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7 Skills That Will Give Students a Cutting Edge in the 21st Century


Of all the human eras in history, the 21st century could be regarded as both the best and the most challenging to live in. This is because technology and innovation are changing the structure and nature of the workplace. Recent advances in the field of artificial intelligence has meant that machines have had to challenge humans for work, and employers are starting to prefer them to human labour owing to their efficiency and higher productivity.

Aware of this imminent dawn of cataclysmic change in the workplace, the question everyone seems to be asking is “Will robots take my job?” While the answer to that question is still under debate at the moment, it’s clear that students in the 21st century need to acquire new cutting-edge skills to stay relevant in today’s workplace.

Here are seven cutting-edge skills every student needs in the 21st century.

(1) Creativity

While the current age is gradually moving towards mechanization and automation where machines are at the cynosure of the industrialized world, rendering the division of labor and specialization among humans redundant, still machines will always be machines. They can do only so much of the work, therefore leaving wide avenues for human participation in the process. Come to think of it, even automated machines still need human supervision. Machines can’t create something they have not seen and as technology advances possibilities will multiply and necessitate creativity. In a super-automated future, a premium will be placed on anyone with the gift of creativity and intuition since the ability to envision a better future is one that is uniquely human.

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(2)  Trust

You might be wondering if trust is not irrelevant appearing on a hallowed topic like this one. You need only look at the bigger picture to see where trust comes in. Businesses flourish today not so much by recent advancement in technology as by building trust. People are more and more willing to have dealings with people they can trust, people who can promise delivery and do just that. So the ability to gain people’s trust and allay their fears will become highly sought-after in the 21st century. Equally, the skill of relating and connecting with people will never be outdated.

(3) Coding and Programming

These days there has been a sea change in the nature of work, with machines taking the center stage and human involvement becoming unavoidable. This is so since humans are the only ones who can tell them exactly what to do through coding and programming (an umbrella term for several other things). This would involve people writing software’s for both computers and phones.

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It doesn’t stop there. People need to become more technology-savvy as the ability to know which software to consult in any given situation and when to allow for a machine’s decision or overrule it will make anyone a valuable asset to potential employers.

(4) Human Interaction and Communication

In the job market of the 21st century, employers aren’t just looking for candidates who can recite crammed academic subjects, but anyone who possesses the uncanny ability to boost their client base by the numbers. This requires excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

You need these skills because, for the most part, you will be dealing with Other Emotional Beings (emphasis supplied). You need persuasive skills to pitch your ideas to people and make them really want to do what you say without appearing pushy. There’s really no point in feeling disappointed if you lack these skills. You can self-study this areas by reading books like How to Win Friends & Influence People: by Dale Carnegie and Robert B. Cialdini’s The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition.

(5) Freelancing

In the near future, the idea of becoming an employee in an organization or working for a single employer will join the dinosaurs. The nature of work will become much more unstructured, with enormous demands to achieve articulated goals. With the emergence of cutthroat competition and abundant opportunities, the ability to freelance and positively dabble and contribute to different needs will become a smash in the job market.

(6) Time Management

Of all natural resources man is gifted with, time is perhaps the most valuable and irreplaceable. The resources of time are more important than even money. A shortage of money can always be replaced by burrowing, but we can’t recover lost time. As technology improves along with opportunities attention will be placed on people with the ability to marshal time and energies wisely.

(7) Negotiation

Whether you are in the world of business, the professions or the marketplace, the ability to negotiate, to drive hard bargains and navigate your way through potential deadlocks and impasse can be immensely valuable. Everything done in the real world seems to involve clever negotiating, whether it’s deciding how much you’ll charge clients for services rendered or acquiring a lease of premises for business, you’ll need to be a negotiator extraordinaire to come out tops. And with a skill like that, who says you can’t excel in the 21st century? To hone your negotiation skills why don’t you start from home, by striking better deals with your siblings in the assignment of household chores and that will provide you a base to build from.

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