Do You Have the 21st Century Skills Today’s Employers Are Seeking? (2023)

Do You Have the 21st Century Skills Today’s Employers Are Seeking? (1)

As technology progresses at a dizzying speed, so does the world of the work. Every year it seems there’s some new technology, skill or device professionals are scrambling to master. This steady influx of new tech and skills to master can make it feel like you’ll never catch up.

Though you can’t anticipate the technology that’s not yet on the market, you can prepare for career success by focusing on the fundamental skills needed to navigate these fast changing times—what some have dubbed “21st century skills.” These are the transferrable “soft” skills that can be applied in a variety of settings an can help you as you master more technical skills.

Though the software or tools you use to perform your job will likely change in the next five, ten or twenty years, the soft skills you develop will last a lifetime. Let’s dive in to what 21st century skills are, why they’re important and how you can develop many of them in yourself.

What are 21st century skills?

In short, these are the broad skills and abilities needed to be successful in modern society. Over the years, groups of educators, academics and governmental agencies have worked to identify and promote these foundational skills in order to prepare the workforce for what’s to come. While you may see small variations in how 21st century skills are described and defined from group to group, they fundamentally fall into three categories:

  • Learning skills: The skills used to process and communicate information. This includes creativity, critical thinking ability, collaboration and communication.
  • Literacy skills: These are the skills employed to develop savvy and informed researchers and thinkers. This includes information literacy, media literacy, technology literacy—all of which focus on your ability to evaluate and process new information, particularly information found online.
  • Life skills: The skills needed create a well-round individual that can thrive both in their personal and work lives. This includes adaptability, leadership, initiative, efficiency and social skills.

9 Essential 21st century skills for any career

Clearly 21st century skills can cover a lot of ground—and while all are worth developing, you may be looking for a way to narrow your focus. We asked career professionals to identify what they believe are the most important soft skills for employees today.

1. Creativity

Creativity is key for many industries and positions in the 21st century. Any company or industry in need of innovation should be searching for employees with loads of creativity. The ability to think outside of the box allows companies to adapt to changing markets and find innovative ways to resolve potential problems.

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If you often feel stuck when brainstorming or problem-solving, don’t worry—creativity can be cultivated. Staying up-to-date with news and trends within your industry and others can get your creative juice flowing. “I do a lot of reading and encourage my team members to do the same. It keeps us energized, integrated and creative,” says Michael Stahl, executive vice president and CMO at HealthMarkets.

2. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the key to students and employees coming to logical and well-reasoned conclusions. Well-developed critical thinking skills help us objectively analyze a situation, weigh options and identify potential outcomes to any decision.

It’s not hard to see how this ability can be valuable in life—and employers certainly appreciate an employee who is forward-thinking enough to predict and plan for future problems before they’ve even happened.

“If you can start to think in that way, you’ll be a valuable asset to any employer,” says Jon Hill, CEO of The Energists.

Like any skill, critical thinking can be refined through practice. Try walking through your day with problem-solving glasses on. For example, if you’re stuck in a long line at the grocery store run though the situation—what’s the primary cause of the delay? What can be done to help? Could this solution have an effect on other areas in the store? Just getting into an evaluation and problem-solving mindset can go a long way in refining your critical thinking abilities.

3. Collaboration

Collaboration is another key 21st century learning skill that will play a big role in your career no matter your job title. Collaboration means being willing to listen, learn and work with others to accomplish a goal together. The modern workforce is full of employees with highly specialized skills and knowledge. This doesn’t mean you’ll need to be able to do every job, but you better be able to collaborate with these people effectively.

It’s especially important to demonstrate your ability to work well with others at the start of your career when you don’t necessarily have enough experience to deliver high-end results on your own. “If you’re able to work effectively with your peers, you’ll be able to get much-needed help, expand your expertise and as a result, deliver better work,” says Pete Sosnowski, head of HR and co-founder at Zety.

(Video) 9 Important 21st Century Skills 2022

If you have a tough time asking for help from others or working with a team, try getting involved in projects or volunteer work that forces you to rely on someone who knows more than you.

4. Communication

Communication is probably a skill you are sick of hearing about—but there’s no denying the value of being an effective communicator. It’s universally useful and your ability to communicate trickles into all aspects of life.

“With so much automation that enables smooth work processes, communication is the one skill that remains critical for a healthy company culture,” says Darko Jacimovic, co-founder of WhatToBecome.

All of the technical knowledge and skill in the world isn’t worth much if you can’t effectively get your point across in a respectful and coherent way.

5. Information literacy

Whether you’re doing research for a paper at school or a report or presentation at work, information literacy is key. Information literacy is the foundational skill that media literacy is built on. A student or employee with this skill is able to separate fact from fiction by interpreting facts and raw data they might find online.

“A recent graduate should be able to find reliable information, judge what can be used to indicate performance and act on those judgements,” says Alexander M. Kehoe, Co-Founder & Operations Director at Caveni Digital Solutions.

Students can easily refine information literacy skills while in school through the scholarly writing process, according to Kehoe. “A lot of research projects require good information literacy skills to correctly interpret results and draw conclusions in a written setting.”

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6. Adaptability

Though this isn’t necessarily a quality you’ll see listed in a job description, the ability to demonstrate flexibility can make or break or a job interview.

The job market is changing quickly. Adaptable employees are flexible in several ways. They should be able to work both remotely or in the office, independently and with a team. They’re also open-minded, interested in new ideas and willing to take on new tasks.

How can you practice being flexible? Though lunch-break yoga won’t necessarily do the trick, getting out of your comfort zone regularly will. Try a new hobby, shadow a co-worker for the day to see what they do or attend a conference focused on a new-to-you topic.

7. Leadership

If you think leadership is just for the CEOs or your manager, think again. No matter what your ambitions are, cultivating leadership skills while in school or while working that entry-level job can lead to greater opportunities in the future.

“If a college graduate shows a predisposition for leadership early in their career—this shows potential and promise for the future,” says Jagoda Wieczorek at ResumeLab.

Since leadership involves many other traits including humility, decisiveness and managerial competence, working to developing leadership skills as a whole can seem vague or overwhelming. Experience here is often the best teacher. If you’re still in school, consider running for class president or heading up a club. If you’re a parent, you could join the PTA or volunteer to coach your kid’s sports team.

8. Social skills

The phrase social skills may seem vague to you—what exactly are social skills? How many are there?

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Though the answer may change depending on who you talk to or which article you click on, Jasmine Chen, founder of Capsule, believes that social skills are rooted in self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy.

Self-awareness and regulation means understanding and managing yourself including your past, values, motivations and stressors. “If you’re not in touch with your emotions or triggers, you won’t know what sets you off or how to manage it if it does,” says Chen. This could affect your attendance, your rapport with colleagues and your performance. Though it’s not flashy, glamorous work, it’s important. Try asking for more feedback from your boss and colleagues about your behavior, or give daily journaling a go.

Empathy can help you become a better listener and in turn a better colleague. If you can relate to a client’s or colleague’s problem or distress, you’ll form stronger relationships and may be able to suggest better solutions.

Though it may be tough, working on your social skills is always worth it. “Good social skills ensure that a candidate can interact and work well with others, understanding the nuances of social interactions, bring the best out of others and ultimately, function as a part of a team,” says John Moss, CEO of English Blinds.

Moss recommends making an effort to engage with others from different walks or life outside of work or school. It doesn’t hurt to do some subtle people-watching as well to learn more about how others interact and think about what you’d like to emulate or avoid.

9. Productivity

Despite what entrepreneur influencers may post on social media, productivity is not about #thehustle or burning the candle at both ends. Productivity is about efficiency. “There is a big difference between busy and being productive,” says John Frigo of My Supplement Store. “Don’t confuse movement with action. You can run in place all day and not get anywhere.”

Instead of just working to get stuff done, evaluate your daily or weekly routines and consider how you can simplify and re-invent your job for the sake of your team and the quality of your work.

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Learn how to make “smart to-do” lists, ones you can actually accomplish and don’t just overwhelm you with a multitude of tasks.

Are you ready to take on the next century of work?

Now that you’re familiar with what 21st century skills are and why they’re so important to your long term employment prospects, it might be a good time to take a little self-inventory. Do you have the transferable skills needed to navigate this fast changing modern economy? There’s no shame if you can think of a few that need polishing up. The good news is that, like all skills, 21st century skills can be refined with practice—whether that’s in the form of formal education, employer-sponsored development or just simple focused repetition in your everyday life.

If you’re considering the formal education route for developing your skillset, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself first. Start weighing your options by reading our article, “Should I Go Back to School? 4 Questions to Help You Find Your Answer.”


What are employers looking for in the 21st-century? ›

The four most in-demand 21st century skills found across roughly 142,000 job advertisements were oral and written communication, collaboration, and problem solving. Furthermore, differences in skill demand by education level and degree field were noted.

What skills do you think employers are looking for now? ›

The top 5 skills employers look for include:
  • Critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Teamwork and collaboration.
  • Professionalism and strong work ethic.
  • Oral and written communications skills.
  • Leadership.

What is a 21st-century skill necessary for working? ›

Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information. Research skills and practices, interrogative questioning. Creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression. Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative.

Why is it important to have 21st-century skills? ›

As students develop skills such as critical thinking and perspective taking, they will be more flexible and adaptable in our constantly changing workforce, increase their ability to work cross-culturally, and be able to take on positions of leadership.

Do employers actually want people with 21st century skills? ›

The survey says employers want: teamwork. communication skills, leadership, work ethic (four out of the top five). Not all of these soft skills. So these types of skills are important despite the fact they are neglected in most degree programs.

What do you think are the most important skills for the 21st century? ›

Learning Skills: Also known as the "four Cs" of 21st century learning, these include critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

What skills would you bring to the job best answer? ›

Top 10 Qualities and Skills Employers are Looking For:
  • Communication Skills.
  • Honesty.
  • Flexibility.
  • Work in Harmony with Co-Workers.
  • Technical Competency.
  • Determination and Persistence.
  • Work Ethics.
  • Eager to Add their Knowledge Base and Skills.

What skills are employers looking for in job candidates in 2022? ›

  • Agility, Flexibility And Adaptability. Agility, flexibility and adaptability are three skills in demand. ...
  • Modern Communication. Modern communication is an essential skill. ...
  • Emotional Intelligence. ...
  • Creative Thinking. ...
  • Networking Skills. ...
  • Data Analysis. ...
  • Objective Self-Recognition. ...
  • Critical Thinking.
11 Aug 2022

What skills and experience can you bring to this role Example answer? ›

“I can bring positivity, experience, a creative approach to solving problems, and the ability to embrace change enthusiastically. I can bring drive, a passion for this industry, and the ability to always treat your clients and customers in a way that will ensure they become long-term advocates of the business.

How do you describe yourself as a 21st century learner? ›

A digital learner, as I define myself in the twenty-first century, is someone who is always interested in trying out new and innovative technologies. When it comes to technology, I am at ease and am not intimidated by new technology.

Why are 21st century skills important which skills will you prioritize and why? ›

21st Century Skills are considered the most important skills to succeed in today's workplace. 21st Century Skills include skills like critical thinking, communication, technology literacy, and more. Students will need to develop these skills in the classroom so they can have great careers in the future!

What does it mean to be an employee of the 21st century? ›

The 21st century employee has a mindset of abundance. He knows that there are many opportunities for himself and for the organization because he is no longer confined by fear and scarcity. There is enough. The 21st century employee has a strong desire to make, do and create and be part of something bigger than himself.

How do I equip myself with 21st century skills? ›

Here are five things to consider to get started.
  1. Use Modern Technology. The smart way to combat 21st-century challenge is to use a 21st-century solution. ...
  2. Build a Solid Foundation by Starting Early. ...
  3. Weave Real-World Skills into Every Subject. ...
  4. Encourage a Collaborative Learning Environment. ...
  5. Make Learning Real-World Relevant.
15 Oct 2020

What are the benefits of learning skills in the modern world? ›

Reasons to learn a new skill
  • It gives you motivation. ...
  • It helps beat boredom. ...
  • It boosts confidence. ...
  • It keeps you healthy. ...
  • It helps you be flexible. ...
  • It can benefit others. ...
  • It can boost your happiness. ...
  • Consider your “why.” It doesn't matter if a new skill is for work or play – you'll get benefits either way.

How can 21st century skills prepare students into workforce? ›

21st century skills all students should master

Arming students with strong critical thinking skills can help prepare them for success in higher education and the workforce alike. Critical thinking includes the ability to reason effectively, use systems thinking, make judgments and decisions, and solve problems.

What skills do employers expect teenagers to have when they begin working? ›

The Most Important Skills Teens Need for Future Employment
  • Communication. The number one soft skill that employers are seeking is good communication. ...
  • Positive Work Ethic and Responsibility. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Professionalism. ...
  • Conflict Resolution. ...
  • Problem Solving. ...
  • Self-education. ...
  • Flexibility.
3 Jun 2019

What skills and abilities do you think one should have to be successful in the twenty first century give specific reasons and examples to support your response? ›

Skills for the 21st-century workplace
  • Imagination. In the age of technology that we are living in now, it is no longer enough to keep on making the same products. ...
  • Problem solving. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Critical analysis. ...
  • Decision making.

Why employability skills are essential for remaining competitive in the 21st century workplace? ›

Personal characteristics, habits, and attitudes influence how you interact with others. Employers value employability skills because they regard these as indications of how you get along with other team members and customers, and how efficiently you are likely to handle your job performance and career success.

Which among the skills do you think is the most useful in everyday life of a teenager like you why? ›

Communication skills

Teaching your teen how to get their message across without offending another person is important. Communication is a critical skill that your teenager will need to master for interpersonal relationships in personal and professional lives.

What is your understanding of 21st century learning? ›

21st century learning is the constellation of learner characteristics which equips students to enjoy a high quality of life, work and relationships by being resilient, intentional, creative and confident learners who understand the value of collaboration, the relationship of effort to results and the need to be ...

What characteristics do I possess in achieving the 21st century skills? ›

Learners will have to acquire a set of skills and adopt certain characteristics in order to become successful in 21st century society:
  • Creativity and Innovation. ...
  • Collaboration and Communication. ...
  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving. ...
  • Global Citizens. ...
  • Technology Literacy. ...
  • Lifelong Learners.

How do you answer what skills do you want to improve? ›

How to answer "What skills would you like to improve?"
  1. Think about your skill set. Think about your existing skills. ...
  2. Choose a skill. Based on your list, choose a skill or area you most want to improve. ...
  3. Discuss why you want to improve. ...
  4. Explain your current competency. ...
  5. Ask how the job or company may help.

How do you answer interview questions about your skills? ›

Explain How Your Skills Qualify You For the Job

You can answer this question in two parts. First, explain what the attribute is and how you have demonstrated it in the past (or how you currently demonstrate it in your workplace). Then, explain why that skill makes you uniquely qualified to work for the company.

Can you tell us about any skills or experience that might be helpful in this job receptionist? ›

A good receptionist is detail-oriented, comfortable with juggling multiple projects simultaneously, organized, and an excellent communicator. Since receptionists need to be familiar with telephone systems, having that experience and a pleasant telephone voice is critical.

What are employers looking for in an employee? ›

Being self-assured is a key characteristic that employers look for. They seek people to join their team who are confident in their abilities and know what they want. Confident employees are friendly, engaging and have a clear (and honest) idea of what makes them a valuable asset.

Why are skills important in a job? ›

Why Should You Get Job Skills? You'll be seen more positively by employers. They prefer applicants who are willing to learn new skills. You'll feel more confident during interviews.

How do you answer the details of your skills abilities and experience? ›

Key Takeaways
  1. MATCH YOUR EXPERIENCE TO THE JOB DESCRIPTION: Emphasize the experience and qualifications that will help you achieve success in the role.
  2. BE SPECIFIC AND QUANTIFY YOUR RESULTS: Statistics are particularly persuasive. ...
  3. DON'T MEMORIZE YOUR RESPONSES: Practice, but don't learn your answers by rote. ...
22 Jun 2022

What is your contribution to the company best answer examples without experience? ›

“I can contribute to the company in several ways. Firstly, I am a very fast learner and worker. I will come into the role, fit into the team quickly and work at a very fast pace to ensure you see a positive return on your investment. Secondly, I am very good at taking care of customers.

What are your top 3 skills? ›

Top skills employers look for
  1. Communication skills. Communication skills are needed in virtually any job. ...
  2. Leadership skills. ...
  3. Teamwork skills. ...
  4. Interpersonal skills. ...
  5. Learning/adaptability skills. ...
  6. Self-management skills. ...
  7. Organizational skills. ...
  8. Computer skills.

Why are skills important to employers? ›

Employers value employability skills because they regard these as indications of how you get along with other team members and customers, and how efficiently you are likely to handle your job performance and career success.

What are employers looking for in an interview? ›

Employers want to see you have those personal attributes that will add to your effectiveness as an employee, such as the ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, and being dependable, organized, proactive, flexible, and resourceful.

What do employers look for for the company? ›

Top 10 Skills/Qualities Employers Seek:

Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization. Ability to work in a team structure. Ability to make decisions and solve problems. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work.

Why should we hire you answer best? ›

For starters, I have all the skills and experience listed in the job description, and I'm confident that I can make an immediate impact on your company. It's not just my background in leading successful projects for Fortune 500 companies, but also my passion for the industry that drives me to succeed.

How do you answer interview questions about your skills? ›

Explain How Your Skills Qualify You For the Job

You can answer this question in two parts. First, explain what the attribute is and how you have demonstrated it in the past (or how you currently demonstrate it in your workplace). Then, explain why that skill makes you uniquely qualified to work for the company.

How do I say my skills in an interview? ›

Personal skills, such as being positive and responsible, learning quickly and working safely. Teamwork skills, such as working well with others, and helping your team with their projects and tasks. Fundamental skills, such as communicating well, managing information, using numbers, and solving problems.

How your skills knowledge and experience will be relevant to this role? ›

Relevant experience can include the following:

Work in a similar or same industry. Academic work/studies in a similar or same field. Any other work that has presented you with challenges that will help you learn this next job faster and be successful.

What type of skills are needed to understand and work well with people in the workplace? ›

Plus, take a look at tips to help you demonstrate your social skills throughout your job search.
  • Empathy. To interact well with others, you must be able to understand how they are feeling. ...
  • Cooperation. ...
  • Verbal and Written Communication. ...
  • Listening. ...
  • Nonverbal Communication.
2 Jun 2021

What is the importance of knowing the knowledge and skills that you have? ›

Knowledge is both the theoretical and the practical information, facts or skill which we acquire through experience or through learning. Our knowledge increases as we gain more experience. A skill is an ability to do something well. A well-developed skill can make us experts in a particular field.

How do you impress your interviewer? ›

How to Impress in a Job Interview
  1. Do your research. ...
  2. Dress professionally. ...
  3. Arrive on time. ...
  4. Limit distractions. ...
  5. Pay attention to body language. ...
  6. Have answers to questions you know will be asked. ...
  7. Ask informed questions. ...
  8. Follow up.
6 Nov 2020

What qualities make you a great fit for this position? ›

Tips for answering "What makes you a good candidate for this position?"
  • Prepare in advance. Know what skills, accomplishments, experiences or education you plan to cite ahead of your interview. ...
  • Give concrete examples. ...
  • Tie your response to company goals. ...
  • Focus on yourself. ...
  • Speak confidently. ...
  • Be honest.

What do you say when an interviewer asks Tell me about yourself? ›

Your answer to the "tell me about yourself" question should describe your current situation, your past job experience, the reason you're a good fit for the role, and how you align with the company values. Tell the interviewer about your current position and a recent big accomplishment or positive feedback you received.

How do you say you have no experience but willing to learn? ›

Using your own words, try something along the lines of: "I am interested in an entry-level position. I know I have much to learn, and I'm looking for an opportunity that will let me build a solid professional foundation.

What does an employer want from you? ›

A positive attitude to work, punctuality, flexibility, verbal communication skills, and the ability to make a professional introduction are all crucial when deciding whether to recruit a young person.

How do you answer tell me about yourself? ›

8 more tips for answering “Tell me about yourself”
  1. Remember this is often your first impression, and it matters. ...
  2. Tailor your answer to the role and company. ...
  3. Know your audience. ...
  4. Keep it professional. ...
  5. But speak with passion. ...
  6. Don't ramble. ...
  7. Practice, practice, practice—but stop short of memorizing. ...
  8. Keep it positive.
20 Jul 2022


1. Future Jobs: 21st Century Skills | Master these skills to find your future job
(WQED Pittsburgh)
2. Hind Elyas - Lifelong Learning Skills in the 21st Century Classroom
(British Council | TeachingEnglish)
3. Hard Skills vs Soft Skills
4. XXI century employee. What employers need. | Ricard Huguet | TEDxESADE
(TEDx Talks)
5. Securing your next role- learn about the 21st century skills (masterclass)
6. About The Lab's 21st Century Skills Badges
(Education Design Lab)
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