21 Skills We Need the Most in a 21st Century Economy

by Staff Writers

This millennium has not gotten off to a great start as far as the economy is concerned. With the dot-com bubble bursting, the stock market crashing, and the "Great Recession" setting in, it's been a bumpy dozen years. Here we've lined up our picks for the most important skills needed in this turbulent market. These are not specific skills you need to be an engineer, or a pilot, or an accountant. These are the general abilities everyone needs to be successful personally and professionally in an economy that is dynamic, digital, and frequently down.


  1. Yoga:

    Studies have found that most people sit seven to nine hours a day. That isn't likely to change soon, so you need a game plan to undo the negative effects so much sitting has on your body. Knowing yoga or a similar type of stretch routine is pretty much a must.

  2. Googling:

    You have the collective knowledge of the world at your fingertips with this web search engine. The flip-side of that coin is, that's a massive amount of info to sort through if you don't know how to search efficiently.

  3. Seeing through online scams:

    From not clicking certain ads to not opening emails from rich Nigerian princes, the ability to protect yourself from Internet scammers is a must for anyone using the web in the 21st century.

  4. Cooperating with a diverse set of coworkers:

    As society becomes more open-minded and there are more equal opportunities for people, it is necessary to be comfortable working with employees of a wide range of sexual preferences, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and physical abilities.

  5. Listening:

    Hand-in-hand with empathizing with people comes listening to them and their opinions. Thus, mastering the art of emphatic listening involves giving the speaker your undivided attention and refraining from judgment.

  6. Focusing:

    Having the ability to focus on one task is only going to become more difficult with the ability to access media and telecommunications from anywhere.

  7. Spotting a deal:

    A penny saved is a penny earned, but it does no good to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Coupons from sites like Groupon may seem like big money-savers, but the devil is in the details. You have to know what pitfalls to look for to make them work for you.

  8. Unlearning:

    In an ever-changing technological environment, in the words of writer Alvin Toffler, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

  9. Maintaining your online image:

    As our lives become digitized and move to the cloud, keeping your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Monster, Google+, and other online accounts updated and not incriminating will help you land jobs and make contacts.

  10. Being comfortable asking questions:

    On a personal level, each of us needs to be secure enough to seek answers to questions we have about anything and everything that's new to us. In a broader sense, the best way to move forward as a society is for people to look at the way things are and ask how they can be improved.

  11. Being authentic:

    Everyone is tired of phonies. If a company says it's organic, people want to know it really is. Even celebrities are trying to earn their titles, instead of just being paid mouthpieces. Just being real is key to succeeding in the new economy.


  1. Knowing your niche:

    The 21st-century economy is a tough economy, and there's competition for every job. What you must do is figure out what you excel at and what people need, and zero in on that.

  2. Personal branding:

    Being the best at something does no good unless you are known for being the best, and that means knowing how to market yourself. In the 21st century, this means taking advantage of every social medium out there.

  3. Behaving with integrity:

    The backlash against business leaders and people with no integrity has already begun. The public mood is already shifting toward seeking out businesses to deal with that are operated by honest people. You'll want to be one of those honest people.

  4. Managing money:

    Unless you're in the 1%, there's never been an economy conducive to throwing your money away. But in a bad economy, you have to be hyper-vigilant about where your "spending leaks" are and where you could be cutting corners.

  5. Investing:

    People who lost much or all of their savings in the stock market crash of 2008 learned the hard way that putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. Know what investments are a good hedge, like bonds or commodities like gold.

  6. Being able to turn the computer off:

    Telecommuting is the wave of the future, and people's homes will be doubling as their office buildings. A successful personal life will mean knowing when to draw the line on work time and transition to off-duty time.

  7. Meditating:

    Whether you call it meditating, praying, or thinking happy thoughts, the benefits of relaxing your mind for a few moments or many. And in our stressful lives in a troubled economy, there's never been a time to learn how to do it.

  8. Political organizing:

    If you've been living on the moon, social movements have been the story of this decade so far. Politicians have their super PACs, corporations have their lobbying firms, but we the people have to know how to organize each other to make our voices heard in this economy.

  9. Interviewing:

    The numbers prove that people are leaving their jobs faster and more frequently than in the past, often because the economy forced companies to decrease benefits or work employees harder. Thus, we all need to get used to applying for new jobs regularly, and that means knowing how to shine in an interview.

  10. Keeping your weight down:

    By 2018, obesity-related health care will cost the U.S. more than $340 billion, or 21% of health care spending. Companies are also starting to feel the burn from employees' unhealthy lifestyles. For the overall well-being of the country, your company, and most importantly, yourself, get yourself in shape.