The Number 1 Job Skill You'll Need In 2020

And you don't need a degree to learn it.

empathyWhat are the most valuable job skills of the future? It's simple: The things robots and people in faraway countries can't do.

Making a sandwich can't be outsourced. Machines will never be able to comfort the sick. The fastest-growing occupations, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include registered nurses, physical therapists, mental health counselors, preschool teachers, private detectives, and personal financial planners. As Forbes contributor George Anders points out, these jobs are united by one thing: empathy.

Emotional intelligence isn't necessarily the most lucrative skill. If your job is to care for the elderly or infirm, or to handle customer complaints, empathy is essential, but you don't always get the big bucks.

Interpersonal warmth can land you a wage premium though, according to Anders. "At auto repair places, the average salary for the mechanic at the back is $36,000," he told AOL Jobs. "The guy making more money is at the front with the clipboard."

Machines have taken over a lot of the mechanic's diagnostic work, Anders explains, but can never supplant the human element. "The mechanic's job has been deskilled," he says, "at the same time the auto repair consultant's job has become more important."]

Empathy has also become more crucial in traditional office settings, as technology has broken down the old chain of command, and made workplaces more horizontal and collaborative. "If you're playing around with Google Docs, six people can literally work on the same document at the same time. That never existed before," says Anders. "... Now everyone gets to sit at the keyboard."

Unfortunately, just as our schools are lagging behind in math and science skills, they aren't exactly preparing our nation's youth for the new empathetic economy. According to a longitudinal survey of nearly 14,000 students, empathy has been on the decline for 30 years. "A lot of it is still, 'Write the paper yourself.' If you collaborate with anyone its regarded as cheating," says Anders. "And then you send people into the world -- and you desperately want people to work together."

But you don't have to blow your savings and go back to school to learn how to empathize. There's plenty of new science that says humans can actually cultivate their "empathetic potential" through reading fiction, spending time with the less fortunate, role-playing, and meditation. Robots may be taking our jobs, and the things we buy are now mostly made by anonymous people in countries we can't find on a map. But ultimately, when it comes down to it, the job market of the future will be remarkably and compassionately human.

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The need to narrate, making data cogent.

October 14 2013 at 4:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The need to narrate, making data cogent.

Bill Costley, 390 N. Winchester Blvd. 4-4D Santa Clara CA 95050-6541 1-408-247-1943

October 14 2013 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


September 30 2013 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the number 1 skill to have at any time is to be able to shoot straight...the people who \"think\" that having a 36,000 per year job is stupid because in 2020 36 grand will put you on the poverty list...if you can work construction and learn a trade you will make a lot more money...i never seen a computer that would work outside in the elements,,ive never seen one climb steel,,ive never seen one smoothout concrete or make a weld 200 feet in the air....practice your offensive skills as you will probably need them in 20 20.....

September 30 2013 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fantasy 101? Remember year 2000 occurance didn't come to pass?

September 30 2013 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I believe interpersonal skills cannot be taught. I believe it is as natural as having curly hair. I think everyone has a natural born skill or talent but not many people utilize that talent as part of their career plan.

September 30 2013 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh please...

September 30 2013 at 7:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a bucky article...

September 30 2013 at 6:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One of the best classes I took in college was Interpersonal Communication. An alternative to public speaking. Best decision I ever made! 20 years later I still use the tools I learned in that class!!!

September 27 2013 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"When it's time to function as a feeling human being
Will your bachelor of arts help you get by?"
Dialogue (Part I & II)
Chicago V

September 27 2013 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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