Essential Skills for Girls for Jobs of the Future
They may not be what you think
The future of work will be different — and that means preparing girls today for the jobs of tomorrow. –@MalalaFund
When I was in high school in the eighties, we all had to take a typing class. It was required.
It has proven to be the single most useful thing I learned in high school. I’m not even kidding. My whole practical life now revolves around a computer. This was in absolutely no way a given way back when I was learning on a giant, heaving electric typewriter with one of those golf ball typesetters in backwoods Tennessee.
Producing work in college and grad school, working as a professional in my career, writing my first book, doing these weekly blogs, completing the wide variety of work I do now, not to mention the everyday-life sort of things…
The additional time it would have taken me to do all these things if I didn’t have touch-type keyboard skills doesn’t bear thinking about. And it may be simply about time, but it is significant.
But I do think it goes well beyond efficiency — there are a lot of things I wouldn’t have attempted if I didn’t have confidence at the keyboard. I would have been intimated to start, as staring at the laptop would have presented a psychological barrier as I thought exhaustedly of every finger peck to achieve each task.
As it is, I am super fast, and the fact that my fingers can almost keep up with my thoughts frees me to create and produce.
I can’t think of a single other subject or skill I still have from high school that contributes to the work I do now — except of course the basic transferables like reading and writing, and the all-important critical thinking.
Sadly, apart from these generic skills that are good for everything, I wasn’t otherwise “prepared for the jobs of the future.”
In my poor, isolated Southern school, we didn’t think about those jobs. We didn’t have that vision of the future. I reckon our school board was just trying to keep us from being future burdens on society, or perhaps the more humanitarian educators wanted to keep us from living in poverty.
Today, when we think of preparing girls today for the jobs of tomorrow, it is tempting to think about technology based skills and jobs. Of course we know coding, programming, design, and yes, keyboard skills will be useful for just about anyone. For instance, any entrepreneur in even the least technical industry could benefit from being able to control and maintain their own web presence.
But there are jobs of the future we can’t envision yet. And even in jobs of today and tomorrow, it is important to think of those foundational, transferable skills.
The most important skills for girls for jobs of the future — and today
Those skills we often neglect for girls, so-called “soft skills,” are essential for any workforce of the future. Especially if we want women to be able to be leaders or entrepreneurs in new fields not dreamed of yet.
These skills include:
- management of people and processes
- critical thinking
- financial literacy
- building and maintaining networks
- And one that doesn’t have a tidy label — being a woman who helps other women.
Any other hard skill that comes along in these jobs of the future, like plastic waste weaver, or floating city engineer, can be learned. The soft skills listed above will make success in new any industries possible.
But we often neglect building these sorts of skills in young people, especially young women. We expect them to just be picked up through osmosis, or we think “I managed to develop these myself, no one taught me” and devalue the opportunity to have them learned.
Or worse, we think these aren’t “women’s skills”, and therefore they are passed over. Men negotiate, men are naturally assertive. A woman negotiator is demanding or whiney. An assertive woman is bossy or hostile.
People play a lot of games and can make a lot of money at the “predicting jobs of the future” trick. And no doubt there have been many successful predictions thus far.
Yet some jobs and industries have been surprising, but they have all required a basic set of skills. If we spent more time preparing our girls of today to be able to apply an essential set of soft skills across a wide range of situations, and make these skills in women the norm, we would be doing them a much bigger service than any single hard skill set could.
And if these women are taught about the value in helping other women and lifting each other up, women will be leaders, and employers, in the industries of the future.
My first book, Becoming a Fearless Leader: A simple guide to taking control and building happy, productive, highly-performing teams is out now. You can find access to a free pdf workbook that accompanies it on my website. If you do read my book, I would love to hear your comments.
I write about how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience, and all I am learning along the way. You can see more here. If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share.