We have been warned: Covid-19 has the world barrelling towards an economic downturn. After a great deal of job losses, wage cuts and no-pay leave, a recession is becoming more and more apparent as our day-to-day spendings drop, leaving a domino effect that expands in countless directions.
It’s hard to sit still not knowing where you’re headed after the pandemic blows over. But first, let us evaluate where you stand – and what you have to equip yourself with – to make sure you have an ace up your sleeve if your career has been affected by the virus.
The truth is, much of the knowledge and technical skills acquired through degrees can become obsolete quickly in this fast-changing world. But the single, most important takeaway from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other analyses is that the knowledge economy no longer pays graduates for what they know.
That’s why you should seriously consider upskilling or reskilling yourself, in order to expand your job prospects and increase your value as an employee.
Employers are valuing “soft skills” more than ever
“Google knows everything these days. The knowledge economy pays you for what you can do with what you know. Success is no longer about reproducing content knowledge, but about extrapolating from what we know and applying that knowledge to novel situations,” says OECD’s education and skills chief, Dr Andreas Schleicher.
There is, of course, much research and advice being given out on the technical and people skills required to land jobs and thrive in them.
Not enough attention, though, is being paid to the “soft skills” that many employers are also seeking. Applicants are now required to be adaptable, able to work in multicultural teams and capable of communicating effectively.
These are the skills which will enable an individual to not just land (or keep) a job in the post-pandemic world, but also thrive in it.
Learning is already being done in many different places and many different ways, online and offline. There are MOOCs (massive open online courses), microcredentials, industry certifications, work-study and apprenticeship programmes and coding schools, like Holberton and 42.
Increasingly, employers will not be looking at just degrees, but also at certifications, badges and various other forms of skills assessment. It’s already happening in some fields, such as computing, with tech companies. Many also believe that the future lies not with degrees, but with microcredentials – a certification indicating competency in a specific skill.
The verdict? A degree is, at best, just a stop along the way in your learning journey. As you’re looking for more ways to ready yourself for the new working world, here are the top 10 in-demand skills to take note of:
The ability to derive meaningful information from data – this has become an important asset to have. We have now entered a golden era of analytics, and being able to understand and apply it can lead to better business outcomes. This can make you an indispensable team member that can benefit the company.
Critical thinking skills allow you to analyse a situation and find workable solutions. Demonstrating that you are capable of making informed decisions, with careful consideration, without bias and influence, can usually reap better results.
Technical skills will be required by employees doing just about every job since digital tools are becoming commonplace.
Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, blockchain and more will become a part of all workers’ everyday experience, whether the workplace is a factory or a law firm.
So, not only do people need to be comfortable around these tools, they will also need to develop skills to work with them.
All businesses face the challenge of keeping up with the breakneck speed of technological and other changes. This means employers see adaptability – being able to rapidly learn new skills and behaviours in response to changing circumstances – as an essential work skill.
While creativity is the ability to produce new and unique ideas, innovation is the implementation of that creativity – that is, the introduction of a new idea, solution, process or product. Regardless of how many machines work beside us, humans are still better at creativity. Companies are always looking for workers who are able to invent, imagine something new and dream up a better tomorrow.
An area where humans have the edge on machines is with emotional intelligence – our ability to be aware of, control and express our emotions and relate to the emotions of others.
Organisations are increasingly diverse, and effective employees must be able to respect differences and work with people of a different race, religion, age, gender or sexual orientation. This is important as businesses are increasingly operating across international boundaries.
If you think leadership is a soft skill that only senior management needs to possess and cultivate, think again.
In today’s fast-moving business world with flatter hierarchies, every professional needs good leadership skills.
The skill of complex decision-making is needed where there is no one obvious right solution to a problem, but multiple solutions that can lead down multiple paths.
Those with this critical skill are able to identify key factors which will affect the outcome of a decision.
They are able to evaluate options and establish priorities.
They are also able to anticipate outcomes and see logical consequences before arriving at a solution.
The ability to work with a group of people to achieve a shared goal or outcome in an effective way is very much in demand by organisations.
Text: Sandra Davie, Additional reporting: Cherrie Lim
A version of this post first appeared on The Straits Times.