The working population of every country is the lifeline of its economy. In the US, more than 157 million Americans are part of the workforce, and this workforce is changing every day. New jobs are coming available, and some existing jobs are about to become obsolete.
If you’ve been working for at least a few years and expect to remain in the workforce for at least a few more, you’re one of the millions of Americans who need to update your skills. Here are the top six skills you will need to stay relevant in the workplace:
(1) Cognitive Flexibility
If you’re going to survive in the future workforce, it’s not just enough to be smart anymore; you need cognitive flexibility. What exactly does cognitive flexibility mean? It is the ability to switch between multiple concepts quickly and hold competing ideas in your mind at the same time. Cognitive flexibility is one of the key features that is required for carrying out executive functions, like working memory, self-control, and emotional intelligence, and it isn’t limited only to conscious actions; you should also be quick enough to multitask subconsciously. You can improve your cognitive flexibility by challenging yourself with complex problems, taking difficult routes rather than easy ones, and changing up your usual routines.
(2) Service Orientation
Service orientation — the ability to observe, recognize, and attend to the needs of others — is an important skill for anyone who has face-to-face interaction with many people during their daily work. To excel at service orientation, you also need to be good at anticipating other people’s needs. People in the hospitality industry need exceptional service orientation skills because that sector is deeply focused on customer satisfaction, but the need for service orientation extends to all industries and sectors. Actively try to help your team members and customers: to be of service to them. Remember, if you’re a leader, you report to your team and are responsible for their success.
Teamwork is all about collaborative effort. Organizations depend on the cooperation between different people to function and succeed. Being good at teamwork means that you can work seamlessly with a group of diverse people to accomplish a common goal. Often within organizations, interdependent people and departments can’t do things or make decisions on their own without working across the entire team. Being able to work with your office members like a well-oiled machine will keep you ahead in any sector that values good collaboration. One of the best ways to improve your teamwork is simply to practice. Engaging in group activities in and outside of the workspace will help you become a better team player.
(4) Digital Competency
Digital competency is a no-brainer, since most high-demand and high-paying jobs available in the last ten years have required high digital literacy skills. Nowadays, many companies are simply unwilling to hire people who don’t have solid technological proficiency, whereas in the past, people only needed basic computer operating skills. That means, you’ll need more than fast typing if you want to stay relevant in the future workforce. The best thing about digital competence is that you can improve your basic skills without ever taking in-person classes. Many online job training courses help people brush up on their computer skills.
(5) DEI Competency
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is more important than ever. All forward-thinking companies are now actively strategizing ways to incorporate DEI practices into their company’s processes and procedures. Skills related to DEI include understanding unconscious bias, drawing awareness to microaggressions, being knowledgeable and respectful of other cultures, and inclusive language, among others. If you want to be part of the modern workplace, you must understand these critical issues and start applying what you learn in your interactions with others.
The demand for expert negotiation is rising across industries. You can become an independent negotiator who brokers deals between companies and staff, companies and other companies, as well as staff and staff. To be excellent in negotiating, you need to be a good listener. You also need to have effective verbal communication skills, assertiveness, problem-solving, and decision-making skills among others. Consider enrolling in an online course for professional certification as a negotiator. You can also learn more through free and low-cost podcasts, articles, and books about the art of negotiation.
The bottom line is that staying relevant in the workspace requires you to constantly update your skills to meet the demands of the ever-evolving workforce. The good news is, most of the skills you need to stay ahead can be learned remotely from any location. You don’t need formal training to develop these skills — just start researching, dig in, and keep going. Practice these skills as often as possible and apply them in your everyday life.
Artur Meyster is the CTO of Career Karma (YC W19), an online marketplace that matches career switchers with coding bootcamps. He is also the host of the Breaking Into Startups podcast, which features people with non-traditional backgrounds who broke into tech. Find him on Twitter & Linkedin.