Futureproof Your Career: The Top 10 Essential Skills Checklist

Have you ever pondered whether the skills you acquire in school today will remain relevant by the time you graduate and join the workforce?

You are not alone in having this thought. In fact, with the disruptions happening around us in the world today, the skill set required to succeed at work is bound to evolve. The next question to ask ourselves is: With all these changes, how can I futureproof my career and increase employability?

The good news is that the World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report earlier this year outlining the expected disruption to skills and what employers would prioritise in the next five years.

Skill Evolution Between 2023 to 2027

Let’s look at the comparison between core skills sought after by companies in 2023 versus skills on the rise in the next five years, as reported by the WEF.

Sought-after core skills in 2023
1 Analytical thinking (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
2 Creative thinking (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
3 Resilience, flexibility, and agility (Attitudes)
4 Motivation & self-awareness (Attitudes)
5 Curiosity & lifelong learning (Attitudes)
6 Technological literacy (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
7 Dependability and attention to detail (Attitudes)
8 Empathy & active listening (Attitudes)
9 Leadership & social influence (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
10 Quality Control (Skills, knowledge & abilities)

Skills on the rise (2023 to 2027)
1 Creative thinking (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
2 Analytical thinking (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
3 Technological literacy (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
4 Curiosity & lifelong learning (Attitudes)
5 Resilience, flexibility, and agility (Attitudes)
6 Systems thinking (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
7 AI & big data (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
8 Motivation & self-awareness (Attitudes)
9 Talent management (Skills, knowledge & abilities)
10 Service orientation & customer service
(Skills, knowledge & abilities)

Cognitive skills such as analytical and creative thinking remain a high priority, along with systems thinking, indicating the emphasis on complex problem-solving skills required at the workplace in the future. Given the expectation that automation of reasoning and decision- making will increase by 2027, it is no surprise that skills such as technological literacy and AI & big data have moved up the ranks.

Soft skills that businesses value the most are curiosity & lifelong learning; resilience, flexibility, and agility; and motivation & self-awareness. This signals the importance of resilient and reflective workers embracing a culture of adaptability as the lifecycle of their skills shortens.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it” Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Corporation.

Analytical, Creative & Systems Thinking – What Are the Differences?

Often, the different types of thinking skills are referred to interchangeably. With the emphasis on these cognitive skills, it is key to understand their differences to apply them effectively.

· Analytical versus creative thinking: Analytical thinkers converge on facts, data, information, judgement, experience, and wisdom in search of the one best answer; creative thinkers diverge thinking to explore many different options.

· Systems versus critical thinking: System thinkers explore the relationship between systems (e.g., the human body, economy, or environment) and their impact on each other; critical thinkers examine thoughts, information, or beliefs to assess their quality and logic.

While there are variations in these four types of thinking skills, they are complementary when it comes to application. In fact, we have all intuitively applied one or the other, or even a combination of them—at some point in our lives. Still not sure what the differences are Let’s break it down further using group project work as an example:

Analytical thinking: In the planning stage, assess project requirements, anticipate potential challenges, and devise strategies to overcome the foreseen obstacles.

Creative thinking: Imagine a new way of working, leveraging technology to reduce the team’s workload yet achieve the same outcome of completing the project on time.

Critical thinking: The project overran, and the team isn’t sure what went wrong. Thoroughly examine the criteria for each task, attentively consider the challenges faced by team members, and pinpoint any gaps or potential solutions based on the gathered facts.

System thinking: Attempt to isolate the problem when the team hits a roadblock by examining if it is a communication breakdown between members or a change in external factors such as additional requirements from the faculty.

Time to Upskill and Build Your Skills Priority Checklist

Through your university studies, you would already be equipped with the necessary technical skills and, to a certain extent, some basic soft skills that will be beneficial when you enter the workforce. To stand out among other jobseekers in the future, it is critical to demonstrate that you possess the essential skills that employers value

You can start by making full use of your internship opportunities to hone these skills and take ownership of your learning plan by identifying free online courses to augment your university studies. Embrace the culture of adaptability and lifelong learning. Start checking off your essential skills list today!