How to Guides

Are You Ready? Here Are The Most Important Skills Needed For the Future

Written by Kate Lopaze

For many decades now, people have been predicting the future of just about all industries: robots.

And while that hasn’t quite come to pass, we’re already seeing automation and technology take over our working lives. More than ever, our work and communication are online, with fewer human touchpoints. Just look at email: if you were in the workforce 10 or 15 years ago, email was present, but not necessarily the driving force of office communication. And although we’re still a good way off from having a fleet of robots running our lives, it’s a great idea to start thinking about the kind of skills needed for the future.

1. Technology Trends

2. Information Overload

3. Flexible Employees

4. Your Brand

Technology Trends

Technology is the most obvious shift that will happen in all of our lives in the near future. After all, it’s only about 10 years ago that the iPhone was just a secret prototype kicking around Apple’s Cupertino campus. Cut to today: good luck finding people shuffling along a sidewalk and not gazing down at a smartphone screen.

And while you’re not expected to be able to predict exactly what the hot new tech will be, you can make sure you’re aware of the cutting edge tech trends in your field right now, and think about where those might be going. For example, if you work in retail, POS (point of sale) software has really affected how salespeople work with merchandise and the public. Another example is office communication systems, like using Google’s Gmail, Gchat, and Hangouts to foster communication between people in the company.

Regardless of your field, the trend is likely to be two-fold: a) bringing people together regardless of whether they work in the same office, state, or hemisphere; and b) finding ways to make manual processes, like payment or presentations, digital to free up resources for other tasks.

If you’re the person who has 14 devices plus your fitness tracker linked up in one big web of efficient information harmony, great! You likely have the tools to be ready for whatever comes along, tech-wise. Keep an eye on trends in your field, like:

  • New tools and software, especially ones that improve efficiency or customer service. What is your industry able to do now that it wasn’t able to do before?
  • Social media. How is social media used by the movers and shakers in your industry?
  • Security trends in your industry. How is customer or company data protected?
  • Mobile technology, also known as the Internet of Things. Are there any particular apps or devices that are relevant to how your company (or your field) does business?

Working to stay updated on trends can help you figure out where to target your attention as you move from one job to another, and can really help you flesh out your resume and/or your personal brand.

If you’re not as tech-savvy as you would like, there’s nothing stopping you from fixing that! It just takes a little time and catching up, and then you’ll be ready to trendspot with the best of them. There are plenty of ways to bolster your tech creds:

Take classes

Sites like offer online tutorials and classes that you can take at your own speed, on your own timeline. You can search for specific programs or general areas where you want to expand your knowledge. Also, productivity expert Steve Pavlina has a great to-do list for expanding your tech know-how: 10 Ways to Improve Your Tech Skills.

Learn by doing

For example, if you want to learn coding to add it to your resume, all the online tutorials in the world aren’t the same as getting in there and figuring it out. Once you get a baseline sense of how to do things, either from research or a class you’ve taken, set time aside to get in there, play around with apps or programs, and really get a sense for how things work.

Talk to experts

You know what people really like talking about? Things they’re good at. Find people in your field (or your company), who really know their stuff, and ask them if they could walk you through their process for the skills you want to add to your own repertoire. BONUS: you also get to know people in your field, and build your network.

Information Overload

“Big data,” or using stats and information to make smart decisions about how to work efficiently, whom to hire, how to address new challenges, etc. will play a huge role in the workplace in the next ten years. Analytical skills and problem solving skills will come in very handy here. If these are areas you want to build, you can start now:

Flexible Employees

The digital office looks less and less like the traditional one we all know, with a beehive of people typing away and gathering ‘round the coffee machine. With better connections and communication all the time, it’s less essential that everyone be physically in the same room to collaborate. As you move forward through your career, consider ways you might be able to adapt to that kind of changing office. Working remotely or working as a contractor are ways that your daily work life might change. Being open to flexible work arrangements can open up new opportunities that you might not have anticipated if you’re wedded to the idea of working 9 to 5 in a cubicle of office.

Your Brand

One trend that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime is the one where you develop and live your own brand. Right now, this entails having clean, career-relevant social media profiles, and keeping up by creating new content that establishes you as a player in your field. Moving forward, the trick will be to keep pace with the hot social media trends of the time—you don’t want to be the guy on MySpace when everyone else has moved on to Twitter 2.0.

If you are that guy (or gal) who’s a little behind the time, social media-wise, don’t fret—this is an easy fix! It just involves a little bit of legwork and spring cleaning.

If you already have social media accounts:

  • Make personal or social accounts private whenever possible, and untag yourself in those embarrassing photos of you doing a kegstand at Spring Weekend. Similarly, those posts about your hobby of making macramé portraits of British royalty should be pushed behind the privacy wall as well. You want your career brand to float to the top of those search results.
  • Expand your network. Start connecting with other people in your field—that way, you’ll be in a better position to start dialogues with influential people in your industry.

If you want to increase your social media presence, Aaron Agius at Entrepreneur has some great tips for where to start building your brand:

1. Choose sites that work well with your career and goals.

For example: if you’re in an industry that values image and style, Instagram might be your best bet. If you work in a business that moves fast and values quick insights, Twitter might be the way to go.

2. Keep posting content.

A site with little traffic and nothing new to offer isn’t going to do much to help your personal brand.

3. Leverage big voices.

Follow (and engage with) people who are big fish in your industry’s social media pond. Depending on how big their following is, you may not get much one-on-one interaction, but retweets/sharing content shows that you’re active.

4. Use marketing to your advantage by using campaigns and contests to get your brand out there.

What it comes down to is this: none of us can predict the future, and no one should even try. What you can do is put yourself in a place where you have a base of skills, and the kind of flexible thinking that will allow you to take advantage of opportunities six months from now, or 10 years ago.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.