6 Critical Skills Students Should Learn Now | EDUopinions

6 Critical Skills Students Should Learn Now


Today’s labour market is evolving at an unprecedented rate. Technological advances, the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic recession have ushered in a period of hyper-change for professionals across different fields. To help you navigate these changes, this EDUopinions article will list and detail 6 critical skills that students should learn for the jobs of tomorrow.

How is the labour market changing?

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 have left lasting changes in labour markets around the world. The biggest change we can see is that rather than keeping a job for life, people are focused on being employable throughout their lives, be it in a variety of different positions or even fields. What this means in practice is possessing highly valued, transferable skills. That’s exactly why this article deals with critical skills students should learn for the future of work.

Critical skills class

Are there fewer jobs for young graduates now?

There aren’t necessarily fewer jobs for graduates now—the situation is a bit more complicated than that. Instead, there’s a combination of factors making it difficult for students and recent graduates to find work these days.

For many young graduates, they missed out on formational experiences like traineeships, internships and fixed-term jobs in 2020 and 2021. This lack of experience obviously makes it difficult for them to secure more permanent employment.

In addition, the labour market’s needs have changed drastically in the past two years, meaning that young graduates’ expectations don’t match up to what jobs are available. Many positions are foregone due to technological advances or home working solutions.

In the fall of 2021, things began to change in Europe and North America, however. After months and months of low hiring rates, companies finally need to replenish their labour forces. Many of these positions are being filled by recent graduates who managed to leverage their unique skillsets even if their degrees seemed less and less relevant.

Keep reading to find out more about these critical skills for the future of work:

6 Critical Skills Students Should Learn Now

Following changes to our world’s labour market, the skills explained below have become increasingly valuable to employers. Several of these skills have always been important in professional life. But as executives and hiring managers adjust to changes in the post-pandemic economy, they have no choice but to hire employees with the novel, unique and creative perspectives on working life.

Analytical thinking

The first on our list of critical skills students should learn for jobs of the future is analytical thinking. Now, you’ve probably heard of analytical thinking before, but let’s recap exactly what it is.

Basically, analytical thinking involves identifying, breaking down and troubleshooting large-scale problems. The analytical part refers to your ability to sort out a situation in a logical and effective manner. This skill often involves a great deal of trial and error, but strategically not randomly.

The reason this skill has become so valuable to employers these days is that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented them with a slew of never before seen problems. These problems require creative, innovative solutions, and companies are willing to pay to find these solutions as fast as possible.

Tech skills

Next, tech skills are another highly valuable skill for employers as of recent. But within technology, two different skill sets are in demand.

Baseline tech skills

The term baseline tech skills refer to technological capabilities that professionals in nearly any modern job could be expected to have. Examples of baseline tech skills include Microsoft Office, WordPress, basic HTML coding, low-level analytics and social media. Of course, if you don’t have all these skills, it doesn’t mean you can’t get hired. Rather, it means you may be expected to learn these skills in a short amount of time. But, what’s better is to get your head around these baseline tech skills before you start looking for work. That’s why they’re considered critical skills students should learn for the jobs of tomorrow.

Disruptive tech skills

By contrast, disruptive tech skills refer to tech skills that can be used to innovate, create large-scale value and pioneer in a field. AI and machine learning connected technologies, cloud technologies, fintech, IT automation and natural language processing all fall under the category of disruptive tech skills. If you possess disruptive tech skills, you will likely have an easier time than most finding work, as employers in nearly all industries are in need of tech-based innovators to bring their businesses into the future.

Critical skills students

Flexibility and resilience

Additional highly valued skill in today’s economy is flexibility and resilience. If the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that everything can change in a matter of no time. This is certainly true in professional contexts, where many found themselves without work with little to no notice at all.

Being flexible and resilient is more than just being able to adapt to changing agendas and short-term plans. It means being able to market yourself and your unique skillset in a way that fulfils demand. It’s as unlikely as ever that students will find jobs that correspond exactly to what they studied. Instead, young graduates are marketing a hodgepodge of formally and informally learnt skills to get hired.

Because recent graduates have missed out on many term-time internships and work placements, we have to rely on other learning experiences to prove our qualifications. Remember that summer job you did in 2019 to make some extra money? Or what about that part-time online job you did for a few months in your first year of uni? The skills you learnt in those experiences are real, valid skills and can be used to market yourself to future employers. They demonstrate your qualifications but also your ability to adapt and make the most of a situation.

Creativity and originality

Next on our list of critical skills students need for jobs of the future is creativity and originality. Given the extent to which technological advancements have rendered many jobs obsolete, creativity and originality are of the utmost importance today.

As far as technology has come, it cannot yet rival the efficiency and power of human creativity in today’s economy. For this reason, leaning into your creative potential is a great way to market yourself for a wide variety of jobs. Obviously, it sets you apart from other applicants, but it also gives your future employer an idea of the possibilities created by hiring you. Thinking outside the box has always been a valued skill, but today’s economy requires ideas and solutions that help businesses keep up with hyper change more than ever.

Leadership and social influence

Leadership and social influence are also important for professionals today. Employers increasingly discuss “ownership” in a work context, meaning who is responsible and leading a certain task, project or idea within the company. In order to be a successful professional today, leadership is certainly a necessary skill to possess.

In terms of social influence, this skill has two sides. First, having a social presence and following can allow you to expand the reach of your work and share your product, service or results on a broader platform. At the same time, it allows you to find opportunities and likely opportunities that you’re well suited for. Social media has changed the nature of networking such that today’s professionals can’t afford not to engage with and manage a network of contacts on a regular basis.

Being a quick learner

Finally, the last, but arguably most important, critical skill students should learn for the future of work is being a quick learner. Again, like many of the above skills, being a quick learner has always been an important personal and professional capability. But given the rapid pace of change in today’s economy, businesses can’t afford to have slow-learning employees. Keeping up with economic, political and social change is one of the highest priorities for employers across Europe and North America. As well, many degree paths no longer aptly prepare students for working life.

For these reasons, you should be prepared to explain to hiring managers what your learning process looks like. If you don’t exactly meet the requirements of a job description, explaining how quickly and thoroughly you learn new content or skills can be a great way to secure an interview.

Giving examples of your learning process is a great way to demonstrate this quality to future employers. For instance, maybe you picked up a new language while studying abroad for a semester. Or, maybe you did very well in a class outside your course requirements. Whatever your example is, just make sure to find a way to link it to the job you’re applying for.

Conclusions about critical skills for future jobs

The six skills explained in this article are great ones to start learning while still in university. Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. Instead, it provides an overview of the most valued skills in the eyes of employers after the Covid-19 pandemic.

For more advice on how to best prepare for professional advice, or for help navigating university life, reach out to one of EDUopinions free, personalised advisors!

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Check out these related articles on how to achieve your highest potential as a future professional and 5 reasons why our future employer will care about your study abroad.

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Written by
Drew Harper is a recent graduate of University College London, where he studied history, politics and economics. As a content creator at EDUopinions, he is passionate about broadening access to international learning opportunities for students around the world.

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