I came across this infographic on the “Top 10 skills for the successful 21st-century worker” from the University of Phoenix a while back and, while it’s an infographic meant to promote the school, I think it makes some interesting points about what companies and institutions want adults to bring to the table. I think a lot about this since I spend a great deal of my professional life training professional adults returning to school after a long absence in how to utilize so-called online/digital tools of the 21st Century. What’s interesting is I think they already possess so many of the skills this infographic mentions, and I see it as my duty to remind them of this and point this out to them. It’s all about empowerment. So many of them come back to school worried that they won’t know how to use the computer as well as their younger “adult-in-training” classmates. And maybe they don’t, but it’s so much easier to learn those skills than it is to develop critical thinking, leadership, good communication, analysis and synthesis, and productivity skills. Those “higher order” skills are only earned with experience. I see these returning adult professionals as powerhouses who have earned these success skills over time and now they’re coming back to hone that “adaptability” and “innovation” piece: to become more digitally fluent, and learn some of the online tools that will help them become even more empowered and powerful in the workplace.
And whether we’re talking about already professional adults or younger adults-in-training, it really isn’t about the latest bells-and-whistles or the most cutting edge new online tool. Though certainly there ARE some wonderful cutting edge tools worth knowing about and mastering as they will only help you be better at what you already do. But truly, it’s about how those tools can enhance the skills these people already have and make them more efficient, well-informed professionals. I think it’s incredibly important to weave examples and reminders of these “higher order” skills into any training or instruction you do with professionals or students (heck: maybe we can also find ways to weave these skills, and support of these skills, into our online tools as well). We all know that online tools and interfaces change, as well they should, and must therefore be re-learned. But the higher order skills in this infographic will ALWAYS serve those who posses them, and will help them continue to learn, grow, and be productive.