The Career Superpower of Tomorrow Isn’t What You Think


And it’s stupidly easy for anyone to learn

The career skills of tomorrow won’t be taught in today’s schools.

I’ve heard that phrase uttered many times over the last decade. The assumption is that technology and complexity are advancing at such a hyper pace that the people who keep up with it will be gods among men, commanding incredible salaries while everyone else struggles to survive as jobs become automated.

It’s enough to terrify any parent who cares about their child’s future.

But over the last few years, I’ve become more and more convinced that being the best coder or data analyst or quantum computing specialist will be just another bunch of prestige jobs for the masses and not the career panacea they’re sold to be.

After seeing the wider societal trends across social media, seeing younger people in the industry, and watching my daughter, there’s a career skill that fewer and fewer people possess, and it will become a superpower the more this continues to play out:

Being able to talk to people, and do it well.

The introduction of social media and smartphones means that we have an entire generation growing up who doesn’t want to communicate in person because they’d rather do it in text behind a screen. When they do see people in person, they still spend that time on the screen.

I swear, nothing looks more ridiculous than a group of people sitting at a cafe, all looking at their phones.

Worse still, social anxiety is going through the roof, helped along by the medical field who, instead of trying to deprogram these kids and get them off these cursed devices, medicate them.

Tech can’t solve everything

When everyone around you can barely hold a conversation in person, being able to do that and do it well is going to be a superpower in the new age. The media and tech heads can go on and on about how understanding tech is more important, but the simple fact is that business deals don’t get done by text.

That’s because they require trust, and trust requires people to be in the same room feeling each other out. Trust requires people to articulate their thoughts coherently in real-time, with sensitivity to the other person. Like it or not, you can’t just bypass a couple of million years of evolution and culture.

As someone who does a bunch of negotiating, I can tell you, the amount of confusion, miscommunication, and annoyance that can happen from the simplest and clearest of emails is mind-blowing. Because people are busy, distracted and they don’t read things properly. Or if they do, because of whatever else they have going on in their life, they’ll lump their baggage into it and assume your innocuous question was an accusation.

The easiest solution is always a quick phone call, a videoconference or a face-to-face meeting, where we can see those dozens of facial expressions and hear all the intonations of voices to ensure that no one is getting confused about something.

It’s no coincidence that when I did my job mostly by email, it was an ordeal. Punching all those emails out made me feel efficient, but with the volume of traffic that ensued from miscommunication and misunderstandings, I’ve found it’s far quicker to pick up the phone.

The other advantage of picking up the phone is if you have good social skills, both people get to enjoy a friendly exchange that’s become far less frequent since the pandemic. So not only do you solve problems quickly, people actually like you — always a plus when you’re trying to climb the career ladder.

Communication and being social are skills too…

What’s always irked me about the tech types is the sense of arrogance they exude at the fact they have a skill other people don’t, scoffing at others for not understanding their world and acting as though we’re just primitive monkeys who “schmooze,” as if talking to people in person is sleazy and all communication should be over a Slack channel.

In short, they assume everyone should be like them and think like them.

To be fair, this is a very human trait. But what happens when you need something from someone who doesn’t think the way you do? You’re going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, because you’re so used to communicating in your own way to people like you, that you can’t bridge the gap when they aren’t.

This is why strong communicators are already well paid now but will be incredibly sought after in a future that looks like a communication dystopia. Because communication is a skill just like any other, and the company that has a shortage of it will also have a shortage of profit.

It’s not about being a schmoozer

Ugh, the number of negative comments I get here whenever I suggest you want to communicate well and make people feel good is eye-roll inducing. Seriously, it’s like some of you object to even being a human. Why should I have to even talk to people? All those others are just kissing ass anyway, they don’t do any real work.

Yes, because no one can walk and chew gum at the same time, can they?

The point is, learn to communicate well and make people feel good for interacting with you, on top of being good at your job and you’ve got it made, now and in the future.

Or, you can stay in your cubicle, barely speaking to your colleagues (cos they all suck anyway, amirite?) while at the same time complaining about how hard it is to get ahead, that your boss ever appreciates you and that no one seems to get how good you are.

Yes, I’m sure it’s all their fault.

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