The Two Skills You Need to Keep Your Job in the Post Pandemic Era
Big changes are arriving in the workplace.
Researchers predict that about 47% of US jobs could be at risk of being replaced by computerization. On top of this, roughly 50% of workplace activities around the globe can already be automated. Numerous human workers are susceptible to technology taking over their current jobs and tasks.
With this anticipated growth in automation, huge swaths of the world’s workforce are expected to need to develop new job skills or to pivot to alternate industries altogether.
Understanding Shifts in the Work Talent Pools
Beyond the changes wrought by technology, the current talent pool is markedly competitive. Remote work has seen a recent uptick—with over 16 million Americans (and counting) transitioning to working from home in 2020. Some roles that used to be hired locally are, increasingly, being filled by workers spread across the US and globe.
Competition is also on the rise, thanks to a transformation in how retirement is viewed. Nearly 25% of Americans say they will never retire , which may create fewer job openings and delay younger workers from advancing into upper management roles.
In order to thrive in tomorrow’s workforce, I have identified two key characteristics that hiring managers are looking for in employees. And don’t worry, this isn’t something you need a calculator or a fancy degree to attain; these are traits that any dedicated employee can build.
According to many career coaches, soft skills are the superpowers you need to stand out and excel in the workplace: adaptability and emotional intelligence.
If we define adaptability as the ability to “quickly read signals and act on change.” According to Fast Company , adaptability is now the number one quality employers might want to look for in a new hire. Companies across industries need employees who are equipped to navigate nimbly the fast-changing workplace. Employers are looking for evidence of flexibility fused with focus in new hires—not just technical qualifications listed on a resume.
Navigating change can be difficult, but imagine how wonderful it would be if you felt confident and grounded throughout the waves of change you’ll inevitably face in your life. You can, and it all comes down to becoming adaptable in the face of the unknown.
How to Grow Your Adaptability Muscle:
1. Embrace Grit
Grit is when passion and steady persistence are directed towards long-term goals with no particular concern for rewards or accolades, according to Angela Lee Duckworth, a leading psychologist who studies the notion of grit.
Grit begins with a positive outlook and a belief that an individual can expand what they’ve achieved. Psychologically speaking, individuals have some sway over what they’re willing to believe and achieve.
To develop grit, focus on shifting your thoughts to believe that you can grow and change—even if it’s something you have no experience in (yet). This open perspective could give you the ability to lean into your interests, sticking to a challenge when things get tough or unfamiliar. Here’s a bit of career advice: get wildly curious when a challenge or change arrives. Ask yourself:
• Who has experienced this same change that I could ask for guidance?
• What is the one thing I can do, right now, to positively move forward?
• Which potential positive outcomes may arise from this change?
• How can I perform my best in this new environment?
• What support do I need to face this challenge with grace?
2. Lean into learning
Every 5 years, a skillset you have built becomes obsolete . So, by the time you graduate from college, some of what you already learned in school has already begun to lose value (and novelty). In fact, a report on workplace reskilling claims that 25% of adults currently report a discrepancy between the skills they have and the skills they need to do their current job.
In order to adapt to the evolving industry you work in, it’s up to you to assess your skills and identify where you may need to grow. Schedule a block of time 1-2 times each year, dedicated to your continuing education.
While seeking higher education can be valuable in certain industries, there are other tools and ways to grow your on-the-job skill set. Here are a few options:
• Check out online learning Platforms—such as, MasterClass , LinkedIn Learning , or Alison . These platforms offer courses for a wide variety of topics from job-hunting skills to speaking a new language. You can find great content here based on your interests. my own website , I have free courses on how to land a new job you love, or get clarity on where you belong in the workforce
• Subscribe to industry magazines, forums, or newsletters to learn the latest and greatest leaders in these sectors.
• Attend conferences, guest lectures or events pertaining to your industry or area of interest. Even now, there are hundreds of virtual events taking place that you can attend from the comfort of your home.
3. Release Your Blocks
Life can so easily become a comfortable cycle of lather, rinse, repeat. However, The more you challenge yourself (and get out of your comfort zone), the more you can actually change your brain. When you step into a new environment or try to learn a new skill, you engage in what is known as neuronal plasticity —where the brain changes and creates new neural connections. So, taking an online marketing class or attending a networking event may just be making you smarter and more adaptable.
At work, stepping away from your comfort zone could look like asking to shadow a mentor or apply for a job rotation program. Companies like the NFL and Deloitte are starting to offer job rotation in efforts to increase employee retention and grow talent. These actions could give you an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the organization as a whole which may position you to adapt in the future role you seek to attain.
If you want to not only survive but thrive in your career, it’s helpful to start building your adaptability muscle sooner rather than later. In a constantly evolving work world, adaptability is in perpetual demand.
Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions. Moreover, it goes beyond you. It also involves recognizing the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence can be broken down into four attributes:
1. Self awareness: The ability to be connected to your inner feelings and outward expression.
2. Self management: The ability to know your shadow —, the patterns and parts of yourself that do not serve your life or career (e.g., lateness, gossiping, self-sabotage).
3. Social awareness: The ability to see the perspectives of others and empathize with their position. This may include reading someone’s emotional state and responding attentively.
4. Relationship management: The ability to collaborate and manage a group of individuals’ emotional states as a collective. In practice, this could mean being able to foster a strong team dynamic—where each member feels seen, heard and treated as a co-contributor.
It’s worth recalling that emotional intelligence is not the same as intellectual aptitude. A 40-year longevity study found that IQ has little relation to life success. Rather, the ability to handle frustration, control emotions and socialize with others made a difference. Johnson & Johnson conducted a study that found the highest performers in the workforce were those that displayed a higher emotional intelligence.
And, according to Talent Smart , 90% of high performers in the workplace possess high EQ. This level of performance could even impact your bank account, as people with high EQ are reported to make $29,000 more annually than people with low EQ. Put simply, emotional intelligence —being aware of yourself and others—matters.
Especially as more technical skills are being replaced with AI and automation, the ability to communicate and show up on a human level is one strength that a computer can’t easily replace.
So, how might you improve your emotional intelligence?
1. Identify Your Stressors
Managing emotions begins with understanding your emotional triggers. While you may know what makes you feel happy or excited each day, you might not be as aware of what causes you to become irritated, upset or shut down. Take stock of what stresses you out, and leads you into a place of emotional distress. Get intentional about writing down when you get upset, identifying what causes your emotions to spark. You will likely begin to notice trends. And, these patterns may not be the initial stressor you thought.
For instance, you may get angry with a coworker and think it’s just a difference of personality. But, if you dig a little deeper, you might realize you are bothered by their high status, lack of clear communication or inability to follow through.
Be willing to dig deeper.
2. Be Mindful of How You Communicate
Focus on becoming a stronger communicator in the workplace. Emotionally intelligent people tend to be highly assertive and use more specific words to communicate. To get started, here are a few tools to uplevel your communication style:
• Leverage “I statements” in conversations. Instead of saying “You’re wrong” say, “I disagree” or “You need to turn in this report by Friday” say, “I need your help completing this project by Friday”. This simple tip keeps your communication clear and assertive— without being overly aggressive.
• Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If a coworker has a new request you simply can’t meet, don’t hide from conflict, respond with: “I can’t do that right now.” If an explanation is appropriate, keep it brief and unemotional: “I have a competing deadline that is a top priority to the team.” Remember that you can always turn your “no” into a 5 minute favor, by saying “I’m not able to take that on due to my current deadlines, but I can do an email introduction to someone who can. Is that helpful?”
• Make requests direct. Instead of giving feedback indirectly by saying, “You might want to consider changing this part of the report,” be very direct. Instead, you might say something like, “I believe it would be helpful to change this part of the report because…” Don’t leave room for interpretation and follow your direct response with an overview of why you think or feel this way.
The reality is, our non verbal cues play a huge part in how we communicate. Before you speak, survey the room and take notice of how people’s body language appears, and what the tone of their voice sounds like.
Respond accordingly based on these observations, as opposed to focusing solely on your words. While you might not always say all of what you’re thinking out loud, your body language and energy can still express emotions or judgments—such as, approval or disapproval.
3. Expand Your Personal Network
Emotionally intelligent people are perceived as approachable. They often smile, have open body language and give off an overall positive presence. You might see these people and assume that approachability is some inborn trait. And, while some people may have shown these traits across much of their life, others put in the conscious effort to become both more self-aware and attentive to others. You too can grow your emotional intelligence.
Why does being approachable to others matter to your career? The more comfortable someone is in approaching you, the more people you will naturally draw into your personal network. While you might be thinking, I’ll put my head down and work hard to get where I want, your relationships with people in other industries are more important than ever.
Most people change jobs 10-15 times during their career, with around 80% of them never even being posted to the public—because they’re filled through networking alone! So, while you may have a position you like now, at some point, you’ll likely need to lean in to your network to find a new role.
There are a whole slew of ways to expand your network. But, be sure to look beyond the people you know. In fact, it can be helpful to do the opposite and seek out individuals vastly different from yourself.
When you talk with a variety of people, you are not only building a more diverse network, but you are gaining access to different perspectives, opinions, and cultures. Fielding differing perspectives can help job-seekers to network, all while growing their emotional intelligence alongside their adaptability.
Growing to Prepare for Change
In a world that is constantly evolving, it’s time you viewed your career in the same light. Instead of viewing change as a struggle to overcome, decide to internalize this as an opportunity to become a better version of yourself—flexing your ability to learn, to adapt, and to connect. You may be surprised by who you can become (and where your career swerves take you).
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The opinions and analysis expressed here are those of Ashley Stahl as of 10/21/20. These views may change as market, economic, and other conditions change. This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite.