11 Key Skills for Thriving in the AI Era: Laying the Foundation for the Future

11 Key Skills for Thriving in the AI Era_ Laying the Foundation for the Future

Will AI take over our jobs? This question has been haunting us for quite some time now.

From coffee shops to board meetings to family dinners, AI has become a hot topic of discussion and debate. While some see it as an inevitable threat, others view it as an opportunity for growth and innovation. Whatever your stance may be, one thing is clear: AI is here to stay and is changing how we work and live.

The introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022 has only intensified these discussions and debates. Its launch marked a new era in the evolution of AI, with its impressive abilities to generate human-like text and carry out conversations.

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With robots and computers seemingly capable of performing any job, from coding to outlining content ideas and even filling out tax forms, the question arises: how will humans find employment in the future?

Indeed, there’s a silver lining amid these AI takeover discussions. Not all skills can be replicated or replaced by machines. This document will discuss 11 key skills that will help you thrive in the AI era and lay the foundation for a successful future.

#1. Adaptability

You’re only as replaceable as you let yourself be. The key to surviving in the AI era is adaptability. As technology rapidly evolves and changes, so should our skills and abilities. Instead of being hesitant towards technological advancements, embrace them with open arms and constantly seek ways to integrate them into your work.

Adaptability is more than a survival tactic; it’s an opportunity to experiment with new strategies, showcase leadership, and demonstrate resourcefulness, analytical skills, and determination.

 These traits are not just commendable; they are highly sought after by employers in the AI era. By embracing and leveraging change to your advantage, you present yourself as a dynamic, valuable asset to any team or organization.

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#2. Holistic Understanding of a Whole System

skills for thriving in the ai era

I’ll use the online writing and coding example to illustrate this point. While AI can generate text and write code, it cannot fully understand its context and purpose.

It cannot piece together a comprehensive and cohesive article or write software catering to a specific need. That’s where we humans come in.

In business, holistic means understanding the interdependencies between departments, markets, and teams. It’s about recognizing the value of collaboration and communication, finding synergy between different moving parts, and understanding the big picture.

You must understand how the software, that piece of content, or the entire organization fits into the grand scheme. Your ability to see and analyze the bigger picture, rather than just your specific job role, will make you an indispensable asset in the AI era.

Let’s draw on the connection between seemingly unrelated teams, such as Product and Marketing and Product and Legal. Understanding how the Product and Marketing teams’ efforts mutually influence each other is relatively straightforward. But how the Product and Legal teams intertwine is not immediately apparent.

That’s where a comprehensive understanding of the entire system comes into play. As Brian Rhea puts it (from JobLens.ai), “Humans excel at Holistic Understanding; we have an innate ability to link seemingly disconnected information and experiences to generate impactful, creative insights.”

#3. The Ability to Write Good Prompts

If ChatGPT’s launch has shown us anything, it’s that AI is only as helpful as the prompts we provide it.

For the unacquainted, a prompt is a simple sentence or phrase instructing AI on what we want it to generate or do. For example, “Write a blog post about the benefits of AI in healthcare.”

The quality of our prompts directly impacts the output of AI. The more specific and detailed our prompts are, the more accurate and relevant the AI-generated output will be.

The idea is to treat AI like a five-year-old and give clear, concise instructions.

For example, instead of using a vague prompt like “What’s schema markup?” you could ask, “Explain the concept of schema markup to a non-technical audience.”

We must learn to write good prompts to harness the power of AI tools like ChatGPT. Be direct, specific, and detailed, and adjust your prompts based on the output.

#4. Intellectual Curiosity

skills for thriving in the ai era

Intellectual curiosity is the ability to question, explore, and dig deeper. It drives us to ask ‘why’ and constantly seek answers, knowledge, and improvement.

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If you’re used to just working with what’s on the surface (or what you’re immediately told), it’s time to dig deeper. When AI can do most of the surface work (the mundane, routine tasks), humans must engage their curiosity and creativity to stand out.

For example, anyone can use ChatGPT to whip up social media posts. But, to truly figure out what **your audience wants, what words resonate with them and how to create content that genuinely engages them requires more than just surface-level thinking. You must be intellectually curious enough to explore your audience’s psychology, analyze data and trends, and figure out the best approach for success.

Intellectual curiosity demands that you approach your work creatively and innovatively. Instead of working on autopilot, challenge yourself to think outside the box and come up with solutions, even if they seem unconventional.

#5. Objectivity

A common misconception is that AI is entirely objective free from bias and subjectivity. But that’s further from the truth. AI is only as unbiased and accurate as the data it is trained on.

Humans are biased; it’s in our nature. And the AI tools we create inherit those biases. That’s where the need for objectivity comes in. We must recognize our biases, actively work to remove them from our work, and question the AI tools we use.

In an era where AI is heavily relied upon for decision-making, we must strive for objectivity to ensure fair and just outcomes.

You do not want AI to set the objective. That’s your job as a human. Say you’re designing a system for a particular purpose. You must set the objectives and use AI to help you achieve them.

Don’t let it sway you or dictate your objectives. Remain objective and critically evaluate AI’s data, algorithms, and outputs to ensure they align with your goals.

Objectivity also means challenging the status quo and being open to new ideas. It’s about open-mindedness and constantly questioning the norms to drive innovation and progress.

The Skills AI Can’t Replace

skills for thriving in the ai era

Let’s talk about skills that AI will never replace.

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AI might be effective at generating text, analysing data, and even making decisions, but it can never replicate what makes us truly human.

#1. Critical Thinking

A study in the first quarter analyzed LinkedIn job postings and revealed that over 564,000 of these advertisements emphasized the necessity for “critical thinking skills” in potential employees.

That comes as no surprise. Critical thinking is a crucial skill in the AI era, as it allows humans to analyze information, evaluate its validity and relevance, and make informed decisions based on that analysis.

As Crystal King, a professor at HubSpot Academy, says, exceptional inbound marketers and salespeople have perfected critical thinking and creativity. They express their ideas and views, apply sound discretion, and make educated decisions. That highlights a key limitation of artificial intelligence.

AI might have a superior ability to analyse data but lacks the creativity and intuition necessary to make critical decisions.

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Speaking of creativity, that’s another skill that AI can’t replace. The ability to think outside the box, develop new ideas, and imagine possibilities is uniquely human.

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For example, a law firm might use AI to analyse legal documents and help with research, but it still needs human creativity and intuition to develop winning arguments.

AI lacks the emotional intelligence necessary for understanding complex emotions and social interactions. It also struggles with empathy, a distinctively human trait that allows us to connect and relate to others.

#2. Empathy

While AI tools have an unmatched ability to analyse situations, they can never replicate the qualities that make us truly human: empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it’s crucial for building strong relationships, communication, and collaboration.

Although AI can mimic empathy through programmed responses, it lacks the emotional intelligence necessary for genuine connection.

AI responses may seem empathetic, but they are based on pre-determined algorithms and cannot truly understand and relate to human emotions.

And it’s not just in medicine or customer service, where empathy plays a vital role. Human empathy is key to success in all aspects of life, from personal relationships to workplace dynamics.

AI-enhanced customer support systems can efficiently manage ticket distribution, but no technological solution can outperform the human touch when it comes to addressing delicate or pressing matters.

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#3. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a cluster of skills that allows individuals to recognize, understand and manage their own emotions and those around them.

It includes empathy, self-awareness, social skills, and self-regulation.

Remember, no two individuals are the same or share the same emotional responses. AI can analyse data and make predictions, but it cannot truly understand the nuances of human emotions.

Working with a team means working with people with different emotions and perspectives. Emotional intelligence is crucial for building strong relationships, resolving conflicts, and effectively collaborating.

In more straightforward terms, Dominik Maka, the Head of SEO at LVBET, summarizes emotional sensitivity and awareness. He says AI’s neat, but can it comprehend a client’s sigh of relief when their long-standing problem is solved? Or the enthusiasm in a team member’s voice when they share their latest idea?

In granular terms, emotional intelligence helps us keep the peace, build stronger teams, and nurture dynamic relationships. Ultimately, only humans can tap into emotional intelligence and use it to harness the full potential of AI.

#4. People Management

People management refers to activities involved in recruiting, training, and fostering employees’ development to align their skills with the organization’s goals and promote professional growth.

AI can help organizations sort through resumes and CVs, list tasks, assign deadlines, and even provide feedback. But it can’t motivate and inspire employees, provide personalized support and training, or resolve interpersonal conflicts.

Successful people management requires creativity, empathy, innovation, and emotional intelligence — all uniquely human skills that AI cannot replicate.

It takes experience, intuition, and understanding to manage people effectively. You have to be right there with them, make your presence felt, and connect with them emotionally.

Employees have to feel like you’re a part of them. That’s how they’ll feel inspired, motivated, and appreciated. You must also be there with them to understand their needs and challenges and provide guidance and support.

#5. Creativity

Creativity, or innovation, is the driving force behind the remarkable inventions we see around us. It’s the engine that fuels the creation of music, the development of cars, the design of smartphones, the formulation of search engines, and even the birth of artificial intelligence. This unique human capability to imagine, create and innovate is something that AI cannot replicate.

Of course, AI can improve these products and make them better, more efficient, and more accurate. But even that is a product of the creativity that humans possess.

AI is often used to complement human creativity and enhance their ideas. But without the initial spark of human ingenuity, it cannot produce anything in the first place.

So, learn to look at AI as a tool, not a replacement. Use it to enhance your abilities, not put yourself out of work. Embrace AI and combine it with your skills to push the boundaries of what is possible. After all, we are still the ones in control — for now.

For example, a marketing team might use AI to analyse consumer data and predict trends, but it still needs human creativity and strategic thinking to develop successful campaigns.

#6. Strategic Thinking

We see a growing trend of businesses automating significant portions of their marketing efforts — a move that is both cost-effective and liberating for staff to focus on high-priority tasks. But AI is far from being a one-stop solution. Marketing teams need to be strategic and use AI as a tool rather than relying solely on it.

Human employees must create the overall strategy and let AI help execute it. Strategic thinking is crucial for identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to a business and developing long-term plans for success.

While AI can crunch data and provide insights, it cannot think critically and strategically like humans. It still requires human input to determine which data is relevant and how it should be used.

Strategic thinking also involves adaptability and flexibility, two traits AI cannot possess. As business environments and consumer behaviours constantly evolve, it takes human strategic thinking to pivot, adjust and innovate accordingly.

For example, AI can schedule tweets but cannot develop a comprehensive social media strategy that aligns with the brand’s goals and values.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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