Which skills should you invest in to be future-proof?


In reading Yle´s article on the Finland Chamber of Commerce survey on regional competitiveness in 2016, I found it´s main message to be that the open jobs and job-seekers do not meet. Reading conversations in the Finnish Facebook group I praised in my blog last week it turns out that current job advertisements discourage applicants in their job search.  The overriding concern was the ever growing list of requirements in the job advertisements. At the same time the message from the employees is that the available workforce does not enable the companies to grow.

To overcome this challenge, I thought I´d list some skills that will be useful in working life now and in the future. I won´t go further into the question of requirements  but instead want to emphasize those skills that each of us can start working on right away.

Without realizing it at the time, I got the idea for this post already in the spring of 2016 when I came across Taneli Tikka´s facebook post (in Finnish) listing of skills needed in working life of the future. In his own words, Taneli had created the list with an eye toward the future, where automation, software and artificial intelligence will play a significant role as a booster. I used the list for reflecting on which of the skills I already need in my job today. Numbered and bolded text are quotes from Taneli and the rest my own reflections.

In discussing the future one must understand that the future is today.

1.Goal-oriented interaction (consisting of emotional intelligence, empathy, listening and so forth)

As a part of the marketing team my goals are tied to the team. I help, participate in the work of the team, and encourage the others. And hey, I have to know how to ask for help myself too! We exchange thoughts daily to find the way to reach our goals.

2. Fast cyclical learning, both on one´s own and with colleagues (entails how to upgrade outdated information and skills and so forth)

New "things" and inputs make their way to the team via the individual. Everyone is responsible for their own and the team´s learning. Managers lead by example and as equals with their team rather than hierarchically. Outdated information is replaced through a trial and error process, so sometimes mistakes can occur. New employees can speed up the cycle as they bring in new information and skills.

3.  Critical thinking in general (without critical thinking efficient technology will only be more efficient in creating a mess and bad results)

We inexperienced employees are inherently capable of very critical thinking. However we have to be extremely vigilant, because the traditions and attitudes of the organization will stick to us like glue. We need encouragement for speaking our minds and being ourselves. Critical thinking has to be protected from being confused with negative thinking.

4. Lateral, option-seeking and creative thinking

Tight schedules, goals and results can lead to just a pushing ahead like crazy to reach them. I can improve my creative thinking for example by removing myself from the typical environment. If I can work no matter where I am, that is when I am doing something that interests me.

I try to jumpstart my creative thinking by going overboard and thinking about something different than the problem I am trying to solve. Here too, usually going outside, into the park for example, helps.  By going overboard I mean spending time with people who don´t focus on shooting ideas down but building them up.

5. Ability to function/ functional competency (ability to operate in situations that are stressful, chaotic or require resiliency)

Hmm, perhaps the most important skill? of them all? Changes in working life will not slow down, so the ability to function in any situation is key. For me resilience means Finnish guts, "sisu." It is the skill to believe in yourself. Ability to trick yourself,perhaps?  Through the individual this can be harnessed into team work and team competency.

6.  Digital media literacy (and source criticism)

For me, digital media literacy is strongly connected to social media. One has to be able to sense the atmosphere, timing and patterns of interaction. Who is talking and what are they saying? What is important? Social media makes source criticism increasingly the concern of the individual.

7. Entrepreneurial spirit: as an attitude and a collection of skills to create new things

This could also be called managing yourself. Since I don´t have my own company, for me entrepreneurship is an attitude! The growing start up craze and interest in entrepreneurship (freelancers) clearly signify a rise in an entrepreneurial attitude. Increased competition over their own future exposes all individuals to entrepreneurship, at least at the level of attitude and internalization.

8. Defining the problem (versus solving the problem)

In the future we will face issues that do not come with ready-made solutions. We will be increasingly faced with the unknown, which means that defining the problem will take up most of our time. I would see defining the problem and solving it as some kind of causal relationship, where technology provides the solution.

9. Visualization and visual communication

Visual means will become increasingly common in trying to understand our complex world. Those who can best visualize large and complex matters as controlled wholes. What is most important is the ability to capture the eyes and attention of the desired target group. GIFs and memes with their speed and crystallizations are prime examples of modern story-telling.

10. Applied systems thinking (knowledge of system theory)

And to conclude, the most difficult part (and term). I think that system thinking helps me make sense of my role in the bigger picture. I can see where Barona started and what kind of world the company is operating in now. I can understand my own role amidst the stakeholder groups. Applied system thinking for me is understanding that everything is interconnected.

In addition to these 10 points Taneli´s list included some that were also very interesting. Now I will aggressively anticipate the publication of EVA´s report (in Finnish) "Robots to work - what happens in the workplace" so we can discover new skills us humans will need in working life in the future. Taneli Tikka wrote the chapter "When a machine takes control" for the report, to be published this afternoon.  I am planning to read it at the barbershop. That is one place where, for now, a human is using a machine on my head.