Soft Skills Are a Must in the Age of AI

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A hot topic, especially in the mainstream media, is the fear that robots are coming for all of our jobs. It is true that artificial intelligence is changing the business landscape quickly. That means workers cannot count on the skills they learned in college to get them through a decades-long career.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that 38% of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation by the early 2030s. That’s the bad news.

On the flip side, here’s the good news. Many more jobs will be created than will be lost. There’s no denying, however, that people will need to adapt to fit those new jobs. People at all levels and in all industries can benefit from learning at least a little bit about AI. But even the least tech savvy may still possess an advantage: soft skills. A 2017 study from MIT predicted that, in the future, soft skills will be even more highly valued than STEM skills.


Emotional--Not Artificial--Intelligence

Computers cannot currently replicate empathy, creativity, humor, or other elements of emotional intelligence. We see “feeling” robots in movies, but experts say it won’t happen in reality any time soon. So for now, cultivate your own emotional intelligence.

Mariah DeLeon of Glassdoor wrote, in Entrepreneur, “No matter how many degrees or other on-paper qualifications a person has, if he or she doesn’t have certain emotional qualities, he or she is unlikely to succeed.” Emotional intelligence allows people to solve problems and work better in teams. In a world where we rely more on remote interactions than face-to-face ones, this becomes even more important. One can easily misread an interaction over email or instant message. Those with more emotional intelligence can better navigate these interactions.

If you work in an industry with nuanced or highly personalized customer experiences, you know the importance of relating to people. A machine simply won’t “get it.” People might make decisions about which house to buy or where to invest their money based on an algorithm, but only a human would take into account the emotional side of those major decisions.

If you’re a lawyer, a teacher, or a therapist, to name a few examples, your clients need a human touch. Regardless of your industry, though, you can brand your company as one that cares about its customers by relating on a human level.


Soft Skills Companies Need

MIT professors interviewed on this subject said that “leaders who can directly answer the question of ‘what problem are you trying to solve’ will be a step ahead in the game.” Leaders need the ability to define a problem. Even if a machine or neural network can ultimately solve the problem, someone must define it first.

Another crucial skill--maybe the most crucial--is the ability to learn. People who struggle to learn new things or refuse to do so will be left behind. You’ve already demonstrated your openness to learning by taking this course. But however your job changes, or if a new career comes a long we haven’t even thought of yet, you should be ready. Demonstrate that you’re flexible, inquisitive, and willing to put in the effort to learn new things.

Related to learning is adaptability. Researchers now use the term “adaptability quotient.” So you in addition to your IQ and your EQ, you can now count your AQ among your marketable soft skills. A recent article from the BBC reported that you can develop AQ with practice. Keep an open mind and embrace change to demonstrate to employers that you can thrive in the modern workplace.


Now is the time to prepare for an AI-driven world. But that doesn’t mean your skills will become obsolete. Start making the most of your soft skills and build your EQ and AQ. Those robots won’t stand a chance!