17 21st Century Skills That Will Help You Crush School and Work
There are certain 21st Century skills that every student will need to have in place before they graduate and enter the real world. Many of these skills have been around for ages but morphed into another form. Others are exclusive to the digital age.
In the following article, we will be taking a look at the 17 most relevant. Keep in mind that these are must-have skills that any employer will want, regardless of industry. You might call them the “soft skills” that matter.
1. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is a process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating and creating. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use.
As a copywriter, for example, you might have to use critical thinking skills to evaluate and interpret data. One of the most important skills is being able to decipher what information is important and what information is not. You also have to evaluate all of the information and piece it together to form a cohesive story.
There are a ton of jobs that require critical thinking. Any role that requires you to solve problems, evaluate data, or communicate effectively are jobs that require critical thinking. If you find yourself in a job where you’re never asked to think critically, then you might want to consider a new career path.
2. Communication Skills
Communication skills can be divided into two main types – interpersonal and intra-personal skills. Interpersonal skills are about effective communication between people, and intra-personal skills are about effective communication between a person and themselves. Let’s look at both of these in more detail.
Interpersonal skills are about communicating effectively with other people. The most valuable communication skill is the ability to listen. It’s also the most undervalued and underused. Listening is the key to empathy. If you can listen well, you can connect with people and be a better overall student and worker.
The best way to get better at communication is to do it as much as possible. There’s no substitute for the real thing. So, practice your communication skills as often as possible with other people in your life.
Creativity is a process of experimentation, failure, and refinement. Creativity is not about coming up with a brilliant idea out of thin air. It’s about taking something old and making it new again.
As technology continues to advance, we’re going to see a lot more jobs that are creative in nature. As a result, we’re going to see a lot more jobs that are involved with the creation of new things, whether they’re physical or digital.
Creativity is important in any field but it’s particularly important in the STEM fields because you need to be able to think outside the box. You need to think about things differently from the way that other people are thinking about them.
4. Problem Solving
Problem-solving skills are important for every level of your career. They’re necessary for every job because every job has a unique set of problems to solve.
Problem-solving is about finding a solution to a problem, whereas critical thinking is about understanding the problem itself and how the problem came about. The two are often used interchangeably, and that’s perfectly fine though there is some nuance in the details.
Developing problem-solving skills is all about getting to know your subject or industry and the problems that arise in each. Once you’re able to identify problems, you can come up with solutions.
It’s important to be persistent and persevere in your career because you’ll never know what opportunities are going to come your way. If you’re not putting yourself out there, you’re not going to be able to take advantage of opportunities, and you’ll miss out on great things.
The best way to build perseverance is to understand that there are going to be ups and downs. We all want to reach our goals right away but that’s not always possible. By understanding that there are going to be ups and downs, you can learn to be okay with the downs because it’s temporary.
How do we know that perseverance is the key to success? We don’t, but we know that it’s a key to success. If we were given the option to take a pill and skip all of the hard work that it takes to build a career or a business, we would take that pill in a second. That’s not the reality you will face in the real world, though, so you might as well embrace it early.
There is a balance between working independently and collaborating with other people. It’s really important to be open to collaboration and working with other people because you can learn so much from them.
Collaboration is all about bringing together the strengths of a group of people to create something better than they could make on their own. (Or, in the study group world, to learn something faster.)
For example, it could be a team of writers and designers who work together to create a web page, or a group of engineers who combine their skills to make a new operating system.
If you’re working with a team of writers, try to create a culture where people can speak up and voice their opinions. Make it clear that it’s not a sign of weakness to have a different opinion, but rather a sign of strength. If you have a strong opinion on something, feel free to make that known.
7. Information Literacy
Information literacy is the ability to identify, access, evaluate, and use information effectively. There are a lot of benefits to being an information literacy nerd, and probably the most important one is that you get to learn a lot of new things.
You learn how to find information, how to evaluate that information and how to communicate what you’ve learned in an effective way. This is how you better develop your information literacy skills: by reading, writing, and learning. Of course, to do all that effectively, you also have to have strong active listening skills.
8. Technology Skills and Digital Literacy
These are the tech skills that people are going to need for the foreseeable future: content marketing, graphic design, video editing, social media, and SEO (search engine optimization).
These are typically terms reserved for marketers, but students from all walks of life and professionals in every industry can learn much from them. That’s because everyone needs to stop thinking about applying to jobs and instead think about building their personal brand.
One’s personal brand is what employers of the future will be on the lookout for. They want to know whether you’re a good fit before they waste a lot of time trying to shoehorn you into a position you’re not ready for.
Digital literacy should be very high on your list of 21st Century skills. Simply put, this is the ability to understand, use, and engage with digital technology. To be digitally literate, you need to understand how to use technology and you need to be able to use it effectively.
9. Media Literacy
Media literacy is the ability to think critically about the media messages you’re absorbing. Whether you’re watching a TV show, reading an article, or scrolling through your Facebook feed, it’s important to be aware of the messages you’re absorbing.
It’s important to differentiate between media literacy and information and digital literacy. Media literacy is about how to be critical of the media, information literacy is about how to find the information you need when you need it, and digital literacy is about how to use technology in a way that supports your needs and goals.
The best way to develop media literacy is to read things that you know you’re going to disagree with. If you’re a liberal, read something from the conservative perspective. If you’re a conservative, read something from the liberal perspective. If you’re an atheist, read something from the Christian perspective.
10. Global Awareness
It’s important to know what’s happening in other countries because we’re entering into a global marketplace. It’s also important to know people and cultures from other countries because the world is a big place and we have to get along with one another.
You can start by learning another language or reading more books from different countries. You might start by learning French and Spanish so you can communicate with people in their native language as you live and work around them.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your career is to go out into the world and see how other people live. Traveling to different places and meeting people from different cultures and countries can open your mind to new ideas and ways of doing things, and it can make you more empathetic to other people.
11. Becoming a Self-Starter
Being a self-starter is about taking initiative and responsibility for your own work, whether that’s your class, job, or your side hustle. It’s the opposite of waiting for someone else to tell you what to do, and it’s a great way to take charge of your career and your life.
Self-starter skills are exactly what they sound like – the skills you need to start a project without being told to. Self-starters are motivated and disciplined, they know what they want, and they’re willing to work hard to get it.
A lot of people are afraid to start their own business, for example, because they don’t think they have the self-discipline and motivation to do it. People who don’t feel they have self-discipline and motivation simply don’t have the right reasons to do anything.
12. Social Skills
Social skills are the skills you use to interact with other people. They are what you use when you’re talking to someone in a bar, or going on a date, or networking at an event, or meeting someone for the first time.
The most important social skills are listening and asking questions. First, people need to feel that you’re listening to them, and second, they need to feel that you care about them. Asking questions is important because it allows you to connect with people on a deeper level.
The best way to improve your social skills is to practice. Social skills are like any other skills: the more you practice them, the more you’ll get better at them. When you’re practicing, it’s a good idea to start small. Instead of working an entire room, find one person you don’t know and make a point of introducing yourself to them.
13. Literacy Skills
Literacy can be defined as the ability to read, write, and communicate effectively in a variety of settings. Having literacy skills can help you achieve your goals and can make you more employable.
Literacy skills are incredibly important for a number of reasons. To start with, reading is essential for success in school. Without strong literacy skills, it’s hard to comprehend and retain the information you read. If you can’t read well, it’s also hard to succeed in college or university.
One of the most important things is to read more. Reading books and magazines and newspapers and even adverts and billboards can help improve literacy. It’s also really important to create an environment and a culture where people don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to read.
14. Civic Literacy
Civic literacy is the knowledge and skills that help us be informed and engaged citizens. It’s the ability to read and write critically, to think creatively, and to be civically responsible. It’s not just about being able to read and write and do basic arithmetic.
Civic literacy, which is defined as reading, writing, and speaking about the issues that affect the community we live in, is so important because if we can’t speak about the issues that affect our community, then we’re not going to be able to get involved and make a difference.
You can improve your civic literacy by reading the news. It’s incredibly important to be aware of what’s going on in the world and to be educated about current events.
15. Social Responsibility
Social responsibility is about doing good in the world. It’s about giving back. It’s about being a good citizen and using your platform to help the causes that are important to you.
You can also do this by incorporating philanthropic initiatives into your business or participating in fundraisers through a school. It’s important to be socially responsible in everything you do, not just in the products and services you offer but also in your outreach to others.
16. Innovation Skills
To be an innovator, you need to have the skills to spot an opportunity, the ability to create a solution, and the resilience to keep going even when things aren’t going well.
It’s important to be flexible and adaptable, and to have the creativity to think outside the box. There are several ways that you can learn how to be innovative and creative. You can take a course to learn these skills, or you can read a book about innovation. You can also learn by doing – by experimenting with new ideas.
Innovation is important for society because it allows us to do things faster, better, and more efficiently. It also allows us to do things that we couldn’t have done before, such as exploring space or curing diseases.
Innovation is also important for the individual because it can allow you to achieve your goals and live your dreams.
17. Thinking Skills
Thinking skills are the things that get you to the point where critical thinking can take place. Critical thinking is the “thinking about thinking” process; it’s about analyzing the logic of a situation and making an informed decision.
Don’t wait for an epiphany. You’ll never come up with the next big idea sitting around waiting for it to come to you – you have to actively be constantly thinking about what you can do better, what your next steps are, what you can do next to get ahead of your competitors.
There are a few methods you can try. Dr. Lisa Firestone suggests the rubber band technique. When you have a negative thought, stretch a rubber band around your wrist and snap it against your skin when you notice the thought. This will help bring your mind back to the present moment and away from those negative thoughts.
These 21st Century Skills Will Serve You Well These Next Hundred Years
We hope this look at 21st Century skills that you’ll need to have as a student and a career person will keep you from becoming obsolete. Which of these do you struggle with the most, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]