CNBC article: 12 Skills to Hone Today to Succeed in the Jobs of Tomorrow

Oct 18, 2016Best Practices

Originally published October 18, 2016 on Byline: Catherine Clifford. 

Work is changing fast. Workers have to keep up, and that means more than learning to code.

Technology is driving new processes, expectations, and ways of communicating on a near daily basis. And workers too have evolving expectations of and for their jobs, bosses and careers.

It can feel overwhelming. But with the right attitude and flexibility of mind, it can also be a tremendous opportunity. Here are 12 so-called “soft” skills you can hone today that will help you thrive in the workplace of tomorrow.

1. See a problem from everyone’s perspective

“In the future, he or she who can hold multiple perspectives consistently will be able to navigate and thrive,” says Cheryl Cran, a leadership and management coach and author of, The Art of Change Leadership- Driving Transformation In a Fast Paced World.

When you attack a problem, start with a clear understanding of your own targets and your client’s goals. Then try to predict the logistical challenges of your operations team, what your competitors are doing, and the general evolution of the industry you are performing in. Complicated? Yes, but it gets easier with practice, and you will be more likely to come out with a winning solution.

2. Stay curious

Curiosity is intrinsic motivation in an sea of constant tide changes. “Curiosity helps someone stay in a place of openness, which allows the brain to go beyond its own mental models and able to see things differently,” says Laura Garnett, a management consultant who works with the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies and startups alike.

It’s also a natural bridge to learning new perspectives. “Curiosity is key to great leadership. It helps you connect with almost anyone because you have a sense of wonder about different skills, passions, and challenges; a key to being able to understand lots of different people.”

3. Stay creative

You may have to learn how to use skills you developed for industry in another, and seek out ways to learn new skills, too.

“Millennials will switch careers a dozen times or more in their career, so they will need to reinvent themselves constantly,” says SC Moatti, a technology visionary, venture capital investor, and bestselling author. “They will need to exert their creativity to line up interesting opportunity on an ongoing basis.”

4. Be a new kind of leader

Technology is democratizing communication and breaking down information silos, effectively leveling office hierarchies. That’s fostering more and more shared leadership, says Cran.

“Everyone needs to have critical thinking skills, decision making skills, creativity and innovation skills, high level communication skills and more,” she says. “Companies need professionals that are entrepreneurial and can lead change regardless of title.”

5. Ignore boundaries

By the time Jody Greenstone Miller was 48, she had already worked 11 jobs, ranging from being a partner at the Seattle-based venture capital firm Maveron to White House as Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton, and spanned seven careers. Today, Miller is the co-founder and CEO of  Business Talent Group, an independent consultant and executive marketplace for project–based work.

She says that her experience in government, business, and nonprofits has helped her see the big picture, “the interconnectedness of the world.” Ultimately it has made her more flexible as an employee, and more valuable.

6. Perfect your communication skills

You may be spending less time on the phone and in meetings and more time messaging with your boss on Slack. More team members will be working remotely and on a contract, project-by-project basis. That means that while communication channels are changing, communicating effectively will be more important than ever.

“Master communicators have solid listening skills, the ability to tune into a person with focus and the ability to articulate clearly while being both candid and caring,” says Cran. “As technology continues to infiltrate how we work, our human interaction skills need to be ‘upgraded.'”

“Traditional performance reviews are crumbling and as a result, it’s the individual’s responsibility to manage their own career and performance. In order to do this well, you need to know yourself,” says Garnett.

8. Ask for help

If you have been hired for a job that you haven’t done before, don’t try to hide what you don’t know. “It’s a huge mistake to go into something and feel like you have to pretend like you know it all, because then you will never learn,” says Miller.

When necessary, ask for help. In several instances in Miller’s own career, she was hired into industries she hadn’t worked in before. To make those transitions requires a willingness to solicit advice and feedback.

9. Network

More than ever before, it’s who you know, not what you know.

“Switching jobs and companies is becoming the norm. What’s left is people and relationships,” says Moatti. “Successful careers will be built on the ability to build trust, which comes by demonstrating loyalty over long periods of time.”

10. Check your ego

The best leaders of the future are those who are supporting their teams, not bossing them around.

“A key trend I’ve observed in leadership is the disappearance of the autocratic, know-it-all leader. It’s being replaced by the servant leader, who empowers her team to take on the driver’s seat and supports them with coaching, resources and cross-departmental support,” says Moatti. “Humility will be a key skill of tomorrow’s successful leaders.”

11. Make peace with uncertainty

We like to know what’s coming over the horizon, but often, that’s just not possible. Not only are professional tenures at jobs getting shorter, but companies themselves don’t always know exactly how they are going to adapt to new market demands and technological innovation. That means that talent of tomorrow has to be comfortable charting new waters.

“Being able to ride the wave, really it’s very similar to riding a wave on a surfboard: you got to balance, you have got to be okay with the ups and the downs, and you have to figure out how to stay standing,” says Miller. “I think that set of skills is more what I would call internal skills that you need to keep yourself moving forward and not freaking out.”

12. Play well with others

Going forward, collaboration will mean more than splitting up a job with your office mate. As the workplace becomes ever more fluid, the logistics of collaboration will become more nuanced, requiring employees to work with full and part-time employees who are working at the office and remotely.

“Learning how to treat everyone like a work colleague and not differentiate based on any of these other external factors I think is a very important new skill to have,” says Miller. “It’s collaboration, but it’s collaboration plus.”