Last year, I read a book that re-ignited my desire to assist individuals, particularly young graduates transition smoothly from school phase to work phase. This desire came from my personal experience as a fresh graduate about six years ago struggling to grasp the expectations of the 21st century world of work, the relevant skills and competencies I needed to succeed compared with all the knowledge I had acquired at university and the tips from friends and family that were sometimes biased or no longer relevant for a millennial. I suddenly realised that knowledge itself is no longer power in the 21st century rather the ability to apply that knowledge to life’s problems is how value is recognised.  

This is in no way to dismiss the importance of education or even a university degree, however, it’s more about buttressing the fact there is a mismatch between the skills employers expect from graduates and the skills graduates actually possess. Hence, the reason the skills gap issue exists globally. Ultimately, the ripple effect of quality education cannot be over emphasized.

‘The purpose of education is to engage students with their passions and growing sense of purpose, teach them critical skills needed for career and citizenship, and inspire then to do their very best to make the world better’ – Ted Dintersmith

If you experience(d) a skills gap mismatch, or you’re an employer struggling to find the right candidate or perhaps you’re an entrepreneur building a growing business with millennials, or most importantly a parent/educator then this post is for you. I’ll also recommend you read the book ‘Most likely to succeed: Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era’ by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith.

Here are the key highlights of the book in relation to developing skills necessary for the 21st century.

We have moved from a manufacturing era to an innovative era.

In the same vein, the demands and expectations have also changed. The manufacturing era was mostly characterised by learning a trade well enough to increase production, however the innovative era requires a more creative value focused approach. You have to be willing and open to change and adapting to your current environment or you’ll get left behind. Read the Nokia and Kodak story here.   

Knowledge is power only when you can correctly apply it.

Essentially, what you can do with what you know is more important than just knowing it. Yes, because that’s the way you exhibit value in this age. With increased access to the internet and specifically Google and all the online courses available on the likes of CourseraSkillshareTeachableUdemy and the list goes. Information is available to everyone and if anything we are struggling with overload of it rather than its availability. It is not enough to acquire knowledge and if you must smash your career goals then you have to take action by applying knowledge correctly.

Embrace the 4 C’s of life.

The 4 C’s include Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creative problem solving. These are skills we use daily in all aspects of our lives and we should aim to continually improve them if we are going to influence people and impact our world.

Financial Literacy and Data Analysis are life skills that shouldn’t be ignored.

Simply because money is means of transaction, data is the new currency and both are needed to make well informed decisions. We don’t have to wait to understand them when we want to buy a house, take a loan, invest in a business, make tax payments (most of which are happening a lot sooner in our 20s and 30s than we imagined) because these transactions are integral to our everyday lives. The world we currently live in thrives on data, we include it in our sales pitch, use it when campaigning, use it to highlight our career growth during interviews and your social media algorithm is based on data.

I hope the points highlighted above help you approach the 21st century world of work differently and also expose the relevant skills necessary to make a difference within your place of purpose. Let me know if you enjoyed this post and want similar takeaway points on the books I’m reading.

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