How to Upskill for 2020

by Jan 9, 2020

Make sure you know how to upskill for 2020

The world is racing ahead, so if you want to stay ahead then you need to learn how to upskill for 2020.


Whatever career stage you are in, no-one wants to be seen as old and obsolete in the workplace. But with the rapidly changing technology landscape, or what the World Economic Forum has dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, sometimes it can feel inevitable that the trends and their Gen Z worshippers will move onward and upwards, and you just won’t.

Research shows that robots could take over 20 million jobs by 2030. And the majority of jobs people will have, don’t even exist yet. Naturally then, this means that the top skills to get you far in your career are rapidly changing too. In fact, the World Economic Forum, in their Future of Jobs report, recently released a list of the top ten skills for jobs in 2020. Alongside this they published the top skills list for 2015, and in just 5 years there have already been some changes.

So take a look here at the most valued skills to keep you at the top of your career game in 2020.



What does this mean for skills in 2020?

Okay so you’ve read the list, but what does it all mean? Well, although some skills have survived the test of time since 2015, we can see a general trend shift. No longer are the hard skills, specific to current jobs in the market, the most valued skills. Instead, for the New Year and beyond it is the more elusive soft skills that will be highly valued.

‘[They] are all humanity-based skills that cannot be automated by an algorithm. They are more emotionally complex than repetitively logical.’ Kevin Turner, brand strategist, neatly summarises what the list says about these top skills for 2020.

Computers won’t manage everything

Creativity looks like it will be one of the top three skills for workers in 2020. Although robots can do many complex tasks, creativity is harder to duplicate. And creative skills are needed across all industries as well. In a sea of competition, creative strategies are needed more than ever to stand out from the crowd. Negotiation and flexibility have dropped in importance since 2015. With the huge amounts of data, we have access to today, computers can help us with important decisions. Emotional intelligence has appeared on the list. Again, this is something too nuanced for machines to replicate and is needed in all industries.

But looking at how many of these skills are so intangible and hard to quantify, we want to know: how are you supposed to go about proving to an employer that you possess them? And, more than that, how do you even go about learning them in the first place? 3Plus contacted our network to find out how the experts, as well as some non-experts, would tackle the issue.

You might already have the skills you need. Find out with our Returner Roll-Up Session to Learn how to identify your transferable skills.

Missing skills

This list is by no means definitive and many of our experts flagged up the disappearance of active listening as a skill from the 2015 list. They claim that good listening skills are still key to learning and developing professionally. Interview Coach Sarah Johnston suggests that perhaps the WEF covers active listening under the bracket of emotional intelligence. Others highlighted how technological developments and AI have reduced the necessity for this skill.

Consultant Yasar Ajlouni goes one step further with his suggestion that active listening should be upgraded to ‘super listening’. He says that against the backdrop of digitalisation and artificial intelligence, displaying the ability to listen intently is key to all communication.

Angela Haren, Mental Health Advisor, flags up the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace. She is surprised it didn’t make the list until this year. ‘Unless we are aware of our own feelings, know how to regulate them and are able to empathise, how can we ever achieve the other skills? These other skills include coordinating with others, people management, making appropriate decisions etc.’ 

Eric Butts believes that active listening is implicit in all the ten top skills ”If I were making a slide like we consultants do every now and again, I would have “active listening” down the side across all ten. It’s ingrained within what’s listed and you’ll fail without it”  

Joe Jacobi commented that “Obtaining and/or growing any skill happens in part with rest. Seems obvious but it always seems to be overlooked.”  Indeed, self-care and understanding the benefits of rest is a behaviour that is frequently overlooked. Joy Sen felt that Servant leadership merited inclusion.

How to enhance or showcase your skills in 2020


We spoke to our network of career experts to see what they thought of the list.  It was a discussion that generated considerable interest. These contributors offer their professional insights on how to learn this type of skill, and how you prove to an employer that you possess them.

How to learn soft skills

‘How does someone learn “complex problem solving” or most of these skills?’  commented Job Search Strategist, Hannah Morgan, asking the golden question. She highlights how things can be made even more difficult by the fact that even within different occupations and industries, these skills would look different.

Career coach Nicole Joveicevic may have the answer. She says these skills can be taught, and in fact she teaches them herself. ‘Most times if you help people engage on a topic tactically in a group and reflect on it, then you provide a structure for them to try out a new soft skill.’ If someone can learn the basics, then as situations arise in real life ‘they can modify it and try it out until it becomes natural’.

Andy Foote made a point Interesting that “learnability’ is not on the list. Seems like it could be #1 for many years to come” but is this already incorporated into cognitive flexibility as Dorothy Dalton, 3Plus CEO commented

Kevin D Turner suggests that The World Economic Forum probably dropped active listening because “it is recognized as a subset of all the other skills on the list.” He emphasises that “If applicable we should exemplify these skills in our personal branding and daily activities.”

Soft skills in education

Executive Coach Julia Erikson agrees that these skills can and should be taught. However, she highlights that currently this is something that is missing from school education. She says ‘that’s not what schools are set up to do. So, employers have to do it, yet so many are not set up to do it either.’ This highlights a problem we need to overcome. We need to work on training and promoting soft skills in schools and workplaces. This would allow everyone an equal chance to develop these types of skills.

Academic, Melissa Rigas agrees wholeheartedly. She suggests ‘education is the ONLY answer,’ although she recognises schools and businesses are completely unsuited to teach these skills right now. She claims this could revolutionise the way we work. ‘People would actually know how to work WITH each other, for community gain and not just individual glorification’.

So we need to work at teaching these top transferable soft skills to help people stay employable in the future. But how can we do this? Vici K, Job Search Coach, predicts that we will see a whole host of new resources and a new way of training to teach just that. ‘There will most-likely be plenty of opportunities for HR organizations and consultants and MBA programs to develop training and publish books specifically to address these skills’.

Or as Donna Schilder suggests; obtaining a liberal arts degree, or taking classes or professional designations, for example Lean/Six Sigma, Negotiation, Leadership, or Critical Thinking.

How to quantify the unquantifiable

So you can learn the skills, great! But how do you prove it?

Erin Kennedy, CEO and executive resume writer, tackles how to address skills like “complex problem solving” or “judgement and decision-making” that are learned from experience. ‘The best way to showcase these skills on your resume is through story-telling’ she says. ‘Talk about a complex problem you solved, or how your sound judgement brought about an accomplishment.’ She also suggests adding these skills to your resume in a bulleted keyword list. That way employers and potential employers can see them at a glance.

Meg Giuseppi, Executive Resume Master, suggests a good first step for job seekers is to catalogue specific contributions they’ve made in each of these areas. For instance, relaying a specific time when they put their complex problem-solving acumen to work.

Donna Svei, Executive Resume Writer, also supports a ‘show, don’t tell’ method for showcasing these skills on your resume. This ties in with behavioural-style interview questions that use real life examples of putting the skills into practise.


So, there you have it. To upskill for 2020, it’s time to work on your soft skills. If you feel behind, don’t fret. These can be learnt and nurtured and are refined with time. It seems the experts think in order to help everyone develop these skills we should inject training into schools and workplaces. And William Siebold People and Performance Evangelist, suggests, perhaps the key is building multi-generational teams of co-workers. This will allow everyone a chance to develop these skills and speed up the process through mutually supportive, multi-generational mentorship.


Our Career Coaches can help you with learning new skills. Find out more HERE.

Hanna Greeman Contributor
Hanna is a languages and logistics specialist. She is currently living in Barcelona working as a Creative Copywriter.
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