To survive the 21st century you need 21st century skills.

Marjorie, a senior manager, recently asked me how to insert photos into Gmail, and how to align images in Microsoft Word. Credit to her for asking, but it’s something she could have found the answers on Google if she’d asked.

Without skills, you’ll be forever sitting on the sidelines while others make decisions for you.

My later mother in law said she had never learnt to drive because ‘there were three others in the house who could drive’. But because of that she was vulnerable. When she was left on her own, she was dependent on the rural buses which were infrequent and dropped her with her shopping bags 100m away from her house.   

When in Alicante I saw piles of British newspapers in the newsagents, and heard ex-pat Brits speaking English to the locals, not bothering to learn the language.

It’s not just tech skills you need. Some of the most valuable skills include:

How to search. This means knowing how to ask Google the right questions, and how to re-phrase a question so the stupid machine understands you.

If you don’t use a computer much, you need to engage with them.

The required skills keep changing, especially as technology gives us new ways of doing things. Once you fall too far behind, it’s easy to give up. But that’s a dangerous situation.

At time of writing, voice activated controls are becoming more common. You can switch on lights in your house by commanding the house to do so. I that important, when you can use a light switch? Not vital. But the time will come when the office door or ATM is voice activated. Staying up with technology keeps you up to date. 

What skills do you need?

  • Thinking skills: Critical thinking
  • Creativity. Problem solving. Innovation skills.
  • Perseverance. Self-direction.
  • Social skills. Collaboration. Communication skills. Emotional intelligence.
  • Information literacy. Technology skills and digital literacy
  • Basic maths ad literacy
  • Citizenship. Civic literacy. Social responsibility. Global awareness. Media literacy.

Six ways to acquire skills

1. Online articles. There are articles about everything under the sun. Often they’re from an individual’s experience, which can be a good or a bad thing.  

2. Youtube. Ideal for step-by-step skills, notably through demonstration.

3. Free online courses. These vary in quality, and are sometimes but not always designed to lure you into paid content. Sometimes they tell you the What but not the How. In other words, they will explain what you should do but not how to do it.

4. Paid online courses. They’re liable to be of better quality and bigger content than free ones. 

5. Local courses. Your local college is likely to offer all manner of courses, from learning Spanish to basket weaving. Some are more useful than others, but any form of learning is challenging and makes you stronger.

6. Friends and family. Children are sometimes more skilled than their parents, and a lot more skilled than their grandparents. It’s not uncommon to hear someone saying, ‘I got my son to fix my phone’. But be careful not to become reliant on them. It’s more important to take ownership of a problem. That means using the phrase: ‘Show me how to do that. What did you do?’

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.