A lot has been made recently about the process of skill acquisition. Many companies and organizations have decided to step in with the intent of teaching young professionals life skills and soft skills. I was recently asked by a friend, “How do I know which skills are more important than the others?” My answer: look into the future. 

The difficult thing about teaching or learning anything is when you come to the realization that you may be preparing for a world that does not yet exist. The line I always heard from teachers growing up was, “…you have to show your work in math class because you won’t always have a calculator when you grow up.” Then the iPhone put Ms. Taylor to shame in 2007. Now, we all have calculators, virtual assistants and media companies in our pockets! The future was different than my teachers imagined it to be and it will be different than you imagine it to be. 

So, what skill should you learn that will keep you competitive in the unknown future? Communication. The rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence has made communication more important in today’s world and the world of tomorrow. Here is why:

We need people to be people.

Ten years ago, if you toured Google or Apple or Microsoft, you would find lots and lots of brilliant developers, coders, and computer scientists. I’m talking real brilliance too! Chances are, you wouldn’t see many of their eyes while you toured. It was commonplace for the most technological of companies to hire the best of the best, even if they could not communicate or deal with people. 

Today, if you take a trip to Google or Apple or Microsoft, one of their developers may meet you at the door and show you around. Why? Because the most innovative tech companies on planet earth are now requiring hiring managers to hire developers with “people skills.” They have learned the simple lesson that, as the world becomes more tech-driven, we need people to be human. Learning to communicate well is the first step. 

Communication is the key to success in every field.

It does not matter what you do, you need to communicate and do it well. Whether you are an entrepreneur giving a business pitch, a salesman, a teacher or a web developer you will need to communicate clearly with those around you. It will not go away. We will only look to do so more often and effectively. 

Public speaking skills are a differentiator. 

I believe that one of the greatest ways to differentiate yourself in the career market is to become a great public speaker and prove that you are great. By prove, I mean you need to find an event or function to display the public speaking skills you have or have learned. This could be a conference, an expo or a TED talk. But if you are adept at creating and sharing complex messages to all sorts of audiences you can really do damage in the job market. There is no greater resume boost than giving a TEDx talk! 

What next?

Next, you learn to communicate and practice as many times as you can. The best way to start is to ask a friend (a real one, not a yes man/woman), to give you honest feedback on your public speaking and communication. Next, be intentional about your practice. If you want to stop using verbal fillers in public, police yourself and be disciplined. Hire a coach! There are people who will work with you to improve your communication and public speaking. If you cannot afford a coach, use Orai! It is a free app that will be your virtual AI speech coach. 

Bottom line is that you should grow your communication skills. It is vital to your success in the future of work!