs of the future. Communication is also not just about the words we choose to use but how we say them. Our facial expressions, body language and our tone are all essential pieces of the communication puzzle.


Emotional intelligence

When we’re young we are taught the importance of intellect and IQ. All throughout school, we are measured on our IQ and by the time we leave education we know that our value is based on how “intelligent” we are. Having a great IQ may be helpful in developing specialised skills but it’s not going to make you a great leader.

EQ describes our emotional intelligence. According to Daniel Goleman, the godfather of EQ, Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness and impulse control, persistence, zeal and self-motivation, empathy and social deftness. In leadership, these qualities really do matter as they demonstrate character, increase self-discipline, altruism and compassion.

The truth is that there is more than one type of intelligence and while IQ might get us a foot in the door, EQ is what’s going to allow us to develop meaningful relationships and expand our career opportunities.

Leadership and people management

Being a great leader has nothing to do with what it says in your job title. Leading through title and position alone encourages ego and does little to develop trust. Leaders need followers but we’re not talking about followers that have to but followers that are inspired and influenced to take action. When we’re talking leadership and people management we’re talking influencing, being in balance and showing real authentic care for others. Developing these skills, along with some of the others mentioned in our top 5, will ensure that you become a leader in action and followers and not just in position and title.

Around 80% of job seekers are leaving their “boss” and not their job. A damning statistic on the state of leadership in our businesses.


Don’t throw away your LEGO just yet! All of the research is showing an increased need for creativity in the future of work. Everyone from the marketer to the entrepreneur and the engineer need to innovate and flexing your creative muscles can help. Creativity also increases adaptability and resilience which is perfect for such a changing landscape.

Photo: Rick Mason www.unsplash.com

Critical thinking

Problem-solving, critical thinking and decision making all feature heavily in future skills studies. Our future selves will need to carefully and critically consider our options and actions, the relative costs and benefits of any potential options and actions and then be able to choose the most appropriate. All of this after we come up with a list of potential options in the first place.

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), New Work Smarts has found that our current 16 year olds will be spending 100 percent more time at work solving problems and over 30% more time learning.

Equally as important as these skill sets are some personality traits such as adaptability, flexibility and agility. The future of work is no longer linear, we’ll no longer be climbing ladders and we certainly won’t be “lifers.” In fact, the same FYA, New Work Smarts report mentioned above also suggests that the average 16 year old will have 5 different careers and approximately 17 different employers.

A change in the way we work is coming at us, fast, with opportunities to do and achieve things we never saw possible. To reinvent ourselves over and over again. It’s a new way and it’s an exciting way. Who knows, we may driving flying cars too!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at these skills to help get you future ready. I’ll also be sharing some of the incredibly important life skills you won’t learn in the classroom.

Until then,


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About the Author

Rebecca Sharp is a lover of learning, driver of talent, passionate about people, and an advocate for lifelong learning. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.