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The skills gap is so big that nearly half of workers will need to retrain this decade



You can’t rely on much in the talent market this year. But one thing’s for certain: It doesn’t (really) matter what you do—as long as you do it well. 

Between the disruption of the pandemic, ChatGPT, offshoring, and wave after wave of layoffs, the job market is evolving more rapidly than most agile workers can keep up with. Nearly 70 million new jobs will be created worldwide and 83 million will be eliminated by 2027, predicts the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs report. In the grand scheme of things, that means there’s little any individual worker can do to remain immune to shifting norms. But one thing they can do: upskill.

The skills gap is so big that it’s one of the main barriers preventing companies from modernizing their business model, companies told WEF. There’s clearly a need for training and reskilling; to keep up with the fast-shifting landscape, WEF finds, nearly half (44%) of an individual worker’s skills need to be updated.

“The long-term trend is pretty undeniable that the demand for skills outpaces the supply of skills,” Dan Shapero, chief operating officer of LinkedIn, tells Fortune. He added that 2022 was the tightest labor market he’d seen in his 15 years at LinkedIn. This year is a little more balanced, he acknowledged, but “still tight.”

Workers might want to consider these top 10 skills, which employers say are rising in importance over the next five years:

  1. Creative thinking
  2. Analytical thinking
  3. Technological literacy
  4. Curiosity and lifelong learning
  5. Resilience, flexibility, and agility
  6. Systems thinking
  7. AI and big data
  8. Motivation and self-awareness
  9. Talent management
  10. Service orientation and customer service

And a bonus 11th skill—leadership and social influence. (In other words, you should probably get on Twitter or TikTok.) 

With items like “AI and big data,” “systems thinking,” and “technological literacy,” employers seem to recognize the growing importance of artificial intelligence and other sophisticated tech in the workplace. Over the next five years, WEF wrote, AI and digitization will change nearly a quarter of all jobs.

But business’ highest priorities for worker skills are evergreen, largely intangible traits and soft skills like creative thinking, motivation, and lifelong learning. Employers’ desire for strong cognitive skills reflects the growing importance of complex problem-solving, WEF wrote. 

Even Apple CEO Tim Cook has long encouraged workers with strength in these soft skills to apply to the tech giant. He seeks out four particular traits in new hires, he told students at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy last year: Collaboration, creativity, curiosity, and expertise. 

“Those are the things that we look for in people, and it’s been a very good formula for us,” Cook remarked. “We look for people that think differently, that can look at a problem and not be caught up in the dogma of how that problem has always been viewed.”

Neither hard nor soft skills require a degree

Following the seismic shifts of the past three years, industry leaders have been remarking on a skills-based revolution. Often, that can mean moving away from degree requirements and towards a focus on upskilling across the board.  

Non-degree-holding candidates can learn new skills at roughly the same pace as college grads, Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, wrote in the WEF report. But getting those two different kinds of workers on equal footing will require public and private sectors to work together on providing an affordable and flexible path that can help workers reskill and transition into “jobs of the future.” 

That should be great news for workers. But the problem is, unlike “knows how to code” or “has managerial experience,” portraying soft skills like “creative thinking” and “curiosity” can be difficult to put on a résumé. 

Instead, you could consider writing that you’re always looking to develop and grow in your role,  Zahra Amiry, Omnicom Media Group’s talent attraction associate director, told Fortune in March. “An interviewer will pick up on that and ask what you are doing to develop and grow,” she said, explaining that you show glimpses of your best aspects on a CV. “It’s all about dropping hints so by the time you get to the interview, you can wow them.”

Luckily for workers, LinkedIn’s Shapero believes the power is in their hands, and that’s unlikely to shift anytime soon. 

“Employers are still having difficulty finding the people they need, even in the current labor market,” he said. “[That’s] because the long-term trend towards your technical skills is just undeniable, and we can’t keep up with it.’

In terms of who has the upper hand between bosses and workers, every year will probably feel a little bit different, Shapero acknowledged. “But the long-term trend, I think, is pretty clear.”

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