Insight, critical thinking, resilience, team work, powerful communication, time management and creativity are crucial to be successful

The pace of change has accelerated tremendously. The digital revolution where information is free and easily available has changed the rules. An IBM ad says more information is created every day than that which currently exists in all the libraries in the USA put together. Access to this information is easy too — Internet on mobile, great search engines etc. Take some of these examples of rapid change: in 2006 there were 2.5 billion Google searches every month; in 2008 it was 30 billion; now there are 100 billion. The number of Internet-enabled devices in 1984 was 1000; in 1992, One million; in 2008, One Billion; in 2103 it is expected to be over One trillion! The amount of technical information is doubling every two years — so what students in an engineering college learn in their first year of study will be outdated in their third.

The future working world is going to be a rapidly changing one. We cannot expect our current students to have a “job for life” or do the same type of role all their life. The U.S. department of labour expects the average worker to have more than 10 jobs by the time he/she reaches 40. This holds true for India as well as the number of opportunities available has exploded already and will be far greater in a few years. A recent video clip I saw about the future job market said “We are preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist, using technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems we do not yet know are problems.”

So in this rapidly changing world, where most of what students learn in school and college will be irrelevant to their work later on, what can students do now to best prepare for success? This is where understanding the real requirements for success comes into play. There are seven characteristics that we have identified as requirements for success after extensive interviews with leaders in Industry in various fields. These are generalisations across different industries and different levels of people, but this holds true for the majority of us. These are characteristics that have stood the test of time and are applicable immaterial of the field you choose to enter — these are the foundation stones for success. Of course, as with any generalisation, I am sure there will be remarkable exceptions to these.

Characteristics for success

Think incisively to solve the most complex problems to arrive at actionable recommendations — Critical thinking

Go beyond what exists and what is known to develop new methods and ideas — Creativity

Communicate those ideas powerfully to motivate and enthuse people from varied backgrounds — Powerful communication

Work with teams of people and get them to unite behind proposed ideas — Team work

Bounce back from adversity when it strikes — Resilience

Identify the most important issues and allocate time appropriately — Time management

Have the humbleness to accept negative feedback and change accordingly — Insight & responsiveness

Parents and education institutions need to consciously help students to imbibe these critical factors for success. It is not as easy as taking a book and teaching these to students. The learning has to come from experiences, working with people from different backgrounds and interacting with peers from varied walks of life. For the young adult who has these seven characteristics, the opportunities for success are innumerable. And these opportunities are not limited to one field alone – these success factors will stand them in good stead even when they want to move from one country to another or from one field to another. These success factors are firm bed rocks in this rapidly changing world to which students and young adults can firmly anchor to.

The writer is director, Thinking Palm’s Pathways Program.