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Take Charge: Master the skills you need to succeed in the 2020s

By Sandra Atlas-Gordon

Technology is changing the way we work. In fact, the day-to-day mix of activities of many jobs and the ways in which we organize and interact at work is not the same as it was even five years ago.

The reason is that employers are embracing new technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud technology, and big-data analytics to gain advantages in a world where financial growth is increasingly tied to transformative technology.

On account of these changes, the occupational mix of the economy and required skill sets is evolving. Because rapid technological innovation will continue into the 2020s and beyond, so will the evolution of the job marketplace.

Required: Reskilling and Upskilling

For example, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Survey 2018 shows that employers expect at least 54 percent of employees will need to reskill or upskill to meet the future demands of a dramatically altered job market. (Upskill = acquiring skills for a current job. Reskill = acquiring skills for a different job.)*

In-Demand Skills

So, the logical question is what skills will employers need in the 2020s?

The WEF’s Future of Jobs Survey 2018 shows that employers anticipate needing specific technical skills and human or soft skills as well.**


Technical Skills

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Technology design and programming
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Complex problem solving
  • Systems analysis and evaluation
* Source: Future of Jobs Survey 2018, World Economic Forum, page 12
** Source: Future of Jobs Survey 2018, World Economic Forum, page 13


Human or Soft Skills

  • Creativity, originality, and initiative
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reasoning, complex problem-solving, and ideation

Antidote to job market changes: continuous learning

To remain relevant and thrive in a more digital and knowledge-intensive economy, workers will need to cultivate new skills over the course of their careers. One way to do this is to enroll in workshops or online classes. Here are some online sources.


Universities Online

  • Edx: Founded by MIT and Harvard, Edx offers access to over 2,000 free online courses from 140 leading institutions worldwide. Programs include MicroMasters and online Masters degrees, professional certificates, single courses, and specializations.
  • Coursera: Learn online and earn credentials from top universities like Yale, Duke, Stanford, and leading companies like Google and IBM. Offers single courses, specializations, and degree programs.


Technology Skills

  • Udacity: Online platform that partners with leading technology companies to teach skills that companies are looking for in their workforce (i.e., programming, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and data science).
  • General Assembly: Offers a variety of in-person and some online workshops to help workers compete in an increasingly technology-based economy.
  • Online learning platform offering video-based courses about business, software, technology, and creative skills.
  • Codecademy: Offers a specialized method for learning programming online. Geared to those new to coding.
  • Udemy: Online platform offering a wide variety of courses to develop and improve skills across business, technology, and design. Udemy courses are primarily video-based.


Marketing and Digital Design Skills

  • Skillshare: Offers subscription online-video courses in creative areas like illustration, design, photography, video, and marketing.
  • CreativeLive: Online platform that broadcasts live classes in photography, art, design, craft, marketing, business, and entrepreneurship.
  • HubSpot Academy: Offers free online courses and certifications in marketing-related topics like content marketing, inbound sales, search engine optimization, email marketing, and social media.

More ways to update your skills

In addition to taking classes, you can enroll in employer-training programs designed to upskill or reskill staff. Or, your can volunteer for assignments at work that require new skills. Or launch side projects on your own or through a side gig.

Finally, build relationships with people who have the perspective and ideas you need to keep your career moving forward.

Above all, make a commitment to lifelong learning and advancement. This is a critical step to keeping yourself poised for success and career advancement in the 2020s and beyond.


Sandra Atlas-Gordon is a content-marketing strategist, freelance writer, and blogger. She has a special interest in writing about the changing labor market. Connect through  or email.

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