The Skills You Need to Succeed in 2020


By Avil Beckford, Guest Contributor.

This article was first published in Forbes.

2020 isn’t that far away. As a professional, have you been paying attention to the changes happening in your workplace and how they are affecting you? How has your role evolved over the past five years? Do you consider yourself skilled for the jobs of the future? Do you even know what those jobs might be?

The World Economic Forum reports that you need the ten skills listed below to thrive in 2020:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgement and decision making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

The ten skills on this list make sense for the age that we are living in. But are those skills enough for you to succeed?

In 2014, I attended a lecture at the University of Toronto, where Marty Neumeier talked about the Rules of Genius. For me, an important insight from his lecture was the definition of the four types of work. They are:

Creative: Unique, imaginative, non-routine, and autonomous.

Skilled: Standardized, talent-driven, professional, and directed.

Rote: Interchangeable, routinized, outsourceable, and managed.

Robotic: Algorithmic, computerized, efficient, and purchased.

Of these, I believe that you’ll want to focus on creative work because that is where you are likely to remain employable. Every professional can be creative in the work he or she does. When you work your craft, you are creating art. In his speech, Neumeier said:

“It is important to keep learning. Others cannot duplicate or reproduce your original work. If you want to be original, you have to become an inventor and build the foundation to the structure of your invention from scratch.”

You may have started to realize that you will need more than the ten skills listed earlier. Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

In some instances, relearning could be adapting what you already know to a new reality. Take cell phones, as an example. When they first came out, they were used solely as communications devices. Convergence happened, and now our smartphones are minicomputers. People had to relearn how to use a phone.

In terms of work, you will have to adapt some of your skills to the jobs of the future, and you will also have to learn new skills. Here are the additional skills I believe you’ll need to succeed in 2020 and beyond.

Learning How to Learn

Since skills are constantly changing, you have to learn how to learn. This concept is so important that Coursera has an online course dedicated to the topic.

Speed Reading and Reading Intelligently

Don’t stop reading. Since continuous learning has to be a part of your life–and I recommend that you include reading books–you must learn how to speed read and read intelligently.


Note-taking is a form of learning, and there is an art to it. It also leads directly to the next skill on the list.

Analyzing Information

When you take good and detailed notes, you can review them later to pick out the big ideas, understand, and make sense of information.

Spotting Patterns and Trends

I recommend that you combine ideas from the different books that you read. By doing this, you may be able to spot ideas and trends. The beauty of technology is that you can copy and paste, move blocks of text around, and group information differently, giving you a new perspective.

Communicating – Written and Oral

Even with books that are very different from one another, you can combine ideas that once seemed unrelated. Armed with your newfound ideas, you must develop the ability to communicate them to influencers who can help you to shape and implement them.

Understanding and Leveraging Technology

Technology is changing at an unprecedented pace, so you need to understand and keep on top of it. Sometimes it’s better to read articles in respected technology journals, as books may become outdated very quickly.

Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity

As a black woman, this is very important to me. As workplaces become globalized, we have to learn how to get along with those who are different from us. There is a lot of fear-mongering happening today, and different groups are marginalized. Imagine what would happen if you explored books that focused on other people and cultures. Read books to understand other experiences.

You may be familiar with reading challenges already, but have you ever participated in one? I created the Strategic Reading Challenge, wherein you read books for career development with the goal of learning about, and mastering, skills needed in the workplace. I invite you to join a reading challenge and invite friends to join with you so you can discuss the books you read with them. This will help accelerate your learning.

I know of successful people who read for three to four hours each day, but in the real world, few people can do that. You can still accomplish a lot by reading for about an hour every day.

Will you take up the challenge?

Avil Beckford, the founder of The Invisible Mentor, is an expert interviewer, published author, and writer. In two years, she wants to get 1,000 professionals reading a book every week. She will help you to learn, stretch, and grow to aid you in your career development. To do this, she created the Strategic Reading Challenge – jump into the challenge now.

Image by StuartMiles on Freerange

Spread the love
Categories: ,
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

thank you for this article this helps me a lot

Very insightful! Thanks for sharing with us.