“Refuse to be overwhelmed!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Are you feeling overwhelmed? If not, you are doing it all wrong!
Everyone is overwhelmed! If there is one constant comment in my discussions with people it’s that they feel absolutely floored by the constant rate of change!
And if that is the case – have you spent much time thinking about the skills that you really need as we continue to go into a faster future? Maybe not! Even though you might have done everything you can to keep up to date, you are probably feeling like you are still falling behind. There is so much going on; so many trends to track; so many new developments; so many staggering opportunities and deep challenges. Where do you start to keep on top of all this stuff?
By re-emphasizing and refocusing on your soft skills, rather than just worrying about your hard skills – the technical stuff, the professional knowledge, the career requirements. In many ways, when feeling overwhelmed, it’s better to establish a sense of being in control than to feel helpless. That’s why “soft skills” are becoming equally important, if not more so, than traditional technical professional skills.
Why is this so? We live in a world of constant, incessant change – one that involves continuous business model turmoil and competitive disruption; rapid innovation and market change; continuous business transformation, and new workplace models. Everywhere you turn in the future, you will find that the fast-paced developments that surround you will demand of you the ability to cope with, manage, implement, and deal with change. Your success will come from your ability to navigate this world of constant change, spot the opportunities, deflect the threats, and navigate uncharted waters.
And that’s where so-called “soft skills” come in.
That’s why I found the results of a survey undertaken by the Association of Graduate Recruiters in the UK way back in 1978 to be so compelling! I remember seeing the survey at the time when wrestling with my own career turmoil of the moment. I kept it because I realized that my career was evolving to become an ‘advisor on change.’ The survey provided insight as to the 12 key career skills for people to develop and enhance to successfully navigate a faster future. (The Association of Graduate Recruiters has since been renamed to the Institute of Student Employers.)
Take a look at the list of the suggested skills that we should emphasize.
- Knowing What: The ability to identify your skills, values, and core strengths. In other words, knowing who you are and what you can do is critical in a world in which everything around you is constantly changing.
- Exploring opportunities: the ability to identify, research, and seize opportunities. In effect, someone who can grab the future and shape it, rather than being shaped by the future.
- Action planning: the ability to take the initiative and take the lead, a critical skill in a world of constantly changing circumstances.
- Networking: the ability to collaborate and work with others, particularly with respect to the ability to share and generate knowledge by working with others.
- Matching and decision making: The ability to apply core skills and talents to constantly changing circumstances, as well as the ability to make decisions through opportunity identification.
- Negotiation: the ability to negotiate a “win-win” agreement despite the challenges that surround you.
- Political awareness: the ability to understand and perceive the unique, constantly changing relationships and organizational dynamics around you.
- Coping with uncertainty: the ability to change goals, direction, and activities based on constantly changing circumstances, combined with the ability to take risks.
- Development focus: a clear understanding that knowledge is the key to future success and the skills to generate needed knowledge on a just-in-time basis.
- Transfer skills: the ability to apply current skills and capabilities to constantly changing circumstances and opportunities.
- Self-confidence. A belief in one’s core strengths and capabilities, despite the challenge that can come from the regular buffering of constant change
- Self-promotion: The ability to project your self-confidence in order that you can take on further responsibility and pursue opportunities.
Think about it – they identified these as critical skills almost 45 years ago, and the list is still powerfully relevant today.
It’s a good list and is worthy of serious reflection. The fascinating thing is that although it is from long ago, it has aged well; it provides a pretty compelling overview of what we need as we go forward into the future.
And if it does anything, it will help shift you from feeling overwhelmed by the speed of change to having more of a sense of control – which will help you to better control your destiny!