The June 2016 edition of Money Magazine published a list of the 21 most valuable career skills at the moment. As a parent, I want my children to have the best opportunities & training to have a successful career in the 21st century. Each generation will have different “jobs” than their parents or grandparents as technology continues to change.
While society will always need bankers, emergency responders, plumbers, teachers, etc., the tools used to earn their living can be vastly different than a teacher from 100 years ago. In our own lifetimes, teachers have transitioned from slide projectors and transparencies to powerpoint and Youtube videos.
As technology advances, businesses and their employees must continue to adapt to remain relevant and competitive. Simply pursuing a 4-year college degree to have the diploma on the wall is a good start, but, college graduates are a “dime a dozen” these days. Today’s children need to “drill down” and specialize in most instances.
Here is Money Magazine’s list of the 21 most valuable career skills:
- SAS (Statistical Analysis System)
- Data Mining/Data Warehousing
- Search Engine Marketing
- Data Modeling
- Contract Negotiation
- Software Development
- Strategic Project Management
- Strategic Planning
- Technical Sales
- Customer Service Metrics
- Financial Analysis
- Risk Management/Risk Control
- SAP Material Management
- Business Analysis
- IT Security and Infrastructure
- Lean Manufacturing
- Clinical Education
- Computer-Aided Design/Manufacturing
- Systems Troubleshooting
- New Business Development
The underlying them to the list is technology. If this list was compared to one made 100 years ago, some of the same skills would be on the list such as strategic management and financial analysis. It’s possible that they might have been labeled with a different term to match the business nomenclature of the day. But, anything with a computer would be the equivalent of landing on the moon or space aliens visiting the earth that one might read about in science fiction novels.
How To Prepare For The Future Job Market
As nobody can predict the future (I never thought I would teach Spanish), some important statistics I remember my high school guidance counselor referring to was the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I encourage you take a look at their projections on the preceding link, but, here’s a quick summary.
For the next 10 years, the top 8 occupations with the most projected openings are customer service, healthcare, retail, and restaurant workers. After this, you begin seeing jobs that require some of the skills listed by Money in positions like General and operations managers (#9 on the BLS list), accountants and auditors (#11), Software developers, applications (#14).
You might be wondering why these skills are so important most of the “skilled” jobs are outside the top 10. Take a second to look at the median income. Of the top 10 projected jobs, 8 of those 10 have a median income of $32,000 or less. Only Registered Nurse ($67,490/yr) and General Managers ($97,730/yr) make a substantial amount of income.
It’s not all about the money
This article isn’t solely based on money, although I do believe it is important to effectively provide for your family and still have time to be a parent. My high school job was a McDonald’s burger flipper and I was an operations supervisor for 7 years. I’ve been on both ends of the salary spectrum from the BLS list. I quit my job as a operations supervisor because the personal sacrifice wasn’t worth the high salary. Before I left, my wife & I socked away as much money as possible to help us transition to a new career with a signicantly lower salary. We have to pay more attention to the checking account balance when it comes time to pay the bills, but, it’s worth the improved quality of life.
It takes every person to make the world go round. We need retail clerks, nursing assistants, operations managers, and accountants. Each person has different skill sets and every family has different needs.
Using healthcare as an example, some are happy to remain an aide or assistant while others want to become a registered nurse. Sometimes it’s for money, others like the increased challenge and responsibility, while others want to climb the ladder as high as possible.
What nobody wants is to the desire to advance and not have the ability to because the missed opportunities to train and can no longer afford the training or the job market is too competitive. Personally, there are a few things I would like to go back to school for, but, realize the potential reward isn’t worth the cost.
Don’t be a burger flipper…
I might sound two-faced as I just said it takes all kinds to make the market work. It does. One of my regrets is that I worked at McDonald’s. Lots of succesful business people stood in the same place as myself when they were teenagers ,and, I too, learned some valuable life lessons. But, being able to assemble a Big Mac in 10 seconds doesn’t translate into a long-term skill.
For example, had I worked for a diesel mechanic I could have learned to fix cars and work on small engines. Almost anybody can grill a hamburger, but, most people cannot fix their own car beyond a basic oil change. There needs to be a demand for your skills, but, I haven’t heard any talk of mechanics being replaced by a machine like fast food workers are attempting with cashiers and food prep workers.
Today’s “skills” might be tomorrow’s antiquities. There’s no guarantee how many of Money’s 21 skills will be on the same list next year or 5 years from now. In the June 2016 issue, Money tells readers how to pursue these skills (you can order a back issue or check with your local library).
Speaking from my own personal experience (so far). My three biggest recommendations are:
- Who you can know is just as important as what you know
- Pursuing relevant passions and skills
- While you might enjoy Political Science as a hobby, a business degree or technical degree will be more useful long-term in securing an income for your family.
- Remain Debt-Free
How have you prepared for the future? What advice would you pass on to your children?