The most valuable career skill in the future starts with an H

The world is changing. The job market will change with it. Our kids are growing up in an increasingly competitive world. Many jobs that require only average skill will be replaced by machines and computers and the remaining mid-level careers will be fought over by the ever growing global population of college graduates.

From 2010 to 2019, the percentage of people age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher jumped from 29.9% to 36.0%.

If there are 10 positions for accountants in the market and 50 kids applying for those jobs how will the hiring manager decide? Average will not cut it, why higher a weaker candidate when you can afford to take the best of the bunch. Our kids will need to be better than average to make the cut.

"No problem!" you say? Yeah, me too. I think my kids are awesome but there is a problem. Even if they get that accounting job, there is a more dismal fate awaiting them. The day that their position is replaced with an AI calculator and the company no longer needs a human accountant. All the time and study preparing to be an accountant and now nobody wants one. There is only one thing they can do at this point...


Hustle is technically a verb but in reality, it is the attitude that counts. Are your kids ready to hustle to find a way they can continue to add value? Can they think outside the box and re-make themselves. Other phrases that convey the same or similar thinking are, land on your feet, never give up, quick on your feet, maemuki (Japanese), grit.

The Cambridge English Dictionary apparently does not agree with my own personal definition of hustle. I always thought of it in a positive way, using creative or alternative approaches to succeed. I can remember my own father saying things like "You gotta hustle!" referring to school or applying for jobs. Maybe it was misused but it made sense and stuck with me. Mr. (Ms.?) Cambridge defines it as:

  1. to make someone move quickly by pushing or pulling them along
  2. to try to persuade someone, especially to buy something, often illegally
  3. energetic action
  4. a dishonest way of making money
I like my definition better. Mostly because it would not work with this article if I use the Cambridge meaning! 

It is not all bad news though. We as parents can actually endow our kids with this critical attitude. Last week's article about resilience discusses similar themes. If you unbundle the idea of hustle you get creativity, resilience, energetic, motivated or driven and maybe a little bit devious. A Forbes article, albeit about entrepreneurs, gives the following advice on how to develop hustle:

  1. Create a Compelling Vision
  2. Don’t be Afraid to Fail
  3. Keep trying

I am not sure how relevant it is to ask your 12 year old to write down his vision. It seems like it might be a little much. However the idea is to teach them to keep their eyes on the prize. The accountant job is not the goal, to have a financially rewarding and emotionally satisfying career is the goal. If that is clear then losing the accounting job is just a bump in the road rather than a brick wall. When you kids are working on something whether it is a new lego set or a school project try asking them what they are doing and see if they can see a step or two beyond the immediate activity and see the bigger picture. 

2 and 3, are about the same thing. resilience and confidence.  Give your kids chances to try and fail and try again and succeed. That is it, nothing complicated. Make them keep trying till they get it and they will learn that they have what it takes to succeed.

The only constant in this new world our kids are entering is that adaptability, just like it was for our caveman ancestors, will continue to be the most important attribute for survival (success). They gotta hustle!