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Success at work: 6 key skills you need to succeed in the coming decade

Your degrees don’t matter, and your skills won’t last. Employers are displaying a clear preference for work skills over coveted academic degrees. Here are the key skills that you need to survive and thrive in the coming decade.

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Last Updated: Dec 23, 2019, 06.30 AM IST
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Your response to rapid change foretells your success in the next decade
By Devashish Chakravarty

T20 in cricket or Year 2020 for careers? The T20 format changed the face of cricket and how players approached the game. Now, the coming decade beginning 2020 will transform the future of work and how careers are built and broken more than any other time in human history. The changing rate of unemployment, rapid adoption of technologies and disruption across industries have already impacted your current job and employer in the past 3-5 years. This change has been recognised by industry leaders and governments, who agree that the future is not about jobs but about skills and skilling. So, here are the key skills that you need to survive and thrive in the coming decade.

1. Learning to relearn
Your degrees don’t matter, and your skills won’t last. Employers are displaying a clear preference for work skills over coveted academic degrees. At the same time, the half-life of a current professional skill is said to be 5 years. Which means that unless you continuously acquire new skills, you don’t have a future. Thus, the most important skill you need is the ability to “learn, unlearn and relearn”. Though deceptively simple, learning fast requires a mindset, a plan and specific learning skills.

The first is a growth mindset—or the belief that your abilities are not fixed or limited and that they are plastic and can grow with training. After you believe, you need to commit time to learning—say an hour every day to explore that new software at your workplace. And finally, you will engage in repetition and application of the new knowledge to convert it into a skill. How many new relevant skills will you acquire this year? In the next 3 years?

2. Time vs information
The next important skill is managing time or handling the challenge of unlimited information in limited time. Time management also helps you stick to promised deadlines thus increasing your reliability and employability. This skill can be broken down into four sub skills —speed reading, active listening, summarising and analysing. Speed reading is a skill that you can acquire using an app or practising its principles, thus increasing your rate of information absorption. Active listening increases your ability to understand better when you engage with the speaker. Taking notes and then analysing or breaking down the information helps you structure and retain knowledge longer and in a usable format.

3. Searchlight intelligence
The next skill is searchlight intelligence or the ability to spot patterns and connections across data and people in ways that are not immediately evident to others or to a machine. By cross-referencing across domains or combining inputs from different people to come up with creative solutions, you deliver value beyond the routine in a manner that cannot be automated. To grow this skill, expose yourself to multiple domains and sources of information including staying connected with experts across those spaces. Varied industry/ role/ project experiences and even hobbies help you connect the dots and carry solutions across domain borders.

4. Story telling
Think beyond the basic skills of written and verbal communication. The critical skill that you need for the next decade is that of storytelling. This is the ability to make sense of different pieces of information and present it in a manner that the other person remains interested in what you are saying, can understand it completely and finally remember it well. Whether you are making a presentation or submitting a document, own the story and how it lands on the reader or listener. Your command over language is not critical but what matters is stepping into your audience’s shoes and working hard to communicate in a relatable, entertaining and informative manner. According to Sir Michael Moritz the investor, this is the single biggest skill needed by a modern entrepreneur too.

5. Knowing your tech
According to McKinsey, India is the second fastest digitising economy in the world. This is not going to slow down anytime soon while the economy aspires to grow manifold. So, when it comes to technology which is transforming and disrupting your life, industry and role, you cannot be a quiet observer. While you don’t need to be a coder to survive, you must be an early adopter or a market leader in using technology. To remain relevant and grow into the next decade, you need to able to correctly include technology at the design stage, know how it can be programmed to alter outcomes in current processes and learn how to apply the latest tech at your work to maximise your productivity.

6. Employing trust
Author Stephen M R Covey talks about trust as the operating system of every relationship where the speed of trust comes from reducing time and cost of doing business with a trustworthy person or firm. This is the core people skill that you need to master to drive your career through an uncertain future. Building trust requires you to have honesty in communication, reliability in delivering on your promises and being culturally sensitive about your audience to maintain trust.

Warren Buffet, who has built high trust and credibility, is said to close large business deals within a month with limited diligence – something that others can’t do. Thus, once you build trust, extend it to the other person and operate on the belief of trust to gain the most from it. Even where your skills become redundant or irrelevant, the trust you have built then anchors your career and buys you time to learn new skills.

FUTURE OF JOBS
1. Approach

The top skills required for 2020 as per the Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum can be clubbed in four clusters. The first one is how you figure out challenges and this includes complex problem solving skills, critical and analytical thinking and creativity —all of which can’t be outsourced to machines or artificial intelligence. Build these skills by gathering information in your domain, studying how problems are analysed and tackled and bring insights from other spaces to create new solutions.

2. Social-emotional
The next bunch relates to how you handle emotions and people, and these include coordination, collaboration and emotional intelligence. If simple problems are solved by technology, then complex problems will require teams. To work effectively with teams, you will improve your people skills by participating in cross-functional teams, seeking responsibilities, investing in relationships and using your listening skills to empathise and connect.

3. Outcomes
The third set of skills is concerned about outcomes which depends on the quality of decisions taken. The relevant skills include judgment or decision-making along with cognitive flexibility or the ability to handle multiple concepts together. Growing these skills requires you to seek decision making roles and embrace the risk of failure while reading, studying and absorbing from multiple sources of information and perspectives.

4. Closures
Finally businesses will continue to require people who achieve closures in sales, service and business transactions. Thus, the skills that will be in demand are service orientation or actively helping people and negotiation or the art of reaching agreement. Whether you are in sales or not, these skills will always boost your career and hence use team discussions, presentations and client/vendor interactions to sharpen your saw.

(The author is Founder and CEO at Quezx.com and Headhonchos.com)
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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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