Skilling and Re-skilling – The Future of Jobs

Career skills are usually defined and redefined every few years. This is because we live in a fast-changing world where consumers and markets are constantly evolving. Technology shifts at an ever-increasing pace and therefore the demands from an employee change, and hence the skills required to fulfill these demands need to keep up with these changes. The time period in which these changes are required is shrinking, mainly due to the accelerated pace at which technology adoption is transforming the business landscape. Further, automation and AI are making certain jobs totally redundant on one hand, and on the other hand, these are throwing up the need for new skills which are needed as there is a new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.

In the past, most people simply followed the crowd, as far as education was concerned. Science, Commerce and Humanities were streams you chose which put you on a path, where options for the future were limited to specific areas of study. But in the last 15 years, much has changed – with increasing awareness, students want to find areas of study which they will enjoy pursuing and to build satisfying careers. The education systems available at school level have also grown – schools now offer options of CBSE, State Boards, ICSE, IB, IGCSE – all aimed to giving students more flexibility to choose various subjects with hybrid choices across the traditional Science, Commerce and Humanities streams.

Education curriculums mostly focus on building subject matter knowledge. The understanding is that students will get basic subject matter knowledge from their degree education and then need to keep updating themselves with other skills from vocational/ specialized education providers. So where does this leave students as far as career skills go? The definition of core skills has shifted from just subject matter knowledge and single domain expertise, to lifelong skills required for employment. Critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, self-management, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility, are all now prized skills that are deemed as essential skills for future jobs, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020.

This also is in line with the expectation that students who graduate and enter the workforce now, would require to reskill and retrain several times in their working life. This requires a shift in thinking from the traditional Indian mindset of somehow getting good grades in 12th grade and getting into a good college and completing post graduation by the time one is 23, and then “settling down’’ into a career.

The pandemic accelerated many changes in the modern workplace – automation, remote working, AI, all have made their way into the workplace and have impacted almost every occupation. The mix of occupations is now expected to shift quite significantly post-pandemic over the next decade. The Future of Work after Covid-19 report by the McKinsey Global Institute opines that some segments – Women, young, less-educated workers, ethnic minorities and immigrants may need to make more occupation transitions after COVID-19. Added to this, employers will expect employees to learn more social and emotional skills along with technological skills to move to occupations in higher wage brackets.

Some of the skills required where significant re-skilling will be done are mentioned in the table below. Source: The future of work after COVID-19 | McKinsey

So when we are in 2022, what are these career specific skills one should try to master? And how do we get these?

The answer lies in 2 things – 1. Discovering your real interests and engaging to improve and grow in those. 2. Being flexible to be willing to stop, examine, re-orient and re-skill yourself from time to time.

The things we feel very passionately about may completely change over time or may become redundant. For example, in my own domain area of Marketing: Usually brands would spend lakhs of rupees building an ad film. Usually a local brand would produce one ad film once in 2 years and larger brands produced ads maybe once or twice a year. Entire production houses, media directors, agencies, etc. were employed to create these brand films and the creative directors measured the success of their ad films by how often these films were aired and how many people recalled these and how memorable, evocative and creative the film was.

Fast forward now to 2022 -> Entire marketing budgets have turned on their head! Digital for the first time has overtaken TV spends and the content produced has completely changed. Yes, some great ad films are still being made, but the bulk of spends have moved to creating short format, more authentic content. User generated content is valued highly and the medium of consuming this content has largely moved from the TV screens to mobile phones. Memes, influencers, SEO, FB Reels, are now the new weapons used by marketers. As the marketing tools have completely changed, the expectations from a Marketing Manager are unrecognizable from what they were even 5 years ago. So how does one keep up?

Keeping up requires an open mind – Continuous learning and constant upskilling is the new normal and will be necessary regardless of your domain and whether you work for a large company, a start up or have your own venture. Have the humility to recognize that you do not know everything, the courage to step in and work with people smarter than you, and give credit to others and network like never before.

Millenials in the workplace often gravitate towards the young and exciting world of start-ups and entrepreunial ventures. Designations, positions and hierarchies are no longer the most relevant markers in these new workplaces. The millenials bring with them an energy, creativity and skills that are so relevant in this new world. Even traditional workplaces are now looking to bring in millenials with the aim that these youngsters will be change drivers in the organization. The seniors by age then need to be open to learn and adapt. The youngsters on the other hand need the soft skills to be able to engage with the system, so change can happen. All organizations today require their employees or entrepreuners to work hard, be innovative and to deliver results, while creating strong processes and systems – this is a tall ask, but that is where working together as teams is also emerging as one of the strongest skills to have.

Another major shift in the workplace is the emergence of the Gig economy. While earlier generations depended on stability of employment, and prized the same (remember the preoccupation with acquiring government jobs), the emerging gig economy allows for participation from many with very low entry barriers and with the flexibility of being able to choose the quantum of work one would like to opt for. Many gig platforms have now emerged, which give workers the freedom to structure work around their own schedules and personal preferences. While these platforms are price competitive and may not offer the highest compensation, the benefit of flexibility they offer often far supercedes the drawbacks.

Young people today have many options, but also do not have the security jackets of yester-years. Work is exciting and new, and yet uncertain and challenging. It is important to recognize this reality and also separate one’s individual identity from the work that one does. Your identity needs to be strong and rooted in your beliefs and convictions. Work is what you do to earn a living and be productive, and you will acquire many skills over your life time to do your work. Your identity needs to be independent of your job title, the company you work for or the careers you choose.

Once you have this understanding sorted out, it frees you up to develop yourself to be the person God wants you to be. Career skills will then be tools that you look for and employ as and when you need, to bridge gaps that you see and to skill up in areas that interest you.

So when you ask a 5 year old what she wants to be when she grows up, she could very well be a doctor – and – a pilot – and – a teacher – and – a graphic designer – and – an interor stylist – and – a Pilates instructor – and – a chef!!

Successful parenting and mentoring would be to raise a generation that will be brave, flexible, ready and willing to passionately and creatively respond to the needs in society and will acquire the needed career skills along the way.


The Future of Jobs Report 2020 – World Economic Forum
Skilling for Employability: Best Practices – Skill India, Niti Aayog
The Future of Work after Covid-19 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, Feb 2021
The future of work after COVID-19 | McKinsey

Benita Paul Nangia is a practicing marketeer with over 20 years experience working with various B2B and B2C brands. She has an 8 year old daughter and lives in Gurgaon. They are part of a small, non-denominational church community. She enjoys working with children and is involved with organizations working with children and also diversity and inclusion. She likes reading, solving puzzles and traveling in her free time.

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