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The Top 10 Skills You Need to Future-Proof Your Career

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Andrew Kingsley

The world of work is changing. Globalisation, urbanisation, robotic technology, bio-technology, AI and automation are just some of the factors that are changing our job roles and the job skills required. The stats are frightening:

  • 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years (Source: Deloitte, Agiletown).

  • 5 million jobs will disappear due to AI and technological advancements. (Source: World Economic Forum’s Future of Work).

  •  60 million to 375 million individuals around the world may need to transition to new occupational categories by 2030 (McKinsey Global Institute)

  • 65% of children now entering primary school will hold jobs that currently don’t exist (Source: World Economic Forum)

How jobs have evolved

Hiscox has a great timeline showing the evolution of job titles and skills from Switchboard Operator and Record Press Operator in the 1980s to Ceefax Engineer in the 1990s, Dot Com Picker and Video Store Clerk in the 00’s. In the last 5 years alone, we now have Walk on Water Architects, AI supervisors, Social Media Managers and Scrum Masters.

We have also started to see the complete replacement of some roles with AI. IBM has developed a virtual doctor, essentially a super-computer diagnostic tool called - Watson. Drivers are being replaced by Tesla’s self-driving cars. Telemarketers are swapped for chatbots and automated voice calls. Financial Advisors and Management Consultants are also being pushed out as AI are able to sift through data, analyse problems and provide advice, quicker than a human can.

But while some current jobs and skills will become redundant, both WEF and NESTA are optimistic that certain job roles will be protected; most importantly within Architecture and Engineering, Business and Financial Operations. However, even if you work in those areas, you still need to future proof yourself.

So what skills do students and young people need to be training in and what should those currently in jobs look to acquire?

We’ve looked at the top ten skills from two of the major research bodies.





Complex Problem Solving

Complex Problem Solving

Judgment and Decision Making

Coordinating with Others

Critical Thinking

Fluency of Ideas

People Management


Active Learning

Critical Thinking

People Management

Learning Strategies


Coordinating with Others


Quality Control

Emotional Intelligence

Systems Evaluation

Service Orientation

Judgment and Decision Making

Deductive reasoning

Judgement and Decision Making

Service Orientation

Complex Problem Solving

Active Listening


System Analysis


Cognitive Flexibility



*&** Source: Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum.

*** Source: The Future of SKills Employment in 2030, NESTA, Pearson, Oxford Martin School.

In the next ten years, social skills are going to become far more important as well as skills involving problem solving and critical thinking. In the next 20 years, learnability (being able to learn new skills at speed) is likely to surpass these.

But for the immediate future, the two essential skills are:

Creativity and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was first introduced in 1995 by Daniel Goleman. He argued that EQ surpassed IQ in helping employees succeed, be more productive and get promoted.

“People with high EQ tend to use their skills to become deeply embedded in the company’s social network – essentially, they make many friends. This gives them access to more information and knowledgeable colleagues, which in turn improves their performance and leads to a higher wage.” 

(Source: Guardian, “The secret to a high salary? Emotional intelligence“)


Why do these skills matter?

EQ and creativity matters because it provides humans with traits machines cannot replicate. Adaptive thinking, empathy with others, social intelligence, leadership and emotional thinking are all soft-skills which researchers believe will help keep humans relevant and needed in an increasingly automated world.

David J Leeming’s paper argued that it is human interaction through teamwork, where groups trade-off skills, adapt to one another and innovate that is “at the heart of the human advantage over machines.”

EQ in conjunction with Creativity creates a set of skills that right now, ensure our roles are future proofed and set us apart from automated systems. Let’s hope the machines don’t learn this too soon.

In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.”​

Eric Hoffer (1973)

Where can you find out more about emotional intelligence?

Find out how your job has evolved

Nesta’s Skills Map, has analysed 37 million job descriptions to find out how job skills have evolved between 2012 and 2016.

Simply type in your current job role to find out how the skills required for your job have evolved.