5 Essential Future Skills (& How to Learn Them)
It is estimated that we, as millennials, will have at least 5 different careers in our lifetimes and many more jobs. So how can we even begin to prepare for a future that will no doubt be more mobile, autonomous and machine-driven than today?
It’s not driving for Uber or generally participating in the pseudo-freedom of the gig economy.
I have a real problem with the gig economy. Driving for Uber won’t turn into a lifetime career, especially since they are actively investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building self-driving cars.
While doing any side gig, it’s essential to be developing skills and not only offering a commodity service (like driving people around).
How to future-proof yourself and build the skills necessary to adapt in a rapidly changing world
Money, success and building wealth are almost always skills driven. Personally, I’ve been able to maximize my value specifically by learning in-demand skills (like the ones highlighted below!).
According to the Pew Research Center future jobs will specifically require enhanced social and analytical skills. Here are the specific essential skills that I think are going to be essential to survive and thrive in the future and where you can learn them. I personally try to learn 3 new future-proof skills every quarter.
So far this year I’ve learned how to master iMovie, took an online corporate accounting class, and studied how to do amazing radio interviews.
It’s so easy to learn almost anything for free online if you simply dedicate a couple hours of week to anything.
Some of the best free, or inexpensive, online courses can be found at Udemy, EdX and Coursera. I have personally taken over 20 courses from these platforms over the past 5 years and loved each of them.
If you want to get ahead, diversifying and building new skills are essential. While I can’t predict the future, these five skills will be in-demand and can help you make more money.
5 Skills to Learn for Careers Today and Tomorrow
1. Selling & Communication Skills
Future-proof reason: Selling helps you get what you want -- whether it’s a deal, a new job, or simply getting someone to agree with you. In an increasingly personalization driven future, those who can sell ideas, products, and themselves will have a strategic advantage and make more money.
Time requirement: 1-2 hours a month for a year (then you will be a better salesperson than 99% of people)
A vast majority of the world’s transactions and conversations happen between people. And despite the obvious increasing pace of technological innovation, engaging person to person will still be the dominant form of communication.
This is why selling, yes selling, is an insanely valuable skill that I recommend study and work to get better at. Seriously, in a world where competition just keeps getting more intense, people who can sell both themselves and the value of products will be in high demand. You can actually learn how to sell well pretty quickly -- there is a ton of amazing and information you can turn into habits easily.
As Daniel Pink highlights in his wonderful book To Sell Is Human, we are selling in almost everything we do. To sell is to convince others of the value you, your idea or your product will bring to someone. In the future, it will only be more challenging to sell, as the noise, information, and products available are only increasing. In the future people will also increasingly function like brands and it will be highly likely that you will want, or need, to side hustle and win your own clients. Whether or not you plan to build a consulting business or become an entrepreneur, learning how to sell will future-proof you in a lot of ways. For an awesome guide on selling check out The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients.
Check out this next level TED talk from Daniel Pink.
Future-proof reason: Getting someone’s attention online will only continue get more difficult and those people who can reach and engage other’s online are, and will be, in high demand.
Time requirement: 2-4 hours per week for 6 months, or 30 days full-time (for anyone who wants to be hardcore about it!)
What I love about digital marketing is that it’s both right brain and left brain. I’m also really competitive and love that I can use digital data to determine how well my campaigns are doing. Both marketing or the internet aren’t going anywhere, so at least learning the basics of this field can give you a huge leg up in a job interview or if you’re an entrepreneur you can market your own product. Too many early entrepreneurs try to outsource (and spend big money) on their marketing. Learning how to do it yourself, even if you don’t do it forever, will make you a more strategic thinker.
I’m a bit biased on this one because digital marketing has been one of the key drivers in my own wealth building and side hustle journey, but I strongly believe it’s an essential skill set to develop for the future. You can learn the basics quickly, the skills are in demand, and the starting salary for an entry-level digital marketing job is between $40,000 -- $55,000 in most cities. Here’s an awesome free resource to figure out average salaries in the creative and marketing industries. Another great thing about digital marketing is that you don’t need a degree in it to get a job. You just need to learn it, get certified for free, and prove you can do it. A vast majority of the best digital marketers I know are self-taught and a lot of them now make six figures.
While the digital marketing field is massive, if you have a website I recommend learning SEO and digital advertising.
Google Adwords: This is the platform you use to run ads on Google. It’s built on an open marketing bidding system, meaning there is a live-auction every time someone searches for something on Google. It’s an insanely lucrative business for Google and you can learn the foundations of digital marketing in a few hours on Youtube for free like I did. Once you get certified, you can add the certification to your resume and LinkedIn profile. It’s very attractive to potential employers. I recently mentored a guy in Chicago who knew nothing about digital marketing. In 60 days I got him a $45,000 job at a digital agency as a PPC specialist.
Here is the first video from Google in the YouTube Google Adwords course so you can get started.
Facebook Advertising: Facebook’s advertising platform is terrible, but it’s an effective digital marketing platform and worth learning in addition to Google. It’s also easier to learn than Google Adwords.
The key with Facebook ads, is you need to have really strong images or videos and build effective targeting models. You can learn how to do Facebook advertising on YouTube or through Facebook’s free tutorials.
If you want to take a full digital marketing course to learn all of the basics, check out this digital marketing marketing course on Udemy (currently on sale for $11.99). If you want the best -- this online digital marketing course from Wharton is next level for about $500.
Future-proof reason: Uh, this should be pretty obvious. Code runs the world.
Time requirement: 8-10 hours per week for 6 months. A little bit of a commitment, but you can learn the basics quickly and expand your skills when you like. There are many bootcamps where you can learn how to code in 30 days, which are also great options if you want to make the full leap into a new lucrative career.
Coding is more like a mindset and will change the way you look at the world. It’s no surprise that being able to code will give you an advantage in the future. Even if you have no plans to become a coder, learning how to code will teach you so many things about how the world today works and how the future is literally being built. Every app, website, car, or piece of hardware that you use is powered by code.
I started learning how to code with I was 15 and built a website using HTML shortly thereafter and then over the years I’ve learned a few programming languages. Once you learn one, it’s significantly easier to learn the second one. While there are tons of coding languages, I recommend learning Java, SQL, Python, and Ruby.
A great place to start for free is Codecademy, where you can tart feeling it out and go at your own pace. I love Codecademy and still use it frequently -- it’s where I learned Ruby. If you want to learn Java and the fundamentals of programming, here is an awesome sequence of 5 Java classes offered online by Duke.
4. Business and Marketing Analytics
Future-proof reason: We no longer have to guess why people buy or engage, since there is data tracking us all the time. But the data can be overwhelming and is only useful when you can extract insights and then act on them. Data and analytics will only become more prevalent in the future, as more of our actions are tracked. Learning how to use data to power your decisions will be essential for most roles in the future.
Time requirement: You can learn Google Analytics in 1-2 hours per week for 8 weeks. Business Analytics takes more time and it’s worth taking a course.
The thing I love most about analytics data is, using it well, is both an art and a science. A lot of people don’t get that. Data is only useful if you know how to find it and what it means. The “how to find it” is pretty easy, but the “what it means” is the harder part. Once you unlock how to figure out what data means, it’s incredibly powerful. There are two types of analytics data that I personally work with and study -- business and marketing analytics. I actually do a lot of my consulting work at the intersection between business and marketing analytics, or more specifically I try to determine three things:
- How to build the best marketing strategy to grow a business
- How to best track the impact of marketing on a business
- How to best determine the health of, and opportunities for a business
If you can master all three, you will not only be a more valuable job candidate, but you can have a measurable impact in most business environments, companies, or even use the info to launch and optimize your own business. I do this using a mixture of business intelligence dashboards and my OG day one homie Google Analytics! We go way back and I spend literally everyday using Google Analytics.
If you don’t know how to use Google Analytics, you should check it out. Like Google Adwords you can learn how to use it for free online at the Google Analytics Academy. To go deeper on business analytics, check out this business analytics Coursera course. Here is the best practical book that I’ve read on how to actually understand business analytics -- Data Science for Business: What You Need to Know about Data Mining and Data-Analytic Thinking.
Here’s a great intro video on business analytics.
5. Branding & Design
Future-proof reason: We are all brands. Brand embody values. Embrace, amplify, and master it.
Time requirement: 1-2 hour per week for 8 weeks, then a lifetime of refining ?
We have fully entered an image and influencer driven world. The people who both create and curate content will thrive in the future, since people are looking for someone they trust to filter the infinite amount of information now available online. This is why everyone needs a blog and here’s how to launch one.
At the intersection of image and influencer, are design and branding. As humans we almost immediately (in less than a second) form opinions of people and products upon encountering them. Branding is the process of design and messaging, to help you make the most of that opportunity. Branding creates a feeling, an emotional response that is created by both art and science (picking up any patterns with these future-proof skills?). You can actually learn the science behind branding, which include human perceptions of color, angles, and even fonts.
If you want people to pay attention to you, your content, your message, your product, then learning how branding and design work will really give you and advantage. Here is the best book I’ve read on design and branding: How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World
Here is the best online course I’ve seen on the topic of personal branding (only $10). Here’s a cheesy but clear video on what is branding?
Bonus Skill: Meditation
The world moves insanely fast and will only continue to increase it’s pace. We as humans, with our million year old brains, can’t keep up. We are anxious, overworked, tired, and overstimulated. Success in the future will be determined as equally by your ability to engage and as it will to disengage. Simple 20 minute mediation, which I started two years ago, has had a profound impact on my life. I strongly recommend making it you own daily habit. I use the website Calm.com and the Headspace app regularly.
What did I miss? Are you future-proofed?