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The Two Most Important Skills For Long-Term Success

The Two Most Important Skills For Long-Term Success

Ageism is a very real fear for many of the women who I coach. Some are afraid that they’re too old to make a change in their career. Others worry about being unemployable in the imminent future because of their age. And these aren’t just women in their third act. Some of these women are only in their THIRTIES!

Whatever your age, the bigger concern we need to focus on is the changing nature of work. We’re shifting more toward a contract, gig economy, and technology - including artificial intelligence - is rapidly changing the nature of many professions.

[Related: Blatant Ageism in Tech: Why You Should Hire Employees over 50]

In light of these changes, there are two skills that will be increasingly important: empathy and critical thinking.

A 2018 Accenture study supports this notion. The study found that for almost every single role in the future, a combination of complex reasoning, creativity, socio-emotional intelligence, and sensory perception skills is critical for success.

The study also found that today’s education and training systems are ill-equipped to build these skills. That’s because these are the type of skills that are acquired from experience and practice, usually over many years.

This bodes well for older, experienced workers (and even for you younger workers in your thirties). You’re in an excellent position to leverage the wisdom and learnings you’ve acquired over you career. You can use your experiences - the successes and the failures - as a framework from which to make decisions and to help you better understand other people’s motivations and behaviors.

[Related: Tips For Landing A Job Over 40: Put The 3 P’s To Work]

I see some women doing this very well. They have high emotional intelligence, exceptional communication skills, sound judgment, and are extremely adaptable.

I also see some women who struggle with this. When you struggle in this area, you may misread situations or people. This can lead to contention, passive aggressive behavior, and arguments. You may find yourself marginalized or sidelined from the action at work. Your colleagues may feel it’s easier to move forward without you rather than include you in the decision-making.

These situations SUCK. The good news is that it IS possible to work on these softer skills. You can become a stronger communicator and more empathetic. You can get better at reading other people and situations so you can understand what drives them. You can learn how to think more critically and improve how you make decisions.

I support women in strengthening these softer skills all the time. You’re not too old. You’re not doomed to be marginalized or misunderstood. You CAN build the empathy and critical thinking skills to help you rock the future of work.

[Related: Confessions of a Baby Boomer]


Elena Lipson is the Principal and Founder of Mosaic Growth Partners, a consulting and coaching firm based in Washington, D.C.

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