We have no idea what the rapid technological development, the so-called fourth industrial revolution will bring upon us in the next decades. There is only one certainty: we will need a new set of skills to find our place in the future.

Do you look at elderly people struggling to find the right button on their phones to send pictures of their newly purchased, blossoming orchids to their children or grandchildren with a somewhat forgiving smile and a hint of smuggery knowing that a similar situation would never ever happen to you? Well, don’t be so sure. Twenty years ago they did not think that they have to learn how to deal with touch screens either – as the latter did not even exist back then.

According to the research conducted by the World Economic Forum, in 2020, over one-third of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed. Based on their estimate, the need for creativity, emotional intelligence, critical thinking or complex problem solving will top the “market of necessary skills”, while the development of artificial intelligence and big data analysis will render decision-making or negotiation skills obsolete.

Top Ten Skills - World Economic Forum

When mind-blowing technological advancements such as advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics become inalienable part of our lives, we will certainly have to adopt and change with them.

People often ask me after my talks whether we will get replaced by technologies in the future and how can we prepare for the next decades. I believe that many jobs will be taken over by robots and automation in the coming years. If people whose jobs are replaced cannot acquire new skills or improve their existing ones, they will no longer have a job. Given this possibility we must constantly question what our best individual skills are and what we can do to improve them. Let’s make sure to attend to those skills that make us irreplaceable.

As I’m thinking a lot about the coming “brave new world”, and I also try to figure out what comes next, here are some of my experiences and my best preparation strategies for the coming years so you can re-invent yourself as I do regularly.

1) Digital literacy is for your future what air is for breathing

The necessity for digital literacy at the moment and in the future is as evident as the fact that you get sunburnt when lying in the sun for too long. It is impossible to imagine life without computers, phones or the Internet with the capital I. In my introductory presentation for my course entitled social media in medicine, I remind students that during the course of one average day, 294 billion e-mails are sent, 2 million blog posts are written, 172 million different people visit Facebook, 532 million statuses are updated and 864 000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. And these numbers will further increase in the future.

Digital Literacy - Future Skills

Besides being omnipresent, the digital terrain has another persistent characteristic: it changes constantly. Thus, not only should everyone familiarize with the basics of the digital world, but also the tech-savvy should pay attention to changes and keep pace with the rapid development of the online space. It also makes sense to learn the basics of coding, for which I can whole-heartedly recommend codecadamy.com., where you can acquire fundamental skills interactively and for free.

2) What will you need in the world of rational calculations? Empathy

Artificial Intelligence already has the capacity to go over millions of medical documents within seconds and suggest a treatment plan to the patient – however it cannot empathize with the sufferer and it simply cannot replace the “human touch”. And in the world where robots, algorithms and mechanical, programmed creatures will become more and more wide-spread, empathy will be one of the most significant trait of humans.

Empathy - Future Skills

The ability to understand, be aware of, sensitive to and vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another person will be highly valued. With a touch of empathy, you understand the needs of your customers at work better, you have less trouble dealing with interpersonal conflict at home or at work, you are able to more accurately predict the actions and reactions of people you interact with and you convince others of your point of view. If you want to be a person of the future, start to upgrade your empathy skill-set.

3) Networking goes online

Do you feel uncomfortable at formal receptions and do you have the impression that small talk is an art you will never truly master? Then the future can sound so much more enticing to you! In a couple of years, people will need to build their network significantly at the online level as well – where you will need creativity, imagination and top notch writing skills. I believe that after a while ratio of online and offline networking will even shift towards the former. And the reason is as plain as daylight: you will need to initiate and manage international contacts and co-operations, and since it is most of the time difficult to arrange a personal meeting the other party being somewhere in Atlanta while you are sitting in your London office, everyone will be available online – so just at the touch of the screen of your phone.

Networking Goes Online - Future Skills

4) Crowds are your source of information

The term was coined in 2005, and means the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially an online community, rather than from employees or suppliers. For me, the use of new media in the form of crowdsourcing actually gives me wings for doing my job. The information of over 300 medical journals, news sites and blogs gets into my filter every day and my main communities (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) help me find only the most important ones. It saves me an incredible amount of time as I don’t have to watch my channels article by article and also gives me a clear picture about which article is important that day which I should read. I believe that crowdsourcing will become the beacon in the ocean of information in the future.

Crowdsourcing - Future Skills

5) Learning languages

As the saying goes, learning a foreign language equals to getting another personality. There is no need for stressing how important the study of another language is, to get acquainted with a different culture, a different way of thinking and previously not known historical facts. I believe that the importance of languages will not diminish with the passing of time, only the means of acquiring knowledge change. Look at the popular app, Duolingo, which offers language lessons from Japanese to Turkish in many languages. It is easy to use, free, fun and science-based. If you have not tried it yet, start to learn a language tomorrow with Duolingo. Comment tu t’appelle?

Languages - Future Skills

6) Improving cognitive capabilities

I cannot stress enough the importance of the constant improvement of cognitive capabilities. According to the research conducted by the World Economic Forum, by 2020 complex problem solving and critical thinking will top the list for the most required skills. And there are tons of methods for keeping your brain fit. For example, I recommend the use of Elevate and Lumosity apps. Both are collections of brain training games you can play on any device with the purpose to improve comprehension, focus and self-confidence. The companies have claimed these games enhance brain functions, pointing to findings in neuroscience and scientific studies.

Cognitive Capabilities - Future Skills

7) Bring the lecture halls of top universities and fabulous discussions to your home

Also, you can visit the YouTube channels of the most acclaimed universities, where you can peak into their research, their discoveries or their latest innovation. Another great source for online trainings and courses is the MOOC-list which means a lengthy list of massive open online courses aimed at unlimited participation in various topics, usually free of costs. Coursera or Khan Academy also works based on similar principles. If you are more into podcasts, Stitcher is the site and app for you. It offers thousands of trending podcasts organized according to various topics and interests.

Future of University Learning - Future Skills

8) Become a bit of a futurist yourself

And last but not least, for mastering the art of critical thinking and sound judgement, I recommend you to visit Good Judgement, where you can gratify your passion towards predicting the future and thinking about various likelihoods of events. Questions vary from guessing how many people will vote in the 2016 presidential election until about the merchandise value of Iran’s imports and exports.

We need to work on the skills that make us exceptional human beings. So when it comes to a battle between technology and us, we have the right upgraded skills to find our place where we can get the most out of our potential while enjoying it.

Free guide and infographic: 40 trends of the future of medicine