Identify Your Employability Skills and Predict Your Future

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Where will the top 10 jobs be in 2020? Being in the middle of a transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based one that produces ideas and concepts, it’s hard to make accurate predictions. So, when it comes to planning a career and making decisions about education, you should focus on building a solid set of transferable employability skills [skills needed in many types of jobs] that guarantee you can move across different jobs and work settings.

The report Future Work Skills 2020, published in 2011 by the Institute for the Future, outlines ten skills and abilities that will be needed everywhere in the next ten years. These include sense-making [analyzing and understanding]; novel and adaptive thinking [being open to having new ideas, and adapting to change]; cross-cultural competency [the ability to work with people from other cultures]; computational thinking [the ability to think in mathematical terms]; new-media literacy [understanding of new forms of electronic mass-communication]; trans-disciplinarity [the ability to work in more than one discipline or field]; design mindset [thinking like a designer]; information management [keeping information easy to get and use]; virtual collaboration [the ability to work with others over the Internet]; and the ability to connect to others.

There are many lists like this one, with concepts that may lead you to believe you need a whole new degree, but really, unless their occupation is regulated most internationally trained professionals already have a solid knowledge base. All you need to do is understand the driving forces shaping the employment landscape. Because of changes like longer lifespans, new communication tools, new forms of production and profit, and a globally connected and computational world, the workplace today is more dynamic, and career paths are much less predictable. Having clear priorities and knowing what’s happening in your field is important to understanding what transferable skills you already have, and finding ways to get the ones you are missing.

Ruth Louden, Assistant Director, Career & Employment at University of Toronto Scarborough, advises students lacking hands-on work experience to start their job hunt by researching the industries and employers that interest them, to better understand how their skills fit. “The university provides a wonderful training ground for students to understand how to be effective in a university environment, but in the workplace there are very different expectations, norms, rules of behavior, and ways of communicating,” she says. “Students should think about deepening their understanding of both function and the industry they are thinking of transitioning to, so even if they haven’t had the actual experience, they are able to speak the language.”

M. Michelle Nadon, President & CEO of, provides career management and recruitment services for media and entertainment professionals. Nadon often works with well-qualified newcomers who are learning the language of the industry. “The best way to familiarize yourself with [learn] the vocabulary of the media industry is to read trade papers and reports; you read that and you’ve got the business language that you need… and that’s for any industry,” she says, and clarifies, “get to know the community of players, do research but also get out and network with associations related to your industry; this is the first thing you should do before you even start job hunting.”

Finding the right job for your skill set is easier when you’re prepared. “Employers will tell you, people approach them and they don’t have a business case, they don’t represent themselves properly, and they can’t outline their skills,” she says.

Nadon guides her clients through a job-search that looks at companies, the person’s skills and knowledge areas, and the business units where those skills and knowledge areas fit. Then she helps candidates create a strategy for approaching specific decision makers for a job. That’s how candidates can identify the types of companies they want to work with, how their skills fit, and the background information they need to confidently approach employers.

The power of being an immigrant

Immigrants face barriers, but when it comes to transferable skills like problem solving, adaptability, or cross-cultural competency, newcomers have the advantage over other job seekers.

“They need to understand the power of what it is they are doing,” says Louden. “They are coming to a new country, they are learning to adapt and develop a sense of independence that’s different from their Canadian peers, they bring flavor and perspective from wherever they come from, so they really need to validate those aspects that are wonderful about them when they go to meet face to face with the employers. There’s power in being an international student and an immigrant.”

An immigrant himself, with over 30 years of senior level executive search experience in Canada and internationally, George Preger is the President & CEO of People Talent Inc., and sits on the board of Skills for Change. Preger believes that highly trained newcomers can take advantage of their international experience and transferable skills, especially in those sectors where employee shortages exist.

“People Talent specializes in the Energy and Mining sectors, recruiting engineers, managers, and qualified blue-collar workers in Alberta, Colombia and Venezuela, so we have an international focus and know first hand that employers in this sector absolutely recognize immigrant workers’ transferable skills, and there is a push for the industry itself to have more power to select and nominate the immigrants they need to make their companies successful and competitive,” he explains.

He points out that there is intense international competition for qualified workers, so immigrants should be aware of how valuable their skills are for employers. “It’s not just about Canadians wanting to work with immigrants, but do immigrants want to work with us? Are we in a position to offer people meaningful jobs? Canada, as the host country, needs to be aware of this international competition, and immigrants should be able to take advantage of it,” he concludes.


Go to our sources
• To learn more about the skills of the future, visit
• To learn about the Conference Board of Canada employability skills, visit
• For more information about, visit their website or contact them at
• For more information about People Talent, visit, or contact them at

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