Unchanging skills in the changing world

A student asked: “Since Technical skills are changing fast because of advanced technologies continue to evolve. Are there skills that do not change? Besides technical skills, what other skills that I need to learn to be successful in my career? Please advise.”

Answer: There are several skills that never changes. The most important is “lifelong learning.” As long as you are willing and able to learn new things. You will do well no matter what changes in the technical area or the job market. Of course, lifelong learning requires self-motivation and self-learning. You need to enjoy learning and want to learn more. Effective self-learning requires that you learn by reading, listening, practicing, and experiencing. There is a lot of information available around you such as books, articles, blogs, and online courses. The key is to learn relevant and meaningful information then develop this into knowledge and skills.

As students, you need to develop the ability to think analytically, which includes the ability to compare, contrast, evaluate, and synthesize materials without any guidance. You must learn to look at any information from multiple views, not a simple one dimension view as in linear thinking. Having multiple views will allow you to see the total picture so you can organize, classify and synthesize all information and understand the complexity of the problems BEFORE come up with a solution.

Having critical thinking skill will help you to solve complex problems. As technologies are advancing, there will be much more problems, most of them are complex. If you can develop effective solutions to solve these problems, you will succeed. Today, in school, most problems in class are simple but you need to challenge yourselves by looking for more complex problems to solve. There are many good examples of complex problems on the Internet that you can learn. You should not be afraid of making mistakes but learn from mistakes to develop better skills to solve complex problems.

As students, you must learn to communicate effectively and share information with others. Many students think communication is limited to talking, writing, or presenting but it is about the relationship among people. It represents who you are as individuals in a relationship with others, Communication skills also include the ability to listen attentively to others, to understands their view, and respects their contribution. Most of all, relationship means be kind to others and have empathy in every situation.

As students, you must learn how to collaborate with others in a teamwork environment. All technical works are teamwork, and in the near future, team members could come from many places or countries. Team members can talk to others via phone, skype, text, post, email, chat, etc. Basically, collaboration is an essential part of all future works. It is an essential skill that you must develop NOW, which includes the ability to communicate in a foreign language. (Today, most works are conducted in English, so knowing English is very important.)

One of the main factors of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is most of the works will be done where the skilled workers live. As global companies are expanding to many parts of the world, works will be distributed all over the world. Therefore, you will need to learn a foreign language to take advantage of this trend. As you work for these companies, you may not see your team members who live halfway across the world, but you should be able to work with them on a daily basis. Therefore, the ability to collaborate and communicate is critical.

As many of you will work for a global company, you need to develop your responsibility, accountability, as well as empathy, tolerance, and global awareness so you can work well with others and contribute to the company. By being helpful, and caring individual in all interaction with others, you will do well and develop your career successfully.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University