10 Emerging Skills for Professionals
Ten critical soft skills leaders should maximize to improve their leadership capabilities and successfully advance their careers.
3/17/2020 | Leadership and Management, Featured | 9 minute read
Harvard Professional Development
The professional world is always evolving, and today that evolution is largely spurred by advances in technology. Despite this, today’s emerging skills are more about emphasizing innately human capabilities than manipulating machines.
The top emerging skills identified in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report suggest that many professionals should look to developing their soft skills to enhance existing expertise.
Below, we detail these increasingly important workplace skills and why employers will be looking for them on your resume.
1. Analytical thinking and innovation
Keeping your analytical skills razor sharp is fundamental to building and evaluating arguments. Plus, even as automation and artificial intelligence take over certain jobs, the uniquely human ability to think critically will never fall out of trend.
Build on your ability to use logic and reason to create inventive solutions with professional development. Start with foundational knowledge of philosophy, debate, and critical thinking, or dive deep into an advanced program on strategy.
Learning how to slow down and analyze issues with an observant eye will help you see things with a clear perspective. Analytical thinkers are savvy and agile in their jobs, and by focusing on this skill in your professional development, you’ll be primed to move forward in any industry.
2. Active learning and learning strategies
Whether you’re on the road to promotion or are considering a career change, the ability to seek out and digest new information is valuable. Think of your goal like the X at the end of a map, and the winding path is the new knowledge required to get you there.
Employers are always looking for people who will continue to prioritize professional growth. And there are many avenues to do so. Challenge yourself by taking on a new project at work, registering for a class, or attending seminars and workshops. In your current day-to-day life, learn from your own mistakes and the people around you by staying curious, analytical, and open-minded.
3. Creativity, originality, and initiative
Creative thinking can pave the way for lucrative opportunities, such as finding untapped markets, creating efficiencies, or launching new initiatives. Hone your imagination with classes on innovation or entrepreneurship, and turn your creativity into a powerful asset by learning how to wield it.
People with creative thinking skills can augment them by learning how to determine which opportunities are worth the risk, and acting on them. Your ability to translate imagination into action could be what earns you your next great job.
4. Technology design and programming
The future is tech, so learning how to design and program software is a skill that will stay in high demand. For business leaders and managers, knowing how to speak the language is important for communicating with your team.
Whether you’re looking to become a programmer or engineer, or simply want to improve your digital literacy, there are many options at your fingertips. From self-guided programs to bootcamps to online and on-campus courses, opportunities to learn about technology and programming abound.
5. Critical thinking and analysis
Of all the potential buzzwords that exist in corporate lingo, “critical thinking” is a phrase you should pay attention to. It's a skill that's gaining a lot of attention and has evolved to encompass the ability to think thoroughly and deliberately in your daily tasks.
Fortunately, this is a skill you can hone over time. This tool is especially valuable in roles where you’re having to make decisions that impact an entire organization, such as corporate strategy and marketing.
6. Complex problem-solving
Leaders in every industry are faced with problems both simple and complex. Those who thrive are adept at taking multifaceted issues and breaking them down into digestible pieces.
According to the Harvard Business Review, thinking deeply about complex problems entails three practices: challenging your convictions, taking on the biggest problems early in the day, and paying attention to your instinct.
7. Leadership and social influence
Being a hard-working and inspiring leader requires years of practice that aren’t easily acquired. However, there are ways to bolster the skills you’ll need to take your managerial prowess to new heights. Social influence, for example, is how new CEOs are guiding their businesses.
Rather than relying heavily on metrics and economic growth, new leaders are leaning on human capital. By knowing how to encourage ambition on a personal level, you’ll be able to motivate from the ground up.
8. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is gaining traction on a global scale. It's about knowing how to look inward to gauge your self perception. For managers, the value of emotional intelligence is in being able to relate to others and anticipate their needs.
Again, as A.I. and technology become more prevalent, uniquely human attributes—such as emotional intelligence—will become increasingly important for employers.
9. Reasoning and problem-solving
You will always confront obstacles in the workplace, but what if you could conquer them with a little more precision? Problem-solving is a skill that can be refined and strengthened. In doing so, you create improved efficiencies for yourself and your organization.
First thing’s first: do you know what kind of thinker you are? If you’ve never taken the time to consider this question, give it a shot. Once you’ve analyzed how you tackle problems, you’ll know exactly where your own weaknesses lie. Then, it’s a matter of deciding whether you’re willing to invest in your abilities as an expert problem solver.
10. Systems analysis and evaluation
All organizations have systems in place to help them run. You can make your skills more marketable with a deeper understanding of operations and how they can be improved. This skill is perhaps most often associated with IT roles, where your focus is the computer systems that keep the corporate engine turning.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you do not need to be savvy in tech to master this skill set. In fact, having a background in business or the liberal arts is great, as long as you’re willing to learn new subjects.
Invest in your future
There is no shortage of opportunities for professional development. Once you’ve determined the areas that need strengthening, take the leap. You’ll be thanking yourself later.
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