Forward Thinking: 10 Skills That Will Be the Most Valuable By 2020

Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images

Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images

When considering different career options, scouring job sites and employment listings will give you a pretty good idea of the skills you need to succeed. But at a certain point, you need to start adjusting your thinking – you need to get ahead of the game. The skills and proficiencies that are tailored to today’s job market are not going to be the ones that will land you a job tomorrow, next year, or even five years from now.

The point is, the economy is changing rapidly – more rapidly than ever before. Changes that used to happen over generations are happening in a matter of years. Jobs are being replaced by technologies, consumer tastes shift instantaneously, and businesses are running wild trying to catch up. So, you need to get ahead of it all by considering the skills you’re going to need tomorrow, not today.

At the most recent meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, an annual coming-together of many of the world’s brightest minds in the world of economics, business, and finance, the future of work was discussed. One thing was made very clear at the discussions: change is coming, and rapidly. That may be bad news for the world’s workers – at least the ones who sit still.

Workforces are shrinking, and the needs of employers are changing. It’s what experts are calling the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. And a lot rides on how we respond to it.

In preparation, the WEF outlined the 10 skills that will be most in-demand several years from now, in 2020. Though there is a lot of overlap with the skills currently being sought-after, there are some radical changes that should take place between now and then. Employers will need problem solvers and thinkers; not merely plug-n-play workers.

The following 10 skills are those outlined in the WEF Future of Work report, with input from experts at Davos. If you plan on being gainfully employed in 2020, or at least have a tool chest that will impress employers, here are some skills you’ll want to further develop.

10. Cognitive flexibility

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

It doesn’t get much more vague than ‘cognitive flexibility’ – but that in itself should be a clue as to what employers will be looking for in the future. You need to be flexible, and your thinking needs to be flexible. You need to be able to look at problems from different angles, analyze and find weaknesses, and even think of your role in organizations differently. It’s abstract. But that’s also the point.

9. Negotiation

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Negotiation is a skill that everyone should have in their arsenal, whether they use it on a professional level or not. It’s not only helpful in sales, but also when ironing out details between you and an employer. With that in mind, there’s no better place to show off your negotiation tact than during the interview process. To improve, take a logic class. Or better yet, read up on how scientists pick arguments apart, and learn from their secrets.

8. Service orientation

Hand in hand, helping, kindness

Source: iStock

In the job market, the term “service orientation” refers to a candidate’s ability to be of service to an organization. Essentially, it means that you can engage with your co-workers and clients in a service-oriented capacity, by anticipating and helping out when and where needed. You can think of it as being collaborative, in a sense. Big companies already incorporate service oriented structures into their folds, like Microsoft.

7. Judgment and decision making

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

This is another key trait or skill that you should already be honing. Using good judgment and having the ability to make good decisions is what gets people to the top. And one bad decision can ruin your whole career. It starts at home, too. Deciding to delegate your time wisely, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and take care of yourself physically is going to pay dividends, while showing up to work hungover the next day will demonstrate that you lack good judgment.

Decision-making skills are important now, and they will be in the future.

6. Emotional intelligence

Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Emotional intelligence, like service orientation, is the ability to have your finger on the pulse of the feelings and prevailing attitudes swirling around you. In a managerial role, you’ll need to know what your subordinates are feeling and thinking, and having that ability – along with the necessary skills to lead or guide people through or around emotion – is what the experts are referring to.

5. Coordinating with others

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

This is one of the more straightforward entries on the list. Can you coordinate with others? That is, are you a team player, who can efficiently and effectively manage your time, and not waste that of your clients and coworkers? If you can, then great – that’s what employers need. Time is the most valuable resource on the planet, and a lot of money is spent to manage it more effectively. That starts with coordination.

4. People management

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

As many of the others skill have been building up to, employers need individuals who can manage people. That involves wrapping up emotional intelligence, coordination, good judgment, etc., all into one package. People can be difficult to manage, and the ability to effectively do so generally comes with a lot of perks, like bigger salaries. But it can be a lot of work, and a significant challenge for many.

3. Creativity

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

We’re no longer in an era where mindless, menial labor is going to get you ahead, or even a job, in many places. You need to be able to think, and think creatively. If you’re not naturally creative, you can work at it. You need to eat the right foods, and exercise. You should be reading and absorbing information, and looking at issues and problems in different ways. Creativity is a skill that is honed with years of practice and experience. And it commands a lot on the job market when coupled with the right skills.

2. Critical thinking

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

We had a running start from creativity, and that leads us right into critical thinking. Again – “critical thinking” is another vague term, and it’s not always easy to recognize when you, or someone else, have a knack for it. But you can work on it in your own time. As mentioned previously, start reading, writing, and absorbing information from many different sources. Look at things from other points of view, and expand your mind. Soon, you’ll be seeing the world is vastly more complicated than it seems – and you’ll understand why critical thinking skills are so sought after.

1. Complex problem solving

 H F Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

H F Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Yes, employers want you to solve complex problems. In fact, that’s really the entire point of businesses, when you think about it. Google solved a complex problem by providing instant information at our fingertips, whenever we want. Facebook found a way to connect almost everyone on the planet. Apple found a way to put a computer in everyone’s pocket.

These were complex problems that had complex solutions. And there are a ton of other issues out there, waiting for a solution. If you can solve problems, you’re going to be in demand.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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