EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

Future Proof for 2020: Do You Have the Top 5 Sustainability Skills to Survive?

by Shannon Houde

Last year, the World Economic Forum produced a report on the ‘Future of Jobs’, in which they outlined the 10 skills we’ll all be needing by 2020. I was revisiting this report recently for an executive coaching project I’m working on, and got to thinking about what their projections mean for the sustainability jobs market. How can sustainability professionals be 2020-ready? How can organizations future-proof their hiring strategies? 

sustainability skills

Image © Ran Berkovich via Unsplash.

It’s clear that the trends the report identifies are being felt already: cloud computing, mobile internet and big data are changing the way we do our jobs. By 2020, it predicts that the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ will be here, with robotics, artificial intelligence and automation making some roles obsolete. Admin, manufacturing and construction jobs will sink, while business, financial operations and management will rise. And the work itself will change as geopolitics, consumer ethics, climate change and access to scarce natural resources become increasingly material to corporate strategies.  

These technological and socio-economic contexts present significant staffing challenges for CEOs. As Susan Winterberg at BSR says, “business leaders … must tackle how to take advantage of the productivity and innovation opportunities presented by automation technologies while also ensuring a smooth workforce transition.” The successful jobseekers of the future will be the ones who anticipate these trends, and the successful businesses of the future will be the ones that are hiring and upskilling in line with them. 

DON'T MISS OUT
ON MORE FREE TIPS

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up

In such a dynamic business environment, it goes without saying that the sustainability sector will have to adapt and evolve in tandem. Those of us working in the field need to prepare now to ensure our careers are 2020-ready, and boards and HR teams need to get their house in order to guarantee their edge in the fight for talent. Here are five of the most important skills for future that we all need to take note of now, with a sustainability lens:
Designing solutions to meet complex challenges will be the Number 1 activity of the future sustainability professional

Complex problem solving 

This is probably the most important skill to have on your CV by 2020. Designing solutions to meet complex challenges will be the Number 1 activity of the future sustainability professional, even more so than it is now. Problems will occur across multiple business-critical areas, sometimes out of nowhere, and companies will need people who are ready, willing and able to respond effectively. Start thinking about how you can hone your problem solving abilities in your current position and look for ways to evidence them on your CV for your next role.   Best not to call it “problem solving” on your CV as that is vague.  But show the reader with an accomplishment statement of what you did and how.

Critical thinking (and innovation)

This connects to problem solving above, but it’s distinct, in that it describes the ability to ask the right questions from a variety of different perspectives and to really interrogate the options. It also implies a solid understanding of the business landscape, as well as the trends in technology, science and socio-economics.  Bringing that macro-level view down to the micro-level of decision-making and picking apart the assumptions and biases will add serious value to your offer as a sustainability professional. Again prove this to the reader in a solid accomplishment statement or two that shows how you have challenged the status quo and can think with an innovation lens on. 

Creativity (and adaptability) 

This is something no machine can do. Creativity is crucial in telling and selling sustainability stories, both internally and externally, which you need to do if you want to inspire people and have them follow on the journey. The best sustainability professionals take a creative approach to their work and understand its role in translating complex messages for diverse audiences (I talk about sustainability communications in greater depth in this post). But there’s more to it than simply storytelling. It’s about the way you respond to change too, how adaptable you are, as Alex Grey at WEF points out: “With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.” 

Negotiation (and influencing) 

This one isn’t new, but it is more crucial than ever. How do you expect to broker change if you can’t negotiate effectively? Being able to strike difficult compromises with internal and external stakeholders requires a robust rationale and a titanium-strong evidence base, as well as influence. Some people are born with an innate ability to negotiate, and lucky them! For the rest of us, it’s something we learn in the heat of the fire. If you are yet to develop this side of your professional practice then look out for a senior mentor who you can shadow at meetings. Great negotiation skills can really set you apart in the jobs market, so commit to enhancing yours. 

Emotional intelligence 

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has been on the radar of the corporate talent agenda for many years since 1995 when Daniel Goleman wrote a book by the same.  Just look at all the mindfulness courses and CPD modules that major companies like Google are offering their employees (I wrote a post on this recently). They understand the importance of being able to keep your ego in check and empathize with other people, especially when things are fraught and solutions seem hard to find. EQ is also connected to the ability to coordinate with others and manage teams of people, which are crucial skills when moving towards a common goal. Evidencing these more subtle qualities on a CV can be tricky, so look for tangible proof points to highlight in your personal achievement statements. 

If you’d like some bespoke help getting your CV 2020-ready, check out my website www.walkoflifeconsulting.com. I also work with organizations to future-proof their HR strategies and upskill teams – find my executive coaching services here www.walkoflifeleaders.com.

This article was originally published on Triple Pundit.

comments

You may also like...

Podcast: Hays Worldwide – How to Find Meaning in Your Work

Shannon joins Hays Worldwide for their Career Advice Podcast to talk about doing Good Work. You can listen to the podcast on your favourite channel or listen to the full episode here: DON’T MISS OUTON MORE FREE TIPS Sign Up For Our Newsletter Sign up If you’d like some help to do more Good Work, you can book a 30 minute trial session here to discuss your challenges and objectives in more detail.

By Shannon Houde
6 reasons why it’s ok to hate networking

It might be billed as one of the best ways to get ahead but in reality, relentless networkers end up making more enemies than friends. Is there anything worse than that person who LOVES networking? We’ve all met them. There you are standing at a conference minding your own business when they barrel in, reel off their resume, drop a few high powered names and thrust a business card (“it’s new, embossed, cost a fortune”) into your hand. DON’T MISS

By Shannon Houde
The Big Picture: Sustainable Food And Career Choices

Shannon was thrilled to be featured in Forbes as part of Erik Kobayashi-Solomon’s My Big Picture column. My Big Picture articles focus on making sensible choices in the resource-constrained Anthropocene world in which we live. Some of these articles deal with wonkier topics related to economics and resource usage; some (like the one you are reading now) concern topics related to managing our lives on a day-to-day basis in the Age of Climate Change. Executive Summary The Netflix documentary Seaspiracy offers a

By Shannon Houde
career
How to get a career in sustainability: hard work, talent and perseverance

You’ve seen the light. After a decade as an accountant or sales manager or marketing executive, you decide a career in corporate sustainability is the thing for you. And why not? The power of business can potentially help to resolve some of the most taxing social and environmental issues of the day. Being part of that promises plenty of exciting development and brain-twisting challenges along the way; not to mention the quiet satisfaction that derives from doing a job that

By Shannon Houde

NEED SOME SUPPORT?

Book a 30-minute trial session with Shannon

BOOK A TRIAL