In the last one and a half years, the pandemic changed our lives. Not only were so many of us greatly impacted by their own or a loved one’s health, we were forced into a new everyday work routine, isolated from our colleagues, while being confronted with news of the outside world that sometimes seemed almost too much to bear.
Though most - if not all of us – struggled, many of us rose to the occasion and quickly adapted to these new circumstances. With the world standing still, and at the same time accelerating with light speed, many opportunities were suddenly put into use. We communicated via video, held meetings with participants from around the world and reached out across great distances, because traveling and meeting someone face-to-face was simply impossible. Many of us found ourselves even more involved in our jobs, working even longer hours from home, because we were suddenly more available. Screen time was extended, as we used our computers to connect to our loved ones, maintain some sort of a social life, maybe even rekindle some of our more neglected friendships and acquaintances. Though people tried hard to settle into this new reality and navigate work/life, the loss of a “real-life” social life was a world-wide challenge.
Despite all of this, some things flourished regardless. With a little (or a lot) more time on our hands, there naturally came more time to reflect on what is important and to take a closer look at one’s environment and examine if it was still in line with our values and needs. Suddenly many of us were checking in on ourselves, re-evaluating our lives - especially our professional pursuits.
When rethinking our jobs, or even our careers, what often comes to mind is where to go from here? In addition to searching for more meaning, there are the logistics around actaully landing our dream job. Are we fit enough for another round of job applications and job interviews? What jobs are on the market right now and are we even qualified to make that career change? How do we get up to speed with the current trends and the latest requirements of the job market? Is some sort of further education or training necessary, or what else will give us an advantage in the current job market? Even if we are not on the verge of a career change, it is always interesting to think how one can develop in one’s current position or company. Which begs the question, are there ways to future-proof our careers?
The skills that will (probably) make us
“The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Founded in 1971 it serves as an indicator for current economic topics and issues. Moreover, the WEF has published whitepapers, guidelines, insights and outlooks into our global economic future.
In "The Future of Jobs" report 2020 the WEF suggests a list of 10 skills "which employers see as rising in prominence in the lead-up to 2025". Also, according to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report: “50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, as adoption of technology increases”. What is very interesting is that this list contains mostly “soft skills”, meaning skills that are rather personal attributes as opposed to specific technical knowledge that can be acquired through specific training or traditional education.
The WEF’s top 10 job skills for 2025 include:
Analytical thinking and innovation
Active learning and learning strategies
Complex problem solving
Creativity, originality and initiative
Leadership and social influence
Stress tolerance and flexibility and ideation.
What we gained during the pandemic
If we look at the list of skills, it becomes evident that some of the mentioned soft skills were amped up due to the lockdown situation.
We certainly became skilled active learners, as we adapted to a new situation pretty much out of the blue. For some, this meant acquiring and incorporating new aspects or angles of our established positions, such as crisis communication or the formation of new leadership circles to quickly address and handle unexpected difficulties. We were forced to pivot and adapt our strategies, utilizing our analytical thinking and problem solving skills and calling on us to develop innovative ideas on the way.
We developed creative strategies for coping, hence a lot of originality was born through our new ways operating and communicating. Often we had to deal with limited resources, sometimes stepping in for a sick colleague. We approach problems differently, and in doing so, bring new ideas, solutions and views to existing problem areas. Many of us formed initiatives to keep up with the changing face of work and social life. Not only did we form recurring online circles with old and new friends and distant family members, but we also established professional peer groups to exchange knowledge and experience. Not being able to physically join our colleagues in the office, we were more motivated to up our use of different technologies to maintain interaction with our fellow team members.
And finally, the urgency of the situation left us no choice but to adapt. As we stretched and adapted, we became more resilient, stress tolerant and flexible. Ultimately, we practiced greater empathy and compassion for one another.
And all of this was done under extreme circumstances.
Various sources in the business environment support the idea that our skills, especially the “soft skills” mentioned in the WEF lis, have been improved by facing our everyday lives during the last one and a half years. Also, they point to the significance of their interconnectedness.
So now what?
How do we use our improved 2025 skillset from now on, or better, how do we demonstrate these in moments, when it really matters?
Even better than those letters of recommendation from former employers that state your amazing ability to master said skillset (though these could obviously be very helpful), it could show even more initiative to point them out yourself. During an upcoming job interview or in a cover letter to a potential employer, one could refer to those skills suggested by the WEF and explain how you’ve mastered them in practice. This is best done by elaborating on the specifics of concrete examples during a recent professional experience.
Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, practicing these skills could help you flourish in your existing role and even lead to the creation of new responsibilities, tasks and positions.
Leaning into life-long learning
The truth is, we all benefit from constant learning.
Maybe now could be the time to bring all these newly strengthened soft skills into our next position or fill our current jobs with more of these qualities to further future-proof our professional skill set. Most of these competences such as analytical thinking, active learning, complex problem solving, initiative, and first and foremost - in times like these - creativity and resilience are essential in every aspect of our lives - to be fit for the future, in order to successfully navigate this 21st century full of change and uncertainty.
About the Author
Having many years of experience in the field of communications, Elisabeth is constantly searching for inspiration and new possibilities of creative expression. Based in Vienna, social commitment and empathy are essential to her personally as well as in her professional environment.