Career Woman

The 12 skills you need to bulletproof your career


When it comes to career skills, as with most activities influenced by trends, we tend to be obsessed with the new and innovative. This is no bad thing. It’s incredibly important to invest some time and energy into understanding the critical tools of our age. Of course, at some point, coding skills, for example, will follow the path of black smithing as AI and robotics advance to a stage where they can self-code with greater speed and efficiency than any human IT engineer is capable of.

So which skills, if any, might be considered evergreen? Ove the past two years, we have conducted research and interviews with leaders, futurists, economists and educators around the world and across industry sectors to learn which skills have always mattered to human advancement and which of these will continue to matter in the future – regardless of how technology reshapes our workforce. These “Forever Skills” clustered into three broad groups – Creative Skills, Communication Skills and Control Skills:


1. Insight generation

Today, we are overloaded and overwhelmed by information as zettabytes of information (which is a lot) is broadcast at us daily through the media, email, social platforms and the internet. However, for all of this information, few of us are in fact better informed. Data isn’t the answer, it’s input. This makes an ability to turn data into meaning and information into intelligence a critical skill, regardless of how the technology is gathered.

2. Conversion of raw input

In fact, human endeavour has largely been about the conversion of raw resources into more useful assets. Converting water into steam fuelled the industrial revolution, coal mined from the ground has allowed us to generate electricity and now governments around the world are in a race to most efficiently convert sunlight and wind into energy. The raw resources we seek to convert may change, however, an understanding of how resources might be converted is incredibly important. As we move from the production of tangible products to intangible assets and services, this skill will remain critical.

3. Problem solving

The World Economic Forum, IBM and EY have all asserted that creative problem solving is a critical skill for future employability, yet most of us consider it to be more of a unique talent that we are born with (or not) rather than as a skill that might be nurtured and developed. Perhaps this is because we confuse creativity with artistry. A better definition of creativity (in our opinion) is the capacity to solve problems is ways we haven’t seen before.

4. Agility and adaptability

Words like agile and agility have been adopted and repurposed by the technology sector, however an ability to be cognitively and behaviourally flexible is important for us all. Critical in this is an ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.


5. Influence and persuasiveness

Words like influence and persuasiveness are often tainted by their historic association with sleazy sales people and con artists, but in fact we are all in the business of influence. Leaders will always have to persuade people that their cause is just, team members will always need to create alignment amongst their teams and parents will always need to sell bedtime and broccoli.

6. Team building

Of course, building a team requires more than influence, it also demands an ability to understand and moderate team dynamics and negate politics.

7. Engendering trust

In an era of fake news, it’s easy to assume that the decline of trust is a modern issue, but an ability to generate trust and to sort the stories for the facts has always been important and conferred power to those who wield the skill well.

8. Translation between worlds and “languages”

While few of us will ever sit back stage at the United Nations wearing a headset while we translate content for a foreign delegate, we are all, to some degree, engaged with the skill of translation. Translation is really an ability to make information available and useful as it travels from one context to another.


9. Self-control

Self-awareness is often considered the first step of self-improvement, however the next important step is self-control. The ability to regulate our own behaviour will be eternally important.

10. Resource management

When we talk about resource management, it’s easy to think in terms of fossil fuels or renewables, however, this skill is far more all-encompassing than that and in fact includes human resources such as time and effort and is ultimately a capacity to make judgement calls and to priorities effectively.

11. Order and social cohesion

An ability to generate consensus and conformity around agreed social norms is as old as human civilisation and will continue to be important as societies become more interconnected and increasingly complicated to navigate.

12. Implementation

The ability to execute, independent of complete data or preparedness, has always and will always be an in-demand skill.

Clearly, it’s worth studying and at least understanding the essential skills of the age or era that we are living in, however given the time and energy we invest in our educations across our working lives, it also makes a great deal of sense to invest in what is unchanging and to develop our own suite of Forever Skills.

About Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory'

Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory are experts in leading change and are the co-authors of Forever Skills and co-founders of The Impossible Institute.

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