What were the most important skills you needed for the world of work when you were at school? Did anyone ever discuss these with you? How did you decide what career to follow? How has the world changed since you were at school? Did you appreciate there were different roads you could travel to attain your career goals? Did anyone every explain this to you?
We can all probably remember our times at school when we asked why were studying a certain subject? How was it relevant to our lives beyond school? I know, I used to ask this question often, as so much of what I seemed to be learning appeared to be irrelevant and boring at the time – indeed, as I think back now, some of that work still seems to have been irrelevant or, perhaps my teachers did not show me the relevance. Maybe I was not listening …. I was a normal teenager, yet I think today’s world is demanding more creativity and innovation as the Digital Age expands and evolves.
I have thought about all these questions a great deal, read relevant books and articles and worked with hundreds of young people, during which time we would have discussed these questions as we explored hopes and dreams.
I have collated all my information under 10 skills as an encouragement to anyone working with young people, though they are as relevant to anyone of any age seeking meaningful work in the 21st Century.
Author Tony Wagner, in his challenging book, Creative Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, writes:
“The Millenials are our future. They are the generation who can and must create a healthier, more secure and sustainable way of life. While some might not care to admit it, they also need us in order to succeed. They need our expertise, guidance, mentoring and support, but we have to offer help in new ways …. to actively encourage the Innovation Generation to create an economy and a way of life based on innovation – one that cultivates habits and pleasures of creative adult “play”, rather than mindless consumption.”
10 Important 21st Century Skills for the world of work
With these thoughts in mind, let’s consider 10 of the most important 21st Century skills that most employers would be looking for and all young entrepreneurs will need, along with other financial skills, as well as skills specific to the particular job or career pathway they are exploring. Repetition is deliberate.
1. Communication: good written and spoken communication skills; great listening skills; trust; patience; an understanding of body language, tone of voice and eye contact; able to question, network and resolve conflicts positively, so important when designing new projects and working with others; able to negotiate.
2. Teamwork: a great team player; an encourager; loyalty; collaborative across many networks; striving to be a positive person of influence at all times, building others up, showing integrity at all times; patience; commitment; empathy and perseverance.
3. Problem Solving (includes complex problem solving): able to work through difficulties and make decisions; collaborative; adaptable and flexible; open-minded; able to look at all viewpoints objectively and respectfully; motivated to give something back by striving to address a human need; imaginative; perseverance; prepared to risk failure while daring greatly.
4. Initiative and Enterprise: able to follow through on one’s ideas; creative, innovative and imaginative with a spirit of inquiry when looking for solutions or developing new ideas; looking for extra work when tasks are completed (intrinsic motivation); able to work independently and as a team member; solution-focused; a critical and strategic thinker.
5. Planning and Organising: organized, self-disciplined and taking a pride in how one presents oneself in a job; great management of time skills; goal oriented; team player.
6. Self-management: as above and with a strong work ethic; accountable for one’s work plans and taking ownership of one’s responsibilities; responsible; reliable; trustworthy; prepared to take calculated risks; emotional intelligence.
7. Learning: a strong desire to keep learning, with an appreciation that life is a lifelong learning experience; studying and researching to increase one’s knowledge and understanding; listening to people with more experience; respecting diverse viewpoints; cognitive flexibility; personalised learning methods; an independent thinker; able to reflect on lessons from History and other cultures; explore multidisciplinary learning methods; learning how to access and analyse information.
8. Technology: staying up to date with changes and developments in technology and its evolving role in the world of work; responsible and respectful use of social media; self-awareness of the role of one’s digital footprint in the local and global community.
9. Sense of humour: work must be enjoyable and fun; one must be able to laugh with others as well as laugh at oneself.
10. A positive person of influence: collaborative leadership; able to empower teams and other individuals; positive role model with strong morals and values; live a healthy and balanced lifestyle; exercise regularly; above average relational skills; caring and compassionate; empathetic; able to reflect; authentic; great listener; humble; pro-active; self-confident; giving back to others with a sense of service (servant leadership); courageous; true to oneself.
There will be many points that can be added to this list.
What this list also highlights is the need for our young people to be encouraged to find volunteer adults they trust to move alongside them for a while as the wise guides on the side, the non-judgmental, supportive Cheerleaders displaying the spirit of mentoring.
These young people need to learn the importance of meaningful relationships in their lives, a developmental process that takes time, and its so important especially until their brains are fully developed into their mid-20s.
Have you any other skills to share?
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Facebook or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.