When I graduated from university in 2005, one of my professors took me aside and offered me the best piece of advice I received in all my time in education.
“You might think that your studies have ended,” he said, “but you should know that this is just the beginning.
“Much of what you’ve learnt will be obsolete in five years’ time – if you want to achieve anything worthwhile, you have to keep learning.”
At the time, I didn’t think this was great advice.
After all, I planned to become a journalist – how much could the required skillset change over five or even 10 years?
Everyone will always read newspapers – where else would they get their news from?
The same kind of thinking was probably in the minds of web developer graduates. In the 1990s and early 2000s, putting a website together was a complex business.
You had to know coding for a start, and since the future was likely to be all things Internet, being a website developer was forever the stuff of hot property.
Alas, fast-forward 10 years and the advice from my professor turns out to be solid.
The advent of alternative and social media, blogging and ‘citizen journalism’ has meant that people now get their news from all kinds of sources.
As for web design, anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection can now create a website in a matter of minutes.
Alongside the phrase: “We’ve always done things this way”, perhaps we should put: “People will always need…” in the file marked *Dangerous Phrases to Avoid*.
As we see social, economic and technological advances developing at speed, it can be daunting to keep up with all the trends that are taking place.
On the other hand, many of these advancements are to our benefit.
If we resolve to keep ourselves up-to-date through our learning, we can easily avoid our personal ‘Kodak moment’ of failure by transforming the intimidating into tools of growth and success.
To help get us started, here are five skills that will become even more valuable as we look to the future of work:
1) Capitalising on new trends
The workplace has changed dramatically over the last 10 years, and it’ll surely see a further dramatic shift over the next 10.
The world is changing and we have two choices: we either find ways to keep up and move ahead, or we get left behind.
Whether we take online or offline courses; attend seminars; read self-development books or listen to industry leaders, it’s no longer enough to grow with a five-year plan in mind.
We are now in a position where we need to think about how things might develop over the next 10, 15 and 20 years, and where our place might be within those developments.
2) Learning new technologies
If you’ve ever been amused or frustrated by an older person as they stumble their way through figuring out how to work a smartphone, don’t get too cocksure – you might be that person one day.
We’re all comfortable with what we know, and comfort breeds conceit.
New technologies come at us rapidly, and so we should take care to avoid closing ourselves off to the latest advances.
The ability to prepare and make use of new technologies will offer us a sharp competitive edge over those who don’t see the value in paying attention.
3) Focusing on service
This is a skill that all professionals and organisations currently talk about as being vital to business growth and development.
As customer awareness, issues and demands increase, so too will the need for organisations to truly focus on being service-orientated.
As individuals, we need to ask ourselves: am I in this for the sake of closing the deal, or to show that I care about the quality of service my organisation provides?
As customer likes and dislikes, values and fears evolve, people who are agile enough to adapt to customer needs will be worth their weight in gold for their organisations.
4) Developing emotional intelligence
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean “learn to be nice”.
Emotional intelligence is about building meaningful relationships that are based on qualities such as active listening, empathy, responsiveness and, most importantly, self-awareness.
One of the biggest challenges for organisations today is that people come to them with the relevant skills but often lack the “soft” skills required to develop strong working partnerships, both internally and externally.
In the mad rush of getting things done, people who can connect with and relate to others are priceless.
5) Cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset
At the heart of entrepreneurship is dedication, drive, perseverance and creativity.
Entrepreneurs have lots of ideas about how they can add value to those around them and solve tough problems.
If we sit at our desks and carry out routine tasks or stick to our job descriptions, then we’re merely doing something that 100 other people can do.
But if we’re regularly coming up with ideas on how things can be done faster and better, and if we take the initiative on implementing those ideas, the people around us suddenly find themselves with a colleague without whom they would struggle.