Skills for an uncertain future

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Core skills consider the flexibility that we must develop in an uncertain world, increasingly global, with high mobility of people, information, and changing services.

Carlos Barros

Well-being between the personal and professional spheres is an increasingly heated debate among the various events on the themes of organisational and personal development. In fact, we cannot separate the well-being of the individual in their personal sphere from their professional sphere, but we can find/develop a balance “step by step” to achieve a more functional Whole.

I remember one test in a core subject in Psychology, in which we were asked, “Can we separate the Psychology(s)?” – and the answer was: no. Our well-being (or conflict) in one personal area will impact the professional side and vice-versa. We are a Whole that grows with multi-faceted well-being that connects with the perception of fulfilment on several fronts.

The perceived development of technical skills (Hard skills) or relational skills (soft skills), merge in this development of the new Core Skills (called “heart skills”), which can be an opportunity for debate on development.

This is of special relevance now that several young people in Portugal and Europe are preparing for a new stage with entry into higher education, so they will be able to develop a set of key competencies. Simultaneously, many of the ascending relatives can help them to put together this puzzle of reducing uncertainty between the expectation and the reality of the uncertain future.

So, I think a holistic reflection is needed during this holiday relaxation time – to reflect on which skills are universal, transversal, and even how they can make us feel more secure throughout our lives.

Core skills consider the flexibility that we must develop in an uncertain world, increasingly global, with high mobility of people, information, and changing services. This constant change, external to us, can create mismatches in work and personal skills or even create stress so overwhelming that we are faced with a sense of maladjustment. On the other hand, the transfer of knowledge in a more global context can be beneficial to managing cross-cultural potentials, hence we must develop the capacity to adapt.

There is plenty of information more or less targeted to branches/functions available to various functions, but I would like to highlight as core competencies:

  1. Learning and Critical Thinking – what we learn is never final, we benefit from lifelong learning. What we learn serves as a basis for critical thinking about the various situations in which we have to develop adaptation strategies;
  2. Creativity and Problem Solving – “thinking outside the box”, not only regarding processes and technical knowledge, but also relational, where we can speed up the work and assertively solve a problem;
  3. Authenticity – understanding standardised skills, but also knowing how to focus on the best of what we can develop as individuals;
  4. Community – considering the communities we participate in not just from the digital vs. face-to-face binomial, but rather: ‘which ones make sense for me to grow? ‘, not forgetting the importance of leadership;
  5. Digital adaptation – even connected with the previous one, there is an increasingly urgent need for literacy and adaptation for the digital world as an integral part of everyday work and personal life;
  6. Communication and Negotiation – communication is much more than knowing how to talk. It is knowing how to speak and listen with a constant search for ethics and effectiveness; with the integration of trust (to be trusted, to trust and be reliable), to have the courage to find new solutions (for oneself and others), and to influence/ be influenced constructively without manipulation; to be curious with a genuine desire to discover new ways of doing something;
  7. Balance – knowing how to find a functional mediation between time and work activities and personal-family life;
  8. Empathy – last but never least: knowing how to listen, think and feel with the other. Basically, “putting on the shoes of the Other“, but without this pulling us out of our foot.

Although these competencies may not seem very objective, they can make us think – as young candidates for higher education, teachers, students, family members, collaborators, carers, and volunteers (among others) – that the most important thing is our perspective of growth in which everything is fluid, and the future starts now.

Now in our ability to see the world as an opportunity for growth and adaptation towards the common good. Are heart skills essential for the care of the Other?


If this topic has triggered interest, you can read more in the online works:

Dochevska, Y. (2021). Defining Transversal Skills: Perspectives And Development. Trakia Journal of Sciences19(1), 621-625. doi:10.15547/tjs.2021.s.01.097

Mayo, P. (2019). Higher education in a globalising world: Community engagement and lifelong learning. In Higher education in a globalising world. Manchester University Press.

Billing, D. (2007). Teaching for transfer of core/key skills in higher education: Cognitive skills. Higher education53(4), 483-516. DOI 10.1007/s10734-005-5628-5


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**Please find the portuguese version on the next page

**Por favor, aceda à próxima página para a versão portuguesa da publicação 


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