5 Essential Skills to Learn for the Future

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? So what are the best skills to learn for the future we are going to be living in?

It’s not driving for Uber or generally participating in the pseudo-freedom of the gig economy. Sure, I’m a huge fan of the best side hustles,  but only if they help you make money to invest AND new skills.

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 future skills and not only offer a commodity service (like driving people around).

How to Future-Proof Yourself

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 the Future

Here are the top 5 skills you should learn now:

  1. Selling & Communication
  2. Digital Marketing
  3. Coding
  4. Business & Marketing Analytics
  5. Branding & Design

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 studying and working 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 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, 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.

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2. Digital Marketing

  • Future-Proof Reason: Getting someone’s attention online will only continue to 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 for both the right brain and the 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 and 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. More specifically…

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 as 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.

Some of my other favorite digital marketing resources are search engine land and Neil Patel.

3. Coding

  • 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 boot camps 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 start 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:

  1. How to build the best marketing strategy to grow a business
  2. How to best track the impact of marketing on a business
  3. 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, and 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 every day 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. A Brand embodies values. Embrace, amplify, and master it.
  • Time Requirement: 1-2 hours 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, and your product, then learning how branding and design work will really give you an 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 its 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 disengage. Simple 20-minute mediation, which I started two years ago, has had a profound impact on my life. I strongly recommend making it part of your own daily habit. I use the website Calm.com and the Headspace app regularly.

What did I miss? Are you future-proofed?

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Read Comments

  • Comment Author image blank
    Hello there, I have almost finished reading this book and it has blown my mind. I am on my own financial freedom journey as well and i plan to do this with property. At the moment i working offshore on ship & oil rigs and i do not like it but i have just landed a new job on night shift with a lot of spare time to browse the internet and learn about financial freedom. When i get home i fully intend to take up a lot of these skills above as i know they will be very useful for me in the future on my property journey. Not only that i can also make money on the side to get me to where i want to be faster. I am now gonna join the FIRE cult! Sign me up!
  • Comment Author image blank
    I came across you and your book while I was researching the FIRE movement on wikipedia 3 days ago. Since then i have read 20% of your book and it has drastically changed my orientation about wealth. I am a medical doctor who wants to get rich fast and then go back to school to do a post grad course that I am passionate about. I know digital is the way to go and toh have jusg shown me the way. Thanks
  • Comment Author image blank
    Thanks for sharing this information and keep updating us.it will really helpful for Career Growth. Really it was an awesome article.
  • Comment Author image blank
    You mentioned getting certified for free under the digital marketing category. What resources do you recommend that actually provide worthwhile certifications? Thanks!
  • Comment Author image blank
    Thanks for sharing this great post, Grant. I do agree with you about these jobs of future, glad that one of them is mine profession - digital marketing :))
  • Comment Author image blank
    Hi Grant, Great article as per knowledge going forward ill do this in future.
  • Comment Author image blank
    This was a great article, Grant. I work for myself and spend a lot of time in cafes. I constantly see people flowing in and out doing all of the above skills (other than meditation at the cafe!) for their jobs. The point is that these are skills actually get paid. For sure. The two that pay the most, in my humble opinion, are coding and sales (marketing). You know what else is pretty cool? All of these skills are pretty fun to learn and satisfying to deploy. I've done a bit of all of them, though my day job is full-time investor. Just found your website, and looking forward to reading more.
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Tom
  • Comment Author image blank
    All I can say is thank you! This post is a treasure trove of information. I just started using google analytics and Facebook advertising. (My wife and I started a photography business). I felt overwhelmed by it all, but this helps to know where to look. Thanks again!
    • Grant Sabatier
      I'm glad you found it helpful Ian. Your photography is beautiful.
  • Comment Author image blank
    This is such a great post, thanks for the links to the different digital marketing courses! Do you think Headspace is worth the cost? I'm on the free 10 lesson period right now and I really like it. Was wondering what the actual paid membership would be like
    • Grant Sabatier
      I like the paid version of Headspace. Try it out for a month and see. It's worth it in my opinion. Thanks Colin.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Looks like I chose the right career then. Sales and Marketing Digital Marketer, I think it has helped me a lot in creating my blog. It has only be live for a couple of weeks but I have done my best to transfer my corporate career knowledge into my side hustle. Need to improve my coding skills though. I can fumble my way around but it is trial and error stuff.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Thanks for the link to Calm.com, on the Bonus Link: Meditation. I was most interested in learning more and different techniques and perspectives about meditation. Also, hope to learn about the other neat stuff you talk about!
  • Comment Author image blank
    What a great article! Love that everything had links to go learn and gain some education from. Almost everything (minus coding) you have on your list has to do with running a blog. Since we started 8 months ago we have self-taught ourselves almost everything. We agree that these are going to be very important skills within the next couple of decades. Excited for our journey in running our own online business. Now to watch those youtube videos =)
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks! I agree that blogging is a great way to learn and use most of these skills.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Awesome article, Grant! I definitely think that skills in AI/machine learning are going to be huge in the coming 10-50 years. I think you pretty much cover that in coding, But I'm sure that eventually machines will be building the things that humans currently have to code. They're already reading through legal documents and tax code to provide advice. There's also going to be an enormous amount of job less, but the skills learned in AI should hedge against that. Thanks for writing!
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Paul.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Here I was thinking that I really needed to get serious about learning digital marketing, and along came this article. Thank you so, so much! Adwords, Analytics and Facebook ads here I come!
    • Grant Sabatier
  • Comment Author image blank
    This is an extremely valuable post, Grant! Thanks for putting this together. I added each of the online classes you recommended to my to-do list. I've personally used Lynda to expand my coding skills and learn a little about SEO. To be honest, I think your SEO guide is better than anything I've watched on Lynda. I'm about half way through your guide and target completing it by the end of the month!
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks! I am thinking about turning the SEO guide into a course.
  • Comment Author image blank
    I'm doing pretty well! :) I have at least some skills in the first 4 you mentioned above! My education is in statistics and mathematics, and I've learned how to code and perform analytics. In my free time, I've been working on my communication and digital marketing through my blog and reading. How do you think I'm doing? Thanks for sharing Grant
    • Grant Sabatier
      Thanks Erik