Crucial skills: 3 keys to surviving today’s labor market over the long haul

The 2024 labor market is unique in its own ways and brings a different set of challenges for employees than those in preceding years. It’s not 2020, the infamous year of covid, with the challenges of remote work and the relentless effort to sustain a job amid messy conditions and complexities, and it’s not fraught with the hassle of recovery either like 2021 and the couple of years that followed. It’s a year of an array of fresh demands and expectations.

The challenges in today’s labor market have gone above and beyond merely striking the right balance of technical skills and soft skills. In fact, with the emergence of generative AI, a lot of jobs are gradually becoming obsolete, making the technical know-how and qualifications alone barely enough to remain a competitive candidate in a ruthless labor market.

However, possessing a certain combination of soft skills will not only help you sustain a job for a couple of years, but is also a sure-fire way to survive in today’s labor market in general. Whether you’re job hunting or you just want to stay at the top of your game, we’ve compiled a list of the top three crucial skills you must foster to stay relevant and qualified in your job for years to come.

First, why are soft skills so important for employees?

Soft skills are the skills you possess that help you interact with colleagues, solve problems and manage your work, while technical skills represent the specialized knowledge you bring to particular roles.

The Workforce Skills Gap Trends 2024: Survey Report by Springboard, a global renowned platform specialized in job-readiness training and courses, surveyed more than 1,000 corporate professionals working at large companies. 79% of leaders surveyed say that the “longevity of technical skills is limited to five years or less. Consequently, soft skills have become increasingly important.”

Additionally, the report reads, “It’s not just technical skills that are increasingly in demand. Cognitive skills like problem-solving and creative thinking are actually growing in importance most quickly. As the pace of change accelerates, businesses need to remain agile. Few could have predicted today’s complex landscape of work; the way we’ll be working even a year from now is equally unpredictable. It’s no surprise, then, that organizations are prioritizing fortifying their workforces with the critical thinking capabilities required to adapt quickly and strategically.”

1- Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is defined as your ability to understand and manage your own emotions and be aware of those of others. A person is considered emotionally intelligent if they are able to regulate how they feel, diffuse arguments with ease and stay in control of their emotions in stressful situations.

CEO and Co-founder of The Good Zone for career coaching, Fred El-Khodary, says that during his years of work with a lot of people and a large number of organizations, he noticed that what makes an employee often stand out is not always the one who works the hardest but it’s how he interacts with his colleagues. “To my mind, what distinguishes a productive employee from an average one is their emotional intelligence,” he added.

“Emotionally intelligent employees have a strong ability to empathize, self-regulate and outperform. So they can make effective leaders,” says Forbes on the importance of emotional intelligence at work.

2- Adaptability

Your Yale of Yale University defines adaptability as a person’s ability to adjust to changes in their environment. “When thinking about your career aspirations, changes have a direct effect on how flexible you can be. Practicing adaptability may include how you are able to respond quickly to changes, for example: a change or addition of responsibilities, a shift in work priorities to meet business needs, etc.”

According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business School in 2020, it was found that adaptability was identified as the most crucial attribute sought after by 71% of 1,500 executives hailing from over 90 countries. Additionally, data from a study conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2021 highlighted that individuals with a strong proficiency in adaptability had a 24% higher likelihood of being employed.

Why is adaptability such a golden trait now? “In the workplace, adaptable people have the ability to confidently navigate evolving circumstances – a valuable asset as the world attempts to figure out new hybrid and remote work days. But this trait is not just something that can make employees more effective: adaptability may also improve workers’ wellbeing, because it can mean they’re better prepared to deal with change,” said BBC.

3- Empathy

This trait is one that a successful leader can’t do without and it can make all the difference to business leadership. “Empathy belongs in every leader’s toolbox. That’s because understanding others leads to trust, which leads to an open exchange of ideas, which leads to a commitment to act on those ideas, which fosters a desire to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. All of these things lead to what leaders want—results,” said Nicole Price, an author, speaker, training leader, and the CEO of Lively Paradox.

For his part, Jamil Zaki, a research psychologist and author of “The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World”, told Mckeinsey’s and Co. in a podcast episode on the importance of kindness and empathy at a workplace that employees who perceive their organizations, particularly their managers, as empathetic are less likely to take sick leave due to stress-related illnesses. They also report lower levels of burnout, improved mental well-being, higher morale, and a stronger desire to remain with their organizations.
Furthermore, individuals who feel empathy from their leaders tend to exhibit greater innovation and are more willing to take creative risks.

“In 2023, leaders were talking about a year of efficiency. It’s a mistake to assume that being efficient means tuning out emotionally and trying to disconnect from people so you can work them harder. But when people feel connected to their colleagues and to their leaders, they work harder, faster, and more creatively,” he added.

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