Posted: 19 January, 2020

Where there’s a skill – there’s a way.

Blog, Careers, General, Headline, News, Senior School, Sixth Form, Suzie Longstaff

Suzie Longstaff looks at the skills required to compete in the careers market of the future

We are living in exciting times. As science fiction rapidly becomes science fact, emerging technologies are out there solving real-world problems and completely reframing the job market. Instead of having just one career, your working life will probably involve a portfolio of several, and thanks to increased automation, many of those roles will have been freed from the more mundane and repetitive tasks. The doors are open to a whole raft of exciting possibilities, but with the landscape changing at such pace, being adaptable, agile and ready to seize an opportunity, will be key to a promising future.

According to the World Economic Forum, 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change by 2020. Of course, the employers of tomorrow will be looking for scientists, and machine learning specialists with digital and technical skills, but they’ll also be looking for the creative visionaries who’ll design the next sustainable buildings and the naturally empathetic, with the EQ to care for our longer-living population.

The new ‘hybridisation’ of jobs is transforming traditional roles; the most in-demand and highest paid roles increasingly requiring a variety of skills, across multiple disciplines. The rise of today’s ‘hybrid’ job presents opportunity for all, but chiefly for those who can keep up, ready to equip themselves with the broad range of skills to succeed. Evidence of change is everywhere you look. Marketing and PR roles today require not just creativity, but a greater understanding of analytics and digital. Similarly, highly analytic jobs, in science or finance for example, already require skills in consulting, visual communications and the ever-important, creative thinking.

Of course, a great set of results and solid subject knowledge are prerequisites for most careers, but don’t underestimate the value of some very human traits. Being interested and interesting, able to ask questions and crucially, knowing which questions to ask, will stand you in good stead at interview and in the workplace.  Be curious and open-minded. The ability to innovate, to think critically and to problem-solve are hugely valuable skills that we teach in school, and that we know employers are crying out for. Leadership and teamwork skills are vote winners in any business, but so is the ability to bounce back when things don’t go according to plan.

Look at any successful entrepreneur and you’ll see that possession of the right ‘frame of mind’ is often a great place to start. Successful business people often demonstrate, originality, resilience and share similar behavioural traits. Being strong on the ‘people’ skills: communication and intuition helps them to literally ‘win friends and influence people’. Putney’s entrepreneurship programme has been showing students that this ‘entrepreneurial frame of mind’ is a precious commodity, whether you’re joining a FTSE 100 company or taking the initiative in your very first Start-up. The ‘soft’ skills can be just as important as an impressive CV. They are skills that many of us are born with – although they can sometimes benefit from a little fine tuning.

So which industry should you aim for? A key message from our digital technology careers evening last year, attended by female innovators from Google, Ocado and BuzzFeed, was that only 15% of technology positions in business are held by women, but that looks set to change. Even if technology is not your strength, don’t set limits on your future by ignoring it. Jobs are encompassing technology in creative new ways, combining art and science in new roles that will appeal to every character. “Envisioning Expert”, “Empathologist” and “NUI (natural user interface) Designer”, will soon be common place job titles and all of them will be up for grabs.

Similarly, the creative industries now contribute 100 billion to the UK economy and welcome school leavers from academic and vocational routes in a vast array of roles. Wherever your strengths and ambitions lie, the opportunities are out there. Take time to find what you’re good at. Seek out a working culture that is right for you and above all, discover what you really enjoy doing. Passion and enthusiasm go a long way to making opportunities.

Originally published by Independent School Parent in The School Leavers’ Guide (Spring 2020)

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