"What classes should I take this year?"
"What kind of education should a young person have to be employable?"
"What skills will get me a job?"
These are all questions I hear in my office and in my inbox regularly. And there are lots of ways to answer this question. I can encourage you to study what you are interested in (and you should do that), and I can use employment statistics to tell you which majors have the highest employment rate or earn the biggest salary. But there are themes in education that I think will serve you well to be part of the new working world. Because an education needs to not just get you a job in 4 years, it needs to build you up as a functioning member of society and the global economy for the next 50 years. So kids. Here's what you should study this year.
1. The Liberal Arts. Take a class in History, English, Philosophy. Learn the scientific method. Read great works and write a lot. WRITE A LOT. Learn to evaluate a piece of information for credibility and accuracy, think about its possible application to other disciplines, and formulate a coherent argument. The liberal arts are underrated in the set that poo-poo a university education, but employers know they are critical. Your future manager needs someone who can think, see patterns, can explain themselves, make good decisions. Studying the liberal arts will make you smart, and it is smart people who become true leaders.
2. Computer Science. Now that you're good at thinking about problems in general, you should learn to think about problems in the technical universe. Develop a solid technical foundation, understand algorithms and programming languages and database structures. You might not actually have a future in writing code, but you must know the foundations of how technical systems are built, so that you can turn those problems you see in the world into solutions.
3. Entrepreneurism. Whatever job you hold at the end of your degree is not going to be the job you hold 10 years from now. In fact, I don't think it's even reasonable to assume that you will get a job at all. As the world of work changes, you're going to want to build skills to create your own job. So, take a class in entrepreneurial thinking and innovation where you learn design thinking, how to assess a market problem, how to pitch an idea, build a prototype or MVP, and what makes a business.
4. Show up Live. You must interact with people daily. Choose classes with an in-person component, that require you to work in teams, give presentations, collaborate. You will need to develop skills to function and communicate well with others in order to be successful in the future world of work, and taking classes by watching videos and hanging out in your bedroom is not going to be enough to develop this. You need to learn to negotiate, persuade, be likable, and deliver an argument, you need to learn to lead and to follow, to take and respond to feedback. You can only do this by interacting with other people, a lot.
When we think about the jobs that machines can NOT do, it is a human's ability to focus our attention, ask deep questions, create innovative answers that draw from multidisciplinary approaches, and build relationships with other human beings that will help us be successful. Those are the skills you should make sure you're developing to make sure you're employable in the future world of work.