Learning by doing: how AEGEE brings you forward in your career (Part IX)

Never underestimate what you do in AEGEE: what you learn here can help you discover new strengths in your personality, hone your skills and boost your career! Let us inspire you. In cooperation with the Youth Development Working Group, the AEGEEan launches a series of career stories which all started thanks to the invaluable experience gained by being active in AEGEE. This week, Marie-Claire Graf presents herself.

Marie-Claire Graf, Member of AEGEE-Dresden, Co-Founder of AEGEE contact in Zurich, Member of the Society and Environment Interest Group, Co-Content manager of EPM Izmir 2019, Europe on Track 5 Ambassador

Up to 65% of Generation Z jobs, that’s us, don’t even exist yet and up to 45% of the activities people are paid to perform today could be automated using current technology. This won’t necessarily mean fewer jobs, but it will mean new jobs requiring different skills. When new skills become in demand as fast as others become extinct, employability is less about what you already know and more about your capacity to learn. It requires a totally new and different mindset. 

So, what do we need to be ready for for the future, and how do you get a job that doesn’t exist yet? No one can accurately predict what jobs will look like in the future, but future careers are about soft skills and there are seven skills that will be essential to your future success.

1. Mental Elasticity and Complex Problem Solving:

The future is going to bring about problems you’ve never seen before in a world you’ve never experienced. In order to solve these problems, you’ll need to have the mental flexibility to think outside of the box, see the big picture and rearrange things to find a solution. Luckily, this skill is highly developable and simply takes practice. The more difficult problems you tackle, the bendier your brain will get!

2. Critical Thinking:

Technology may be able to automate many of the jobs that currently exist, but you probably wouldn’t trust it to do your critical thinking for you; as such, your future career will require you to have excellent critical thinking skills. You’ll constantly need to be analysing various situations, considering multiple solutions and making decisions on the fly through logic and reasoning.

3. Creativity:

Worried about robots stealing your job? The more creative you are, the less likely you are to lose your job to a robot! While robots may be better than you at calculating and diagnosing problems, they aren’t very good at creating original content, thinking outside the box or being abstract, yet.

4. People Skills:

Listen, machines are going to take over eventually, and technology is going to get much more advanced, so us humans have to stick together! If you want to succeed in the future job market, you’ll need to learn how to manage and work with people (and robots), which includes getting in touch with your emotions, having empathy and listening,

5. STEM:

Even though science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related jobs are super-hot right now, don’t expect them to go away in the future. As technology progresses, you’ll need to have more advanced STEM skills to keep up. Also, coding.

6. SMAC:

You’ve heard of STEM, but you probably haven’t heard of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud). Learning all of these skills/platforms will make you stand out in the future job market!

7. Interdisciplinary Knowledge:

Your future career will require you to pull information from many different fields to come up with creative solutions to future problems. This skill’s easy to work on as well. Start by reading as much as you can about anything and everything that interests you.

If this is the list of requirements for the future of work, I have to admit that the education system didn’t prepare me well for the future. That’s where my passion for social engagement and volunteering comes in. 

I started being active from a very young age as I was eager to change and shape things rather than wait for others to do so but as well to learn these so-called soft skills. Soft skills, often called people skills or emotional intelligence, refer to the ability to interact amicably with others. Soft skills are personal attributes that can affect relationships, communication, and interaction with others. 

The activities I’m doing with and for AEGEE are strengthening these skills which cannot be learnt with books in a classroom. It’s about doing it yourselves and with others together. Within AEGEE, we celebrate open discussions and negotiations while becoming aware of cultural differences. The European meetings and projects are a wonderful example of how to strengthen this communication skill. Another crucial skill is networking, which is part of AEGEE’s identity and is practised on a daily basis. Did you know that 85% of all jobs are filled through networking? It’s crazy, but honestly, I got nearly all opportunities and positions via personal relations or references. So think about engaging with participants and external guests. Holding engaging and entertaining presentations is key for your private and professional life, and it’s not easy. In fact, the average attention span among people who listen to speeches is estimated to be somewhere between 5 – 10 minutes. The optimal attention span that can be comfortably held by an interested human engaged in listening to a speaker is approx. 20 minutes. Have you ever wondered why TED-talks are 18 minutes long? That’s because this is precisely one unit of optimal attention span. And that’s the reason why we are doing energisers and try to be as interactive as possible. AEGEEans provide fast and honest feedback for you – if everyone is sleeping in the room, you probably overstretched their attention span. Furthermore, it’s essential to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts early. Sounds basic? Unfortunately, we spend most of our time with ineffective conflict and error solving. You can read many books about communication, but AEGEE is providing you with an amazing playground to improve your communication in a more fun way, with a special challenge when it comes to intercultural exchange and language differences. Even if we think English is dominating communication, the beauty lies in the nuances. AEGEE is opening doors to 40 countries all over Europe with different cultures, traditions and languages. Being multilingual is not only a career boost but essential in a more and more globalised world. Did you know that approx. 15 % of the world’s population are native speakers of Mandarin Chinese? In case you are looking for a new challenge. In fact, I could use my Chinese in Russia during Europe on Track. Teamwork and project management is as well a significant boost for your career and is very related to our everyday AEGEE life. We in the AEGEE Social and Environmental Interest Group did the Belbin team Role tests because a team is not just a bunch of people, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. I strongly encourage you and your team to this test. It’s highly interesting to understand yourself better as well as your team. Complex problem-solving is essential to competence as well, which is needed for the future because challenges are becoming more sophisticated and solutions have to consider broader stakeholders. With the diverse focus areas of AEGEE and our local projects in mind, we are facing challenges and try to come up with customised problem-solving solutions. The last, but not least, essential ability is to improve oneself at working under pressure in AEGEE. We all know it when all deadlines are approaching together, but you are still mastering the situation. This is a skill, and you are capable of being the winner of said situation. 

So, what is the most important thing I can take away for me personally, for my future, career and life? I could experience who I am. Where am I now? Where do I want to go in the future? And how do I get there? What drives me? Who motivates me? What inspires me? I learnt how to get to know myself better and to appreciate small achievements while not losing sight of the big picture and vision. Volunteering opened many new doors I was not even aware of a meaningful and exciting future. 

Furthermore, it’s the ability to be prepared and ready. It’s the self-confidence of acknowledging my strengths and weaknesses. It’s a pleasure to explore new areas because I could overcome language or presentation barriers. I take pride when my friends and boss are congratulating me for my achievements and communication skills. It’s the serenity if I’m starting a new position in a new team and we are already friends. Yes, it’s the security to be prepared for an uncertain future. No one can accurately predict what jobs will look like in the future, but future careers are about these soft skills. 

Many times, I was not even aware of my skills and therefore, who I really am. Therefore, I would like to encourage you all to talk to your AEGEEans about your strengths and weaknesses, your skills and your passions. Empower each other and co-create the world you want to live in together. Be proactive and design and shape our future. Practice the mentioned soft skills to find yourself. Be active and show the world who you are. All these experiences in- and outside of AEGEE are shaping who you are. You should be proud of what you achieved and use it the best way in the future. Make AEGEE proud and be proud of AEGEE.