How to future-proof your skill set in 2021

November 23rd, 2020 No Comments Features

It’s always hard to know what the future will bring, and the current climate of uncertainty seems to muddle the picture even more, but the good news is there are a few ways you can prepare for that uncertainty and safeguard your career, even during a pandemic. Here’s our list of strategies to future-proof your skill set going into 2021.

1. Be adaptable

It was true before the pandemic, but it’s even truer now. Your ability to remain open to new ideas, skills, collaborations and career shifts is more important than ever before. According to the McKinsey Institute, there are five things you can do to become more adaptable in your learning journey: 1) Reframe what it means to learn, e.g. not just sitting in a classroom, 2) Foster curiosity and excitement about learning, 3) Define your learning North star, 4) Develop your personal learning journey; manage your time to give yourself space to learn, and 5) Start making micro changes to replace old skills with new ones. Above all, McKinsey defines adaptability as “the ability to flexibly and efficiently learn and apply those learnings across situations.”

2. Hone one tech skill

It can be overwhelming trying to stay tech-savvy in a world where we are constantly bombarded with updates and new technologies to learn. You don’t have to learn everything, but McKinsey and other institutes recognize that tech skills will be essential in 2021 and moving forward. The best way to navigate the scene is to pick one specific skill and focus on honing it over time, either by practicing it on your own, taking online courses in it, or regularly offering services to clients and friends. Some potential focus areas are programming, digital marketing, social media management, growth management, project management, design, and data science.

3. Collaborate creatively

Despite the current constraints of physical distancing, the World Economic Forum projects that require interpersonal and collaboration skills will be just as important–if not more so–going forward. Finding creative ways to work together with others will be a highly valued skill in the next few years. Put on your thinking cap and brainstorm a few ways to help companies and individuals stay engaged, and you’ll be on your way to future-proofing your skill set for the near future.

4. Practice self-management

One new set of skills on the World Economic Forum’s list of top skills needed for the future is skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility. Knowing how to manage your time, balance multiple projects, work self-care and mindfulness routines into your working hours, cultivate resilience in the face of stressors, and manage uncertainty will be highly valued skills in the years to come.

5. Learn to solve problems and think critically

Problem-solving and critical thinking skills might sound like qualities people either have or don’t have, but they can be learned. In fact, you can learn them on your own, with daily thought experiments and exercises that force you to come up with solutions to some of the world’s biggest issues. Set yourself a weekly problem-solving challenge where you research an issue like world hunger or climate change, do a little research, and spend a few minutes journaling your ideas for tackling these problems. Share your solutions with friends and invite them to adopt the routine. That way, you’ll be honing your collaboration skills too.

In Australia, VET fields like the trade and hospitality sectors will also be in high demand. According to a report from the National VET Research Conference, “vocational education and training will be critical to workers moving from jobs affected by automation, by providing reskilling and helping people to take up the new business and work opportunities presented by new technologies.” It’s not only the technical skills you’ll gain from a VET education but also the soft skills like continuous learning and an adaptive mindset that will be important for future career opportunities.


Saga Briggs is an author at InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or read more of her writing here.

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