Back To Career News

Are Your Professional Skills Future-Proof?

Topics: Career Advice
Professional Skills of the Future
Cecilie_Arcurs/Getty Images

Are you confident that your professional abilities are strong enough to carry you to a successful future, or are your feeble skills no match for the power of the unemployment office?

The most valuable skills in the workforce have obviously changed over time; from the dawn of recorded history up until the time of the industrial revolution, some of the most valuable skills included growing or hunting for food, making or repairing clothing or other useful goods, designing and constructing shelter, and — one of the earliest and most valuable skills (still valuable if you’re going on a camping trip) — being able to start a fire.

Literacy, medicine, an understanding of mathematics, and other skills less connected to manual labor — or survival — were also important, but it wasn’t until automation and other technological advances of the industrial revolution that knowledge-based work — separate from social or political station — took on the increased value. At the same time, jobs requiring the skills that had been valuable up to that point disappeared, as workers who specialized in manual labor were replaced by machines.

“R2-D2! You know better than to trust a strange computer!”

Today, we’re in the midst of another technological revolution, this one centered around computers, robots and artificial intelligence. And once again, the likelihood that machines might replace humans in certain industries is high. In fact, it’s already happening. And for some industries, it’s been happening for a while.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

In a 2016 article in The Economist, it was reported:

In a widely noted study published in 2013, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne examined the probability of computerisation for 702 occupations and found that 47% of workers in America had jobs at high risk of potential automation. In particular, they warned that most workers in transport and logistics (such as taxi and delivery drivers) and office support (such as receptionists and security guards) “are likely to be substituted by computer capital”, and that many workers in sales and services (such as cashiers, counter and rental clerks, telemarketers and accountants) also faced a high risk of computerisation. They concluded that “recent developments in machine learning will put a substantial share of employment, across a wide range of occupations, at risk in the near future.”

But do not fear. Fear is the path to the dark side.

And if you have the right skills, the future might actually be the land of opportunity.

“But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.”

Though workers in the transportation, manufacturing and clerical professions — and others — are at risk of having their jobs taken by machines in the not-too-distant future, it’s more than likely that humans will still be needed when it comes to building those machines.

With technology advancing at near lightspeed, and with software and hardware becoming ever more pervasive in every facet of modern life, it’s no surprise that skills associated with the creation and construction of new technology are in high demand. And in all likelihood, technology jobs are only likely to become more important and prevalent in the future.

Not to say workers with those skills are not already in high demand; far from it. In PayScale’s 2016 report Leveling Up: How to Win In the Skills Economy, we identified nine skills that provided the biggest pay boost to workers. All of them have emerged in the past five years. And, perhaps most tellingly, all of them are tech-related.

It’s also worth noting that of these nine skills, seven of them rely on expert understanding of programming languages, operating systems or software frameworks.

Stretch out with your feelings.”

Interestingly, also as reported in Leveling Up: How to Win In the Skills Economy, the valuable skills hiring managers most often report lacking in today’s new recruits were “soft skills,” or the skills in which humans have a massive natural advantage over machines. Those skills included “critical thinking,” “attention to detail,” “communication,” “leadership,” and “interpersonal skills.” All of these were reported missing more often than knowledge of “data analysis” or “industry-specific software,” two of the most commonly reported missing hard skills.

This is both startling and concerning, as experts predict that soft skills like the above will become more and more valuable in the future, as machines take over the realm of number crunching.

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Though predicting with certainty which jobs will disappear and which skills will lose their value to the technological blitz of the future is difficult, one thing is clear. To stay relevant in the labor market, workers will need to be constantly learning.

Again, from The Economist, as relating to the impact automation will have on the job market, “…despite the wide range of views expressed, pretty much everyone agrees on the prescription: that companies and governments will need to make it easier for workers to acquire new skills and switch jobs as needed.”

As the introduction and adoption of new technology increases in speed, staying informed and knowledgeable about how to apply it to your line of work will become crucial.

“Already know you that which you need.”

But remember also that work is almost always performed by teams, and teams are still made up of people.

From a 2016 article in Fortune, “…employers’ top priorities [in the next five to 10 years] include relationship building, teaming, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity, and ability to manage diverse employees—right-brain skills of social interaction.”

As PayScale’s Leveling Up: How to Win In the Skills Economy report revealed, and as workforce experts agree, the skills that will make workers most valuable in the future are the skills that computers can’t yet and may never be able to master; the skills that make us uniquely human.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you believe you’re prepared to be par of the Future Work Force? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

John McIntyre
Read more from John

Leave a Reply

Notify of
What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.