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The 21 century skills you need to thrive in the future

What skills do you need for the jobs of the future? And do you even know what those jobs might be?

Employment of the Future

In this age that we are living in, many are struggling to keep their head above water, particularly in the job market. A lot of people are finding it difficult to secure employment largely because our students are not well equipped for the jobs of the future.

And it's not a surprise. As Industrial 4.0 looms at our doorsteps, jobs are shifting quicker then before. The types of trends and technologies upcoming are wildly different from the past.  And skills required to excel in each of these are wildly different from those needed in the past. And they continue to change.

PwC Strategy & Global DIgital Operations Study 2018

PWC reports that a new range of digital champions are needed. And peopel are at the center of this transformation.

A recently new growing trend is Blockchain. @RossowEsq articulates that decentralization will be a whole new trending concept.

A new 21st century skill need

Today's education system is teaching outdated skills designed for the industrial era. Industries and businesses in the past needed massive laborious human capital to succeed in scale. With the internet era and automation becoming a major key-theme in the 21st century, things are set to change.

The reality is that the world is fast evolving and traditional skills are being replaced by creative and collaborative tasks. No longer is it sufficient to just be average in your daily work. It is necessary to be way more efficient, solve problems in a better way. This are all needed to create the value needed to create superior businesses.

To meet the challenges and opportunities of today’s world, every student now requires a new set of 21st century skills.

List of Life Skills

A recent report by World Economic Forum presents the ten critical skills students need to succeed in the 21st century. These skills allow students to collaborate, communicate, think critically and solve problems.

Here is the list of skills students need for the 21st century.

1. Complex problem solving.

The ability to deep dive into specific problems, understanding the root causes is a major skill to learn and master. Combined with Critical thinking and creativity, this could lead to superior frameworks that organizations can use to improve their processes.

2. Critical thinking.

The need to think deeper and reflect into the current as is situations, is a difficult and unnatural thing to do. Most of the time, people are educated and trained to "follow the flow". In school, we learn that there is a right answer for multiple choice questions. But in real world, there often isn't. In fact, the right answer is often not in the options given to us. This article by  
Peter Salovey @Yale highlights the need to train students to think like scientists.

3. Creativity.

Thinking of the box is not easy. Especially if you end up in another box. Some say creative arts is a major trigger, as well as humanities and sciences. Social sciences can mean a lot to an individual. Especially more so for entrepreneurs who are trying to question the rationale of what we see everyday.

4. People management.

How do we motivate people around us to be way more productive in our days. How do we inspire people around us to build way more superior companies? This is a skill that is often more an art then trained. How do we balance control vs free-play.

5. Coordinating with others.

The skill to work well with others is a necessary skill for teamwork. A combination of sub-skills are required here. One of the most important being listening skills. Listening to the point of view of several others and responding and coming up with the best plans are often harder then it seems.

6. Emotional intelligence.

Often very difficult to understand, emotional intelligence is one of the hardest things to learn.  @JustinJBariso writes in this article about 13 ways emotional intelligent people do. It's a great place to start to be aware. After all, it's said that most change starts from within. And that starts with self-awareness.

Emotional Intelligence Map by Nitya Wakhlu Innovations

7. Judgment and decision making.

Bad decision making kills. But things are set to change with the rise of Big Data. As technology for Analytics become more and more mainstream, companies are gearing up for it. Marketing analytics  generate data that could give insights for consumer insights. Major product decisions can then be made faster and better.  Sharlyn_Lauby writes  that this is also particularly relevant for internal organization decisions in human resources. Surveys was highlighted a good way to obtain the required data.

8. Service orientation.

It's vital to make sure businesses speak direct and closely to their customers. Technology can then be used to optimize personalization fit for each use. FutureGov writes that there is now a shift towards consumer customization. Design starts at the top and everything cascades downwards.

9. Negotiation.

Negotiation requires planning, and its a skill worth mastering. Close to strategic planning, it requires to understand objectives of the negotiation. Then deeper fact-finding and information gathering is needed to obtain leverage. Strong positions can then be identified and nailed for successful negotiation. Part of all these require listening skills. Unfortunately listening and negotiation sometimes come across as two ends of the same stick.

10. Cognitive flexibility.

University of Miami highlights that cognitive flexibility is the ability to shift our thoughts and adapt our behavior to the changing environment.  @E_Sheninger gives 6 ideas to promote this skill in this article. Divergent thinking is one of the proposed ideas which allows students to perform experiential solutioning.

A recent rage in problem solving is called First Principles Thinking. This youtube video by  @freedomintht is a fantastic explaination. Another great article on this topic is  @safalniveshak

The skills listed above are more important to students, now more than ever. Students need these skills to succeed in learning, work and life in this age. Without these skills, students will not be able to successfully adapt in the global economy.

Students are required to demonstrate deep understanding of the major principle of core subjects. They must be able to apply this knowledge to critical interdisciplinary themes using the key skills listed above. However, 21st century skills also require students to build capacity for careers in today’s world. You need to develop the ability to articulate ideas clearly, listen, and work effectively in diverse teams.

In terms of work, you will have to adapt some of your skills to the jobs of the future. In addition, you will need to learn new skills, such as spotting patterns and trends and analyzing information effectively.

Employers are seeking candidates who are not only “book smarts”, but are able to demonstrate life and career skills. Such skills include, team work ethics, strong communication and interpersonal and problem-solving skills. For example, students need the ability to solve complex problems and devise effective solutions.  Those who are unable to think proactively will have a hard time finding employment.


In conclusion, the 21st century skills discussed aim to help essential to succeed and thrive in future jobs. If you’re choosing your college degree now, it is important to acknowledge that you’ll need to learn and constantly modify your skills.

The 21 century skills you need to thrive in the future
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