Skill Sets for the Future: Insights from Zheng Yu Huang
Why, in a world of great abundance, perhaps the greatest abundance that we've seen in human history, are we all so stressed out?
And how do we, in a time of great technological change and globalization, avoid obsolescence?
These are the questions Zheng Yu Huang says are on students' minds of today and graduates of tomorrow. In response, he focuses on building the skill sets of the future. Yu Huang is President of Committee of 100 and a member of the College Promise National Advisory Board.
Shifting Skill Sets
“For centuries and centuries, we learned all the skill sets needed to survive and thrive from our parents or from the master. As we apprenticed ourselves to learn that skill set, the last couple hundred years we realized that students and children needed a very extended amount of time to learn the skill sets needed to survive and thrive in modern society,” Yu Huang said.
From elementary school and junior high to high school, college, and advanced degrees, he says students today know that formal education is no longer sufficient for today’s changing world. “The skill sets of tomorrow may be very different from the skill sets of yesterday. Continuous learning, or lifelong learning, is the only way to adapt.”
Due to rapid shifts in digitization and globalization, Yu Huang said even the most traditionally secure jobs are at risk of becoming obsolete. He gave the example of radiology, a job which formerly required years of education and training: college, medical school, residency, and fellowship. However, hospitals are now finding ways to utilize less costly alternatives, like having x-rays reviewed by experts abroad.
The Importance of Lifelong Learning
Yu Huang says that continuous or lifelong learning is inevitable and necessary in the decades to come. As he sees it, there are two components to lifelong learning: external and internal. Despite having three degrees from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard, Yu Huang has realized that school didn't teach him some of the most important skills needed to survive and thrive in today's world. “Whether it be health, emotional mastery, interpersonal relationships, career planning, wealth management, or mindset change, some of these most important skills -- internal skills -- are not taught,” he added.
Six years ago, Yu Huang spent a year following what he designed as his own “Life MBA.” He visited 20 countries and nearly two dozen experts abroad to learn from them and determine ways to apply that knowledge to everyday life. And in the process, he realized, “as we acquire the skill sets in school necessary to transform our objective world, to make it better, bigger, and more convenient for us. We must also acquire the skill sets to transform our subjective world because everything we experience externally is transformed to our subjective self.”
Advice for the Future
There are two pieces of advice Zheng Yu Huang wishes to impart to students of today and graduates of tomorrow:
First, he says, you must realize that you are in charge of your life's curriculum: “After school, there's no one else to design your life anymore. It's up to you, and you must design your curriculum to maximize on both the external and the internal.”
Second, he says everyone should learn to appreciate and utilize the gift of solitude. “That does not mean solitude is loneliness; solitude is having time for yourself to acquire the skill sets needed to survive and thrive in today's world, whether it be a new foreign language, a new programming language, or understanding body language more, understanding facial and micro expressions, or improving your emotional intelligence. These are the skill sets that will allow you to continue to not only lead for yourself but to lead for others,” he said.
Zheng Yu Huan concluded with a quote for students to take with them on the journey ahead.
“You have the power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find true strength.”
— Marcus Aurelius
This blog post is part of a series of recordings from the College Promise Careers Institute. In November 2020, College Promise held the virtual 3-day summit convening hundreds of our nation's leading practitioners, educators, employers, and thought leaders for sessions tackling the most complex challenges American workers face -- from the rise of artificial intelligence to the role free college plays in maintaining a competitive edge.
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