3 Qualities to get young people hired

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting closer to creating a computer that’s equivalent in intelligence to human beings. Google’s Ray Kurzweil predicts this could be as early as 2029. Elon Musk believes it will happen in the next five years.

When it happens, we’ll see exponential growth in technological evolution on scales we can’t imagine today, which will have significant implications for most professions.

Quantum computing and advanced software will perform tasks in minutes that normally take highly skilled specialists months of planning and thinking to achieve.

At the same time, we’re faced with more complex challenges, including climate change, responsible resource consumption, and sustainability for future generations.

As a result, there’s a new generation of specialists emerging; people who can connect the dots, communicate clearly, and think outside the box to bring about real change.

With that in mind, here are three complementary skills that the youth should develop to improve their chances of getting hired to do meaningful work.

Conscious collaborators

Diversity is everything in the workplace. It encourages bigger-picture thinking and forces us to challenge our beliefs and worldviews and to respect, accept, and appreciate the perspectives and experiences of people from different backgrounds.

Workplaces and communities are changing, and teams will naturally become more diverse as globalisation continues to dissolve physical and geographical boundaries. More women are taking on leadership roles in traditionally male-dominated industries, and more young people are becoming decision-makers in their firms. You need to be able to talk to and work with people from all walks of life.

Hone this skill:

Get out of your comfort zone. Try to meet people from different genders, races, backgrounds, and sexual orientations. Ask someone you wouldn’t usually talk to what they think. This will help you find new mentors and confidants.
Take off the blinkers. Keep an open mind during these engagements and try to appreciate the unique perspectives these people bring to your work. If something doesn’t make sense to you, keep asking ‘why’ until it does.
Different thinking matters, especially when we add in the competing challenges faced in South Africa, including infrastructure degradation, rising inequality, and a decreasing standard of living, particularly for poorer households and rural communities. To truly understand how we can make a difference in these people’s lives, we must understand their points of view. The worst thing we can do is assume we know better.

Compelling communicators

Fifty years ago, recruiters might have looked for people with the most advanced technical skills. Today, knowledge of the latest technology is not enough – instead, it’s complementary to the mindset, people, and niche skills that everyone needs today.

How you engage with and get buy-in from multiple stakeholders, for example, could make or break a project or business relationship. Success is often determined by how well you communicate – from gaining buy-in at the outset to ensuring clear communication throughout the project and beyond.

And because there are many decision-makers in stakeholder groups, it has never been more important to set a vision, explain complicated details in simple terms, and keep everyone on the same page.

Hone this skill:

Become a better communicator. Read books, listen to podcasts, and register for free online courses on communication best practices in business.
Practice. Grab opportunities to present during internal engagements and speak up in meetings. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Imitate the greats. Look at the influencers and speakers in your company and industry. Why do you enjoy listening to them? What do they do differently? Take note and put these strategies into action.
Internal collaboration and communication are becoming increasingly crucial for success, especially when you’re working in diverse teams.

Lifelong learners

It might be comforting to feel like you’ve reached an ‘expert level’ at what you do. However, regardless of how much experience you have, you must be comfortable with feeling like a beginner and have a strong desire to keep learning.

Hone this skill:

Cultivate a growth mindset. Explore industries and topics that fall outside of your chosen field, but that also impact what you do. Study anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and art, and understand the interconnections and interactions between them.
Learn from others. Learning from colleagues in the same and different departments is essential. This involves a willingness to be vulnerable, to ask for help, and to have the courage to say, “I don’t know the answer; can you help?”.
Share your knowledge. Be aware of the “curse of knowledge,” a cognitive bias that happens when you assume the person you are talking to already knows enough to understand what you mean.

Learning is no longer linear; the most successful will be those who can learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Final word

The youth have an opportunity to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. This requires you to be continually curious and to learn about things unrelated to your domain knowledge.

We need young people who know what’s happening in the world, can work efficiently with all kinds of people, grasp opportunities, and take the initiative to speak up and challenge the status quo – especially as technology takes on more of the grunt work.

Patricia van Wyk is Head of People, Culture and Communications at RoyalHaskoningDHV. Royal HaskoningDHV is an independent, international engineering and project management consultancy with 140 years of experience and 6 000 colleagues across the globe. In 2022, Royal HaskoningDHV is celebrating 100 years in South Africa. PHOTO: Supplied

Patricia van Wyk/George Herald