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The 7 most important soft skills of the future

The 7 most important soft skills of the future

Corona or not, business continues and will pick up. Working on your soft skills now means more marketability during job interviews.

Hard skills are generally seen as those which can be taught and/or measured. In other words, they can be quantified and evaluated.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are usually defined as your toolkit of people, social, and communication skills. As such, they have traditionally been seen as unmeasurable.

Yet, the divisions may be becoming blurred.

In January 2020, Forbes online magazine suggested that soft skills may be the new hard skills. For this to happen, soft skills must be quantifiable, and it seems that they are.

Already, many companies have created and implemented measures of soft skills. This makes sense given the serious impact these skills make on profitability. For example, research reported that soft skills enriched the UK economy by £88 billion in 2015 and was predicted to rise to £109 billion by this year, 2020.


Soft skills vary somewhat by industry

Studies show that there is variation in which skills are most valued. This makes sense. Although the goal of most businesses is to be profitable, the ways in which they achieve this can be different. Thus, an industrial electronics company will most likely rate English communication as the highest soft skill while teachers at a vocational school will be expected to have honesty and a good attitude towards learning as their top competence.


And yet, are there 7 top soft skills of the future?

Here’s what our research found.


The top soft skill: Communication

Communication is, perhaps, the life energy of an organization. To get the job done, employees must communicate with their colleagues at every level from top management on down. Also, the organization must successfully communicate its product/service to its buyers/users in order to achieve any sales at all. So, it is not surprising that, again and again, studies identify communication as the top, common soft skill in business and industry.

Effective communication requires a set of sub-skills. Good English (reading, writing, listening, speaking) is often a critical communicative sub-skill in our global economy. So, too, is a high level of interpersonal intelligence in order to know how to say things to people of different mindsets and cultures…especially when the situation is difficult or challenging. The sub-skill of persuasion is helpful when motivating employees AND convincing customers.

Thus, if there was ONE soft skill to develop in yourself, it would be communication.

The relative importance of soft skills 2-7 differ depending on sector, so we will present them in alphabetical order.



In many companies, the financial bottom line has replaced brainstorming. Ideas are measured in terms of their contribution to efficiency and profitability. “Off the wall” ideas are not even brought to the table. This trend is despite data which shows that creativity contributes to above average, organic revenue growth AND is more effective by a large margin in increasing sales (creativity 47%) as compared to reach (22%), brand (15%) and targeting (9%).

To develop your creativity, give yourself permission to think anything about anything. They are only thoughts, after all. If you get a good idea, write it down somewhere (phone, journal, sticky note on wall, etc.) Come back to your ideas every once in a while. Any worth developing further? If you find one worth passing on to your workplace, do so. Don’t worry about the possible feedback. Keep practicing.


Critical thinking

Can you gather information, evaluate it with a minimum of bias, envision a variety of perspectives, and formulate logical plans? Congratulations, you are a critical thinker!

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operationInternational Labour Organization and Development (OECD) found that employees give more of themselves in workplaces which are places of trust and mutual gain. Critical thinking can help build this atmosphere since it focuses on objective information, rather than gossip, cultural bias, or other unhelpful criteria.

To improve your critical thinking, begin by taking a self-inventory. Which biases do you have which might affect how you view things? Recognizing our “world view filters” is the most important step in working on them.


Discipline and ethics

When you think of discipline, think of boundaries such as…

  • the manner in which you dress
  • whether you wash out your coffee cup or leave it in the lunchroom sink
  • the cleanliness (or not) of your workspace
  • how you speak to others and what you choose to talk about
  • whether you follow workplace rules even if you don’t agree with them

With regards to ethics, consider values such as honesty, integrity, compassion and empathy, and respect for others’ wellbeing. For example:

  • Do you throw team members under the bus when the project report is late or do you share in the responsibility…even if your part was ready on time?
  • Your co-worker needs to leave early to take his child to the doctor. Do you help out by picking up his slack or gossip about his irresponsibility?
  • At break time, do you smoke in the designated area or do you sneak one wherever because it’s closer and more convenient?

Much of future business will continue to be “people-oriented.” Valued workers will be those who contribute to their workplaces in positive ways, including being reliable representatives. Whether in person or virtual, you will be the face of the company, and it wants the best face possible.


Management and organization

Even if you are not a manager, you still need this soft skill. Doing your job in an effective, efficient, orderly way not only means your work gets done well, it helps others to succeed in theirs. A good tool for improving your management and organization is a to-do list. If you are interested in a digital method, there are many apps which offer online tracking. This list will get you started.

To take it to the next level, combine your to-do list with a flowchart. Flowcharts can get as step-by-step as possible, breaking down your main goals into more manageable pieces. You can also go old school by using either of these methods with old-fashioned pencil and paper. For many, the physical act of writing makes a beneficial difference.


Teamwork and collaboration

No doubt you’re very familiar with the term “team player”…perhaps a little too familiar? Be that as it may, the teamwork and collaboration trend is strong and increasing. Although it may take on a more virtual rather than physical characteristic, organizations will continue to need people who can work well with others.


Time management

This is a far-reaching area. It begins from the basics such as arriving on time (to work, to meetings). It moves on to your work process and ends up with meeting deadlines. Have you delayed the members of your project team because your part isn’t done on time? This is going to have an effect on the quality of your teamwork, another of the top 7 soft skills for the future. Effective time management is a combination of mindset and priorities. You can set a list of priorities and map out a timetable, but if your mindset is not on board, you can forget success.


How prepared are you?

Successful employees and entrepreneurs see their soft skills as an ongoing project. There is always more that can be done. So, it’s never too early (or late) to begin.

Find out why over 660,000 Chinese students study abroad…and you should, too

Chinese and Asian students: you may be missing some marketable soft skills of the future. A European student exchange program or bootcamp can help.   

Generalisations can be problematic since there are many exceptions to any rule. Having said that, there appear to be some significant differences between the educational systems in China and Europe. To get the best of both worlds and develop the soft skills needed for their future careers , Chinese and Asian students often find it highly beneficial to attend European student exchange programs or educational bootcamps.

Here’s why…


The right answers vs. Unpredictable answers

Some questions have only one answer—the right one. Others have no predictable answer whatsoever, requiring you to “think on your feet.”

An article in Young Post (a unit of the South China Morning Post) examined this issue. The author pointed out that Chinese students tend to do better on standardised testing while Western students tend to do better on open-ended questions with a variety of “correct” answers.

This may be a result of the different aims of each educational system. In China, the focus appears to be on the correct answers. In other words, Chinese students are expected to accumulate knowledge and show that accumulation. In Europe, the aim is more towards the production of original work. For example, European students are expected to use their knowledge to solve problems in society or design new systems.


Creativity and critical thinking are two of the top soft skills employers are looking for now and will continue to want in the future. To develop those skills, students need to study in environments which practice them. European student exchange programs or educational bootcamps are great places to boost those skills.


Individual worker vs. Team player

Putting the emphasis on the correct answer, as discussed above, means that the more right answers a student has, the more successful he or she is. This creates a highly competitive atmosphere in which it is basically, every man/woman for himself/herself. It is logical, then, that Chinese students study individually and, in general, work alone. Collaboration would mean that you are helping someone who could end up beating you academically.

In Europe, much of education is project-based learning. Students work in groups to prepare presentations, investigate problems and design solutions, and construct alternative ways of doing things. A significant part of the assessment grade is teamwork—how well did the students work together to get their job done? In this model, collaboration is not only valued but essential. Usually, projects are too large for one student to complete it on his or her own, even if they wanted to.


Two more of the top soft skills employers are looking for are teamwork and collaboration. Both are complex. Working with others is often very challenging, especially in global companies with multicultural workforces. Taking part in a European educational bootcamp or student exchange program gives Chinese and Asian students the opportunity to widen their cultural circles and practice working with teammates who are different from themselves in significant ways.


Study time vs. “Play” time

Although they may be working hard, students in European educational organisations have time for extracurricular activities. They may be on the college basketball team, the university newspaper, or volunteering at a local hospital. It is usual for each student to be involved in at least ONE thing besides school.

Chinese students appear to live and breathe their studies. These round the clock students are called “Xué bà.” (We would say “bookworm” in English.) Their intense, almost tyrannical studying leaves them little time for much else. While this may be admirable in China, it isn’t in Europe. Global companies are not going to see it as a plus either. The simple reason is that global workers are the faces of their organisations, and these organisations are looking for people who are more than just their job titles.

Extracurricular activities broaden our perspectives. We learn life skills that are usually not available while studying in a classroom. In addition, we learn to be comfortable in situations which challenge their comfort zones. Student exchange programs and educational bootcamps in Europe give Chinese and Asian students a break from their intense studying, so they can benefit from some extracurricular “play” time.


Is it all going to be enjoyable?

There may be some challenges, yet it is exactly these bumps in the road which are going to give you opportunities to really find out who you are. As mixed martial artist, Josh Barnett said: “Open yourself to new ideas and new things even if you find you don’t like them in the end – but at least knowing them has taken you that much further along into being a more experienced, more well-rounded person in this world.

Why you should go on an exchange semester and study abroad

Experiencing another culture is an excellent investment in your future career. Here’s why.   

Up until now, increasing globalization has been the trend of most businesses.

At the moment, given the current COVID-19 situation, there is some discussion that this might change in the future. Most likely, globalization will continue, though perhaps in a different form.

Even prior to today’s events, we were seeing a huge increase in live, virtual communication. Chatbots on websites with real-time humans behind them were becoming more frequent. Videoconferencing was on the rise. An interview with Zoom in 2018 reported that “51% of the Fortune 1000 and 58% of the Fortune 500” were using Zoom…and that was several years ago.

So, one way or another, businesses are going to continue to look for employees with skills which suit the international arena. Candidates will need to work well in multicultural teams and preferably be multilingual. They should have the mindsets of global citizens, able to fit in anywhere in the world.


Studies show that an exchange semester (aka a study abroad program) is one of the most effective ways of developing international readiness.


An exchange semester drops you into a new culture. Living and studying in a new environment increases your intercultural competencies. Data shows that students who study abroad become more tolerant of and adaptable to cultural differences. Chances are, you will make lasting friendships which will help create a more peaceful world. You might even pick up a few words in a new language—or end up speaking it like a pro.

Academically, an exchange semester may offer courses not available at your main university or graduate school. In addition, undergraduates who take an exchange semester at an educational institution tend to have priority when applying for graduate studies at that same institution.


There are, of course, challenges.


One is finances. Working is usually not permitted in the host country. As a result, students need sufficient financial support during their exchange semester. Some host academic institutions will offer full or part financial assistance. The Erasmus program offers significant monetary support for those who study at an academic institution in a European community member country.

Another hurdle is bureaucracy. University applications, course equivalency, and arranging a visa are all processes which can be very frustrating and time-consuming. Before choosing your exchange semester institution, get in touch with them. Ask some direct questions about how much help they are willing to give you with the paperwork.

Once in place, students may experience “culture shock.” A big part of that is differences in food. Another is contrasts in lifestyle, climate, and the unwritten “rules of the game.” Feeling like a fish out of water is normal at the beginning. Consider these aspects when choosing your exchange semester. How much out of your “comfort zone” will still be comfortable for you?


Overall, it’s more than worth it.

Besides the rewards of personal growth and development, analyses show that those who had done an exchange semester benefitted in their career as well. First, they were more likely to opt for graduate programs, giving them the academic edge when entering the job market. Second, those who took part in an exchange semester had higher starting salaries.

Top 5 reasons why education is the best investment

Tired of studying? Worried about loan repayment? Maybe it’s time to get a job? NO! Here are 5 strong reasons to invest in your education.

Have you found yourself thinking, “Why am I investing so much time and energy into my education? Is it really worth it?”

The answer is “yes”, and we’re going to give you the top 5 reasons why.


Your income

Let’s begin with perhaps the main reason people get an education: to increase their incomes. UNICEF reports that your income will increase 10 percent for each year of education. The Harvard Business Review states that those with graduate degrees are usually paid 25 percent more. Those are pretty impressive ROIs, right?


Your country’s “income”

Did you know that your education can benefit the country in which you live? The GDP of your country can increase by 18 percent per year of your education. In fact, education is one of the main ways in which we can reduce world poverty.


Your career options

Back in the day, people worked for the same company all their lives and got a gold watch as a retirement present. Today, people spend up to 5 years at a job, changing about 12 times during their working lives.

In addition, the AI wave means that human jobs are undergoing significant changes and will continue to do so. Some jobs will only be done by robots, eliminating the need for “live people.” Other positions are going to get revised job descriptions as increasing automation changes the way in which things are done. New jobs will be created due to needs which never before existed.

To keep yourself competitive in such a fluctuating job market, your skills and qualifications need to be future forward. Education is the key. In addition, the greater the variety of tools you have in your professional portfolio, the more options you have—including making a total career change if you’ve reached the end of the line in your current one.


Your quality of life

Would you be surprised to learn that the average person spends of their life at work? The only thing you spend more time doing is sleeping. That means the majority of your waking hours are spent at your job. Not only that, but they are the best part of your waking hours. In other words, the hours during which you feel the most awake and alert.

Wouldn’t it be better spending this time doing something that gives you satisfaction, perhaps even joy?

Education means that you can qualify yourself for the things that you like doing. As a result, your work is not only supporting you financially but also helping you to live your best life.


Your contribution to world peace

If you think it is an exaggeration, think again. Education empowers. According to the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, it is “central to human well-being and sustainable development.”

How do you play a part?

Education has a knock on effect. At the lowest level, your education benefits you. One step up, your education benefits your family via the higher income you can bring and the knowledge you can pass on about living a better life. Let’s keep widening the circles.

Children of educated parents tend to be educated. The more educated people there are in a community, the more prosperous the community usually is. The more prosperous communities in a country, the better off and more peaceful the country as a whole is.

Once every citizen of every country has a good life, many of the reasons for violence disappear. The overall result will be shared prosperity, a cared-for planet, and a more peaceful world.

All these 5 important reasons mean that education is one of the best investments you could ever make.