The Only Three Skills That Will Matter In 2020 And Onward

Recently, I was speaking with a group of students at Columbia University. One brilliant student asked a simple question: “What are the most important skills for anyone to learn to have a great career in 2020 and onward?”


I struggled for a short while and then summarized them as selling, building and financing. Let’s take a look at each of these skills and break down the best ways to bolster them in the coming months — and years.



Whether you are new to the job market, in the middle of your career or working as a CEO, you must learn to sell. You are always selling to your boss, your customers, your peers and even your team. If you want any growth in any career, you have no choice but to learn to sell. This can be digital marketing or 100 other subsectors of digital marketing.


Lots of technology folks tend to believe that there is no need to learn sales skills. There’s this myth that conjures the illusion of a geeky Silicon Valley coder conquering the world with just their coding skills. The truth is, even they will have to sell to customers to investors.


Any professional can start learning sales skills easily. Unknowingly, we are always selling. It can be our ideas, our demands or just our day-to-day negotiations with family members, friends or colleagues. Start by becoming aware that your everyday transactions are also sales processes.


From there, the best thing to learn is the AIDA model. The acronym stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. With this simple approach, you can learn the fundamentals of selling and boost your career opportunities. This is especially useful for those who want to negotiate their salaries. Asking for higher compensation is also a sales skill.



The careers of the future will be fraught with a tsunami of automation. If you are not excellent at building something, either a product or service, your career options will be very limited. So, learn to code or to design a product, or learn engineering to make something. The more you know about the product or service of your company, the better. There are some instances where it’s argued one may need to be a generalist instead of a specialist. But in reality, every field needs an expert. As we progress deeper into the perfect storm of outsourcing, automation and the gig economy, the need for super specialists will become apparent.


All professionals must have some knowledge of what their company is building. Many times, people who have worked in companies for a number of years will not even be aware of their own companies’ products. Professionals need to learn and get their hands dirty. If your employer is a financial services company, you may want to learn about how derivatives work or how bonds are written. If you work for a software company, you should learn the basics of the latest technologies your company is adapting.


The easiest way to get on this bandwagon is to recruit reverse mentors. This is very important for midlevel and senior professionals, who can recruit college students or newly employed professionals as reverse mentors. These younger people can bring you up to speed in the latest and greatest. Remember, knowledge can come from anywhere. The younger the reverse mentor, the more you tend to learn.

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