The 10 key skills for the future of work

What are the jobs of the future? The demographics of an aging population suggests health care will be big, say some. Data science is scheduled to explode, suggest others, or maybe anything computer-related is a solid bet. But let’s be honest, predicting exact job titles set to soar or the fates of specific sectors is nearly impossible.

With technology and economic developments moving so quickly, it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on today, more or less foresee what career paths will make you a winner in a decade or two. But even if betting on specific jobs is a fool’s game, the Institute for the Future believes it is still possible to say something useful about how to prepare yourself for the careers of tomorrow.

The Palo Alto, Calif.–based nonprofit research center focuses on long-term forecasting and recently released a report titled “Future Work Skills 2020” (available for free download here) that analyzes some of the key drivers reshaping work — including WebWorkerDaily’s greatest hits like connectivity, smart machines and new media — coming up not with specific, recommended professional paths but instead with broad skills that will help workers adapt to the changing career landscape. What are they?

  • Sense-making. The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
  • Social intelligence. The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
  • Novel and adaptive thinking. Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  • Cross-cultural competency. The ability to operate in different cultural settings
  • Computational thinking. The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
  • New-media literacy. The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  • Transdisciplinarity. Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
  • Design mind-set. Ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
  • Cognitive load management. The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
  • Virtual collaboration. The ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team

Check out the complete report for a detailed description of why each of these skills will be key. It also delves into the implications for education, business and policymakers of the projected increase in demand for these skills, noting that current educational establishments at “primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, are largely the products of technology infrastructure and social circumstances of the past.” They will need to adapt rapidly to the changing needs of students, the report concludes.

Do you agree that these skills will be key in the future, and if so, how are our schools doing in preparing students for this reality?

Image courtesy of Flickr user x-ray delta one