Every parent hopes their child will succeed in life. The type of success they wish for varies, but, in addition to becoming kind, engaged and productive members of society, most parents have a deep-seated wish for their child to do well in their career.
In the coming decade, most industries will be transformed by automation and robotics, making skills that set us apart from machines more important than ever. As robots and algorithms take over the vast majority of rote tasks, skills like creativity, adaptability and emotional intelligence will become essential for success.
But how do you develop these skills in your child? How do you set them up for success in the future?
Challenge them (and yourself)
Parents sometimes expect or wish for their child’s experience in life to follow their own, but the world of tomorrow will look radically different, and parents need to think outside the box and imagine what bold choices today will set their children up for the best possible future.
While formal education will continue to provide the intellectual framework for most careers, looking beyond it will become just as important. The ability to memorize and recite things – the focus of much formal schooling – will not be enough in a world where robots and algorithms do that much better than humans. An estimated 5 million jobs will be lost in the coming years alone according to a World Economic Forum report, and in most fields, the ability to think creatively and to learn continuously will become essential.
A creative and flexible mindset can be developed by challenging your child to broaden their horizons and learn new things continuously. If you never studied abroad, consider investing in your child’s ability to do so. If you never worked or volunteered in a country that was wholly different from your own, take the plunge and suggest it to your child. Respecting your child’s temperament and unique interests, challenge them with the opportunities you believe will prepare them for the dynamic future that lies ahead.
Teach them to adapt
Experiences that push your child outside their comfort zone will make them much better equipped to face the future.
On a practical level, being more adaptable sets young people up for a career that has no boundaries or limits. The best workplaces and teams of the future will be more fluid, remote and flexible than anything we can imagine today, and for that we need the best-prepared and most adaptable workforce.
Intellectually, being adaptable fosters the right kind of mental flexibility and self-confidence as well as a willingness to learn continuously and change career if needed. In fact, Jon Williams, the Joint Global Leader, People and Organisation at PwC encourages young people to think of themselves as “a bundle of skills and capabilities, not a defined role or profession.”
One of the most effective ways of developing adaptability as a skill set for your child is to have them study or work abroad; living in a new city, having to make new friends, and getting to know a new culture and a new way of doing things all foster a sense of openness that will serve them well.
Help them connect
The ability to connect across all kinds of barriers already sets apart the most successful leaders, scientist, business people and artists. Global problems require global solutions and tomorrow’s leaders will need to be even more emotionally, socially and culturally intelligent.
David Deming, associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, points out another reason why soft skills will matter even more in the future: As many tasks and jobs become automated, being able to combine technical know-how with advanced social skills will help people find the most rewarding opportunities.
Travel is a wonderful way to foster a sense of connection and develop advanced social skills, but studying or working abroad is always better. It gives your child a depth of understanding and experience that a short landmark tour cannot. It also gives them the opportunity to learn the local language – the most effective tool in building bridges to new cultures and new ways of thinking.
Studies have shown that the ability to speak two or more languages builds mental flexibility, strength and resilience. And with more than half of children being born today expected to live to 100 years of age, strategies that keep our minds nimble and young are more important than ever.
But foreign language skills offer more than that: The ability to communicate effectively and naturally with people from different corners of the world. As the de facto language of global business, ensuring your child learns English should be your first priority. English is spoken in 100 countries by an estimated 1.5 billion people and will likely remain the lingua franca in the decades to come. From science and medicine, to law and business, a strong command of the English language is essential for success. An early start matters less than a continued commitment to learning it, ideally in an English-speaking country where immersive learning can work its magic.
Celebrate their achievements
Parents should embrace change and celebrate growth; they are essential components of your child’s future success. Ensuring children do well in school and get into a good university are important, but so is looking beyond the obvious and into a rapidly changing world where creativity, adaptability, emotional intelligence and intercultural skills will matter more than ever.