According to a recent article in Forbes and a study by the Institute for the Future, those are among the 10 new skills employees will need in the coming years. But what does someone in the middle of a career transition do if they don’t have the skills for tomorrow–or even the job skills needed today?

Redefining Classic Skills

These skills that Forbes says will be needed in the coming years sound like phrases that someone made up, and maybe, technically, they are. But spend a little time looking at the descriptions and you will see that these are really just classic skills polished up for tomorrow’s job market. For example, this is how the article describes cross-cultural competencies:

“Globalization is no longer the buzzword in corporate America, it is reality. Many of us work globally every day, interacting with a multitude of cultures, but those who know how to empathize and adjust their communications and style of collaboration, will always have an advantage when working across geographies and cultures.”

In common parlance, that’s being a team player, a skill that’s been important in almost all offices since, well, offices began. Very few employers will ask their employees to come in, chain themselves to the desk, and not interact with anyone. People who have the ability to work well with others have always been in demand. You can tweak the definition, and you can call it something else, but that doesn’t change what that skill is at its core.

How about cognitive load management? According to the article, that’s the ability to prioritize a variety of tasks so that the employee can focus on what requires the most attention. Sounds a lot like multitasking, right?

Finding additional training

So, if these are the skills in demand, what do you do if, after a bit of self-assessment, you determine that you don’t have a few of them? Unfortunately, employers aren’t investing as much as they used to in training for employees. That means it’s up to professionals, whether employed or in the middle of a career transition, to make sure they can get the training they need.

How do you do that? Here are a few options:

MOOCs — That stands for Massive Open Online Courses, which are free classes that you can take online from anywhere at your leisure. Some have structured schedules and run like typical courses with deadlines for certain activities such as quizzes and online discussions.

One popular option is Coursera, a site that partners with some of the world’s top universities to offer free courses online. Participants take a course, complete classwork and quizzes, and then receive recognition at the end of the course. Other options include the Open Education Database and EDX, both of which also offer university-level courses at no cost.

Networking groups — Many professional associations and networking groups offer free workshops and classes. In addition to learning new skills, you can also spend time doing in-person networking with others in the course.

Volunteering — Chances are that even if you are hoping to build your skills in one area, you already have some very specialized abilities that could be used by someone. Offer those skills to a local non-profit organization or small area business. You can use your time working with these groups to gain skills you may need.

Whether you call yourself a multitasking team player or a cross-cultural cognitive load manager, you’ll want to make sure that you’re staying invested in your career development. Don’t wait for the next generation of jargon to be defined—start building your core competencies and reinforcing your education and add the label later.

02 July 2014

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