Skills and Characteristics of Workers in the 21st Century


The U.S. job market has changed significantly in the wake of advanced information technology and global competition. Routine and rule-based tasks have become automated. Certain skills have been rendered obsolete by machines and technology. To streamline, companies are outsourcing some jobs to countries with cheaper labor costs. A college degree is becoming indispensable in today's job market. But it must be complemented by skills that employers are looking for in the 21st-century job market.

Technical Skills

  • Understanding today's technology and how it can be used to achieve a specific purpose or goal is one of the skills employers are looking for, according to an August 2010 Wall Street Journal article titled "Graduate With Skills, Not Just a Degree." The 21st-century workplace is a technology- and media-suffused environment. Technical skills, such as using networked computing devices, have become crucial. The technology-driven global economy has erased traditional concepts of time and space. This requires you to use technology and software related to your to your job, especially if you have to collaborate with co-workers stationed in different geographical locations. Technical skills are also important if you decide to work independently, a common practice today as employers minimize benefit costs or long-term commitment. You can work from wherever you can plug in your laptop.

Analytical Skills

  • The ability to analyze, compare, evaluate and synthesize is another skill employers are looking for in the 21st century. Gone are the days when most people worked at a single company for their entire career with a narrow set of skills and performing a single task everyday. You must be able to analyze and solve a problem instantly in today's fast-paced world. A customer at a hotel whose credit card has been charged twice by mistake doesn't have to wait for the manager to resolve the problem, for instance. A front office attendant can analyze the problem and issue a refund immediately without delaying a customer rushing for a flight. This relates to other jobs as well, where you are expected to identify reasonable standards for assessing the suitability of an action, according to a Johnson & Wales University research paper titled "Top 10 Valued Workplace Skills."

Strong Work Ethic

  • In 2008, U.S. companies grossed nearly $11 trillion from global sales, according to the National Science Foundation. Such success can be attributed to many factors that help keep companies profitable in such a competitive global economy. An ethical and dedicated workforce is essential for a company's competitiveness in the 21st century, according to that August 2010 Wall Street Journal article. Today's work ethic requires an employee to look at a company in terms of its profitability. Employability doesn't only require completion of assignments on time, it also means going the extra mile. Simple things such as coming to work early to prepare for the day, or going home slightly late in readiness for the next day, make a difference, according to leadership coach Michael Patterson in a November 2010 article titled "Dedication at Work."


  • Teamwork addresses complex problems by making use of the full range of strengths of the work team. The complexity of modern business demands a high degree of specialization by decision makers, who coordinate the collaboration that completes tasks faster and delivers the product ahead of the competition. You can, for instance, create a synergy that increases innovation and successful outcomes, according to researchers at the University of Nebraska in a paper titled "Entrepreneurial Leadership and Teamwork: The Key to Innovation in the 21st Century." Besides specialized knowledge, you should also demonstrate sociability, integrity and honesty. That makes teamwork easy to accomplish.

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