The writing’s on the wall. In 2022 and beyond, building a meaningful career and an efficient team will certainly take more than just technical skills. A future-ready workforce will need to be Smart Generalists.
The ugly truth is that hiring criteria have changed and gone are the days when just your degree was enough to get you a job. According to India Today, only 45.6% of the youth graduating from educational institutions are employable. 53% of firms expect to need very different skills in the next 5 years.
In the near future, jobs which rely heavily on tasks that can be automated are far more likely to be replaced than jobs which depend on a variety of skills – particularly skills which are difficult to automate. While people may assume that soft skills such as creativity are specific to architectecture or content marketing for example, that is not the case. An article in the Washington Post states “Of the eight most important qualities found in Google’s top employees, technical expertise came in last. All the top characteristics were soft skills.”
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), to thrive in today’s innovation-driven economy workers need competencies like collaboration, creativity, problem-solving and character qualities like persistence, curiosity and initiative. Furthermore, the WEF ranks Critical Thinking as the 2nd most needed skill to survive the rise of automation in the near future.
Popularly, young companies prefer hiring specialists, but why is that counter-intuitive? Specialists are by nature – biased whereas a Smart Generalist is open to experimentation which is one of the most important things in the early stages of your company. What Smart Generalists lack in technical skills, they make up for in curiosity, passion and natural talent.
Guy Berger, Chief Economist at LinkedIn and his team conducted an analysis of over 2.3 million profiles to help determine which skills were most sought-after among employers. Topping the list were smart communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creative problem solving. For all the talk about how leadership and management skills are important, it’s really the more fundamental skills like collaboration and communication that matter the most, that employers demand the most. Even
In simple terms, a Smart Generalist is someone who is not limited by his or her technical competence and has the ability to operate outside their specialization. They’re the Wild Card with the X-factor who solves problems, connects dots and advances in projects like nobody else.
A Facebook employee is quoted to have said “If I’ve learned one thing from working at one of the world’s most successful startups, it’s to think like an entrepreneur, no matter what your job or where you work.” Interestingly, a curious and entrepreneurial mindset is a muscle that grows and becomes stronger the more you exercise and use it.
According to Times of India, “Of their total workforces Uber laid off about 25%, Airbnb laid off 25% and Zomato laid off about 13%.” Companies are letting go of thousands of employees, retaining only those who can deliver growth. What is the difference between being fired and being retained? The X-factor.
So what does a Smart Generalist look like?
- Has a positive mindset
- Has ability to adapt to any workplace scenario and can think out of the box
- Applies an entrepreneurial approach to work
- Is an efficient collaborator and creative problem solver
- Will perform functions beyond technical skills
- Has high emotional intelligence
- Is skilled at negotiation
- Is resource-aware
- Thinks two steps ahead
- Isn’t afraid to make compromises and take decisions
Barbara Corcoran, an Investor at Shark Tank says “Storytelling is everything. Show me your MBA and your sales numbers, that’s fine. But tell me a great story and we’ll talk. Your degree is your capability but what will make you indispensable is coupling this capability with your creativity.
Smart Generalists are resourceful and driven enough to solve almost any problem, not bound by their degree. Their insatiable curiosity allows them to have the vision that companies look for and to have the ability to create a story.
Lastly – Steve Jobs famously said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”
So…what are you curious about?