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10 essential soft skills you will need for the future of work

The world of work is changing, fast. As new technology emerges jobs will be lost and new ones created – but something remains the same, that’s your need to find meaningful employment after you finish high school.

Being good at your future career is likely to depend less on the technical or manual skills you learn at TAFE or university and more on the social and cognitive skills or soft skills that you learn along the way.

Already employers are valuing job candidates with skills that will help them continually learn and adapt to the environment and new occupations.

A study by McKinsey Global Institute and World Economic Forum recently revealed 56 foundational skills that we need to future-proof our ability to find employment, earn higher incomes and find job satisfaction. 

As automation, AI and robotics further roll out, the need for manual and physical skills will decline and demand for technological, social, emotional and higher cognitive skills will soar.

Let’s look at the top soft skills employers of the future of work are looking for, no matter your career path or job.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is an invaluable soft skill. It’s about being able to think clearly and see the logical connection between ideas. Critical thinking is independently using structured problem solving to work through issues. It’s deploying logical reasoning when you get stuck. It’s the ability to question your own biases or those of others. It’s being reflective and knowing how to seek relevant, helpful information and sort the good from the bad.

Critical thinking is highly regarded in the workplace, which is why we’ll launch an Upskilling Micro on it soon.


Being able to clearly express your ideas, empathise with others and ask for clarification from colleagues is critical to succeeding in a collaborative workplace. Great communication is more important than ever when time is limited and digital devices and platforms are demanding more of our energy. Learning how to be an effective storyteller, ask the right questions and actively listen to others will help you succeed. 

If you’re interested, check out our FREE Foundations of Communication Upskilling Micro. In just 40 minutes you’ll learn skills to communicate more effectively in all areas of life.

Mental flexibility

No, you’re not expected to gain super power and be able to bend things with the power of your mind. But mental flexibility will unlock a new world of thinking. While AI and robots are great, they can’t ~yet~ replace creativity and imagination. Being adaptable and able to adopt a different perspective, or translating your wealth of knowledge into new areas is something a machine can’t do.

Building relationships

In work and life we’re surrounded by other people, so it pays to better understand those close to you and put effort into your relationships. It’s worth building up your emotional intelligence to a strong level and being around others and hearing their perspectives and stories will help you do this. From emotional soft skills such as empathy and humility, to social skills and learning how to inspire trust, relationships are key to life (and work).

Working as a team

Just as with above, working on your relationships and fostering strong emotional intelligence skills will help you better understand and work with others. Teamwork could just be called “work” because more often than not you will find yourself contributing as part of a team. Some soft skills for employability include learning how to resolve conflicts, how to motivate different personality types, how to coach or empower others, how to make people feel included and how to collaborate.


There’s a saying that you can't control other people, only how you react in the situation. It’s true, but while many of us might think we’re self-aware, only a small portion of us truly are. Upgrading your self-awareness takes time and work. You need to understand your own emotions and triggers at a deep level. You need to manage and regulate your emotions, learn and understand your strengths, operate with integrity and find self-motivation to keep going. Self-awareness and self-regulation are two other keys to strong emotional intelligence.


Yes, you’re told to believe in yourself but sometimes it feels harder than that. Whether you have good self-confidence or think you need to work on it, know that the research revealed that self-confidence was one of the top three soft skills linked to both high income and job satisfaction. Yes, it literally pays to believe in yourself.

RELATED CONTENT: 5 reasons to join one of our Upskilling Micros


No you don’t have to launch a unicorn start-up or add “entrepreneur” to your CV to adopt entrepreneurship as a soft skill. Entrepreneurship is about courage and taking risks. About being brave enough to drive change and encourage workplace innovation all while maintaining a strong passion, energy and optimism for the future.

Achieving goals

You know what all employers want? Someone who can run towards a goal. At a skills level, that’s someone who can take ownership for actions, make decisions and move forward with grit and perseverance. It’s someone who can hit a roadblock and work around it in order to achieve the goal in front of them.

Digital fluency

We live in a digital world and it’s complicated. Beyond software and trends changing every 30 seconds, there are skills to learn to navigate the digital space. This includes digital literacy and digital ethics, through to digital collaboration. A lot of people fumbled through that when COVID-19 hit and workplaces were forced to rapidly adapt. It means that now employees are expected to understand Zoom etiquette and team collaboration software too.

One of the recommendations from the research was skills based training programs, rather than occupation-based qualifications. The good news is, you don’t have to wait - you can dive into one of our FREE Upskilling Microprograms and earn badges that you can proudly show to future employers.

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