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The Top 10 Skills to Win the Career Race in 2020!

Author : Dilip Saraf

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The World Economic Forum recently published its Future of Jobs Report. In this report it lists the top 10 skills to succeed in the 2020 job market for knowledge workers. Since this is not expected to be a step-wise skills requirements it may be worthwhile to visit these skills identified and ranked in this report and to understand what they are and how to ramp-up on them. This will give you time and space to ramp-up on these skills to stay relevant in the near future and to win the career race in 2020 and beyond.

Below is the ranked listing of the top 10 skills for 2020 (Rank for 2015)

  1. Complex Problem Solving (1)
  2. Critical thinking (4)
  3. Creativity (10)
  4. People management (3)
  5. Coordinating with others (2)
  6. Emotional intelligence (Not mentioned, but Quality Control was #6)
  7. Judgment and Decision Making (8)
  8. Service orientation (7)
  9. Negotiation (5)
  10. Cognitive flexibility (New skill; Active Listening was then #9)

Let us visit the list and see what it entails to master each one to succeed in the emerging job market for the knowledge worker:

  1. Complex Problem Solving: With the increasing complexity of the world around us and the exponential complexity that rapid advances in technology is creating, handling complex problems in a systematic, streamlined, and rapid manner for consistent and cogent answers is going to be a premium skill. In a complex environment that involves technology, people, and intricate ecosystems getting to the root-cause for identifying any malfunction or dysfunction can be daunting. Those who understand what factors are relevant in this analysis and how to measure their impact in the final outcome, ignoring all other factors (noise) in such a system can provide a clear line of sight to problem solving. Such problem solving will require not just disciplined analysis of complex system, but also leveraging your intuitive powers coupled with rigorous analysis to arrive at an iron-clad conclusion.
  2. Critical Thinking: Critical Thinking is ability to look at a problem and break it down systematically to find the answer to the problem at hand. Contrasted with Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking is a systematic process of breaking down any problem into its elements and finding the answer that is logically acceptable. Such an answer may NOT be rationally suitable, which requires Rational Thinking. An example of this difference may be that of a group of hungry friends after a movie one night, who have limited time to go to a restaurant before they close for the night. The Critical Thinking approach may entail identifying all restaurants within about five miles, researching the food they serve to meet everyones taste, finding the ratings of each, and then going through each menu to see what the group can afford. By the time all this analysis is done and acceptable to all involved the restaurants would be closed. An approach with Rational Thinking, on the other hand may entail quickly finding the closest well-rated vegetarian restaurant and taking chances with its menu and prices.
  3. Creativity: Creativity implies the ability to create something new or to innovate. It is a power or faculty that we all possess that allows us to leverage what we already know to apply that knowledge to build or create something new. Weeding through the inevitable complexity that we are now forced to deal with coming with creative solutions will entail finding simple and elegant solutions to provide the answers to our problems without getting overwhelmed by our inability to deal with this complexity. To counter the increasing complexity made inevitable by todays technology Frugal Innovation (Jugaad) is one way anyone can leverage their creativity to find a practical solution in any economyrich or poor.
  4. People Management: Any organization is made up of people and they are the ones responsible for creating the outcomes for which the organization is established. No organization is stronger than the people who run it and who understand how to delegate this authority so that it continues to run in an effective way for ever. Although each individual is different, the organizational systems must be designed to provide a consistent environment for all people to function efficiently, but at the same time each manager must recognize that each person reporting to them is an individual and must be treated as such without compromising the framework set up for the welfare of all. In todays complex organization and world this is one of the top management priorities and those who understand it well and are able to deal with it will become successful leaders in a winning organization.
  5. Coordinating with Others: Organizational and national ecosystems have become increasingly complex with many interdependent elements. For any endeavor to function successfully the leaders must understand how to influence all stakeholders over which they have no authority, yet they must get things accomplished through their individual influence. How to do you influence someone over whom you do not have direct authority? By understanding what motivates them. This is where the WIIFM factor becomes critical. WIIFM stands for Whats In It For Me. So, for anyone to be motivated to help in your cause you must first find the WIIFM factor and then approach them with how to satisfy that factor before you expect them to give you what you want. This is the essence of how to coordinate with others without authority.
  6. Emotional Intelligence: Emotional IntelligenceEQis defined as is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s). Until recently, (1970s) in individuals IQ was considered a main determinant in their professional success. Recent studies and surveys have shown that ones IQ correlates almost directly with their cognitive abilities (not necessarily their cognitive flexibility) and academic grades, but the correlation between their IQ and adult success is only about 20%. Other Qs that matter in adult success are EQ, PQ (Political Intelligence), CQ (Cultural Intelligence), and XQ (Contextual Intelligence). Of these only the IQ is innate; all others can be learned skills.
    Emotional Intelligence has five components: Self-awareness, Self-control, Empathy, Communication, and Motivation. Awareness and development of each of these factors contributes to the overall EQ development.
  7. Judgment and Decision-Making: Referring back to #1, Complex Problem-Solving and #2, Critical Thinking, the ultimate decision to act must involve sound judgment and decision-making skill. Merely deriving an input from robotic analysis of a complex situation using problem-solving technique may result in an ultimate decision that is flawed with unintended consequences not factored into the analysis. Using human experience and past learning one must internalize and develop how to override or temper decisions based on ones judgment and good common sense.
  8. Service Orientation: In a Service-Oriented culture what matters is the Experience one creates in the users hands and minds. Creating this Experience entails not only understanding what the user requirements are, but also what the user and the customer expect from the interactions with the provider, without expressly stating those expectations. In addition the provide must also be able to anticipate the needs that the user and the customer cannot always articulate because they do not know what they do not know (their unconscious incompetence: a la Faster horse, not a horseless carriage syndrome!)
  9. Negotiation: As multiple players take part in any endeavor, making sure that their ability to participate to make it productive and worthwhile depends on each player getting what they want without sacrificing the needs of others. Negotiations in a complex arrangement can be difficult to navigate through, but looking for a perfect outcome is virtually impossibleeven navein such an arrangement because then no one wins. For all to win, such an agreement must be imperfect, yet optimal and that requires negotiating skills that are not easy to master. This is where all the five Qs discussed in #6 must be utilized.
  10. Cognitive Flexibility: This factor can also be called intellectual agility. What this means is that a person who is able to show accommodation in a complex environment where multiple parties are involved to make an endeavor successful by providing their intellectual edge to deal with the complexity of the situation and accommodating all stakeholders parameters by being able to shift from one context to another. Ones ability to quickly shift their frame of reference from one context to another without losing the sight of the objective demands Cognitive Flexibility; merely having high IQ in such situations may not be enough.

If you look at how the 10 job skills have shifted in their ranking and priorities from 2015 to 2020 (in just five years) it is a clear indication of how people-centric skills, ones ability to deal with complexity, analytical and problem-solving skills, and knowing how to use ones judgment in complex situations before making a decision have become higher priorities. Those who are able to embrace this change in the coming years will have an edge in navigating through the job markets of the future and win their career race.

Good luck!

About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.



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