Business people trying to see into the future
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4 ways to make sure your skills are future-proof

12 Jan 2017

We’re living in a truly technological age, and the tools with which we work are constantly evolving. How can you ensure your skills keep up? Hays’ Jason Walker has the answer.

How can you be confident that your skills will be relevant for the jobs of the future?

As technology develops, borders expand, consumer patterns change and industries evolve, roles will grow and the skills in demand will change. The businesses that sustain and prosper will be the ones that keep abreast of these developments, adapting accordingly.

While nobody can predict the future, staying on the ball will help companies define which new hard skills – digital competencies, for example – are needed to keep up with changes.

Forward-thinking companies will also be hiring for the soft skills that stand the test of time and cannot be replaced by robots, such as relationship building, curiosity and innovative thinking.

Consequently, the employees who continue to thrive within a professional environment will be the ones who are in tune with any changes, developing new hard and soft skills to adapt. The question is, how can you become one of these ‘future-proofed’ employees?

1. Keep your finger on the pulse

Be aware of any transformations that could affect your industry or your role. These could be digital, consumer, economic or political changes.

For example, many financial institutions have begun using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, or chatbots, to respond to online clients. Therefore, if you work in online customer services for the finance industry, it would be in your interest to understand how this technology is programmed. You should also consider whether this is a skill you want to acquire in order to remain in your industry.

Many organisations offer training courses to help you broaden your skill set. If yours does not, take the power into your own hands. There are plenty of ways to educate and upskill yourself, whether it’s through podcasts, webinars, or reading industry publications and press releases.

Ultimately, it is down to you to keep your finger on the pulse and ensure that your skills are relevant to your future working environment.

2. Remember how much your soft skills matter

As previously mentioned, while you cannot fully predict exact future changes to your role, you can guarantee soft skills will continue to be essential.

There’s currently a lot of talk about automation and AI taking over manual and repetitive tasks. However, as Hays CEO Alistair Cox has mentioned previously, although technical skills are being replaced, soft skills – such as relationship building, intuition and leadership – will always be needed.

It is the soft skills that will transcend change and add to your value in the years ahead. It is down to you to define and develop these.

3. Get global experience

Globalisation is increasing and companies are expanding beyond borders – a process catalysed by changes in technology. Therefore, future roles are likely to have a global remit and the potential for international mobility.

As such, your current or future employers are likely to be looking for people who have experience working with other cultures, and even within other regions. A willingness to learn about local markets, appreciate other business cultures and adapt accordingly will help you to become a global employee.

4. Consider how future-proofed your environment is

With all of this in mind, ask yourself how future-proofed your current or future employer is. There’s a chance you are being held back by a company or industry that refuses to revolutionise.

Is your company growing financially, expanding internationally, demanding soft skills and providing up-to-the-minute training for the ever-changing harder skills that are in demand? Is it being approached for expert advice and insight by external bodies?

If not, then they won’t help, and will most likely hinder your personal future-proofing strategy. Ultimately, you need to assess how future-proof your future at this organisation is.

In summary, the key to making yourself a future-proofed employee is to mirror the ways in which companies are future-proofing their employees – keep abreast of changes in your industry, constantly assess which soft and hard skills are needed, and realise the importance of global adaptability.

By Jason Walker

Jason Walker is managing director of Hays New Zealand, overseeing all operations in the country. As a board member, Walker also shares responsibility for setting the strategic direction for growth of the Australasian business.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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