Soft skills and freelancing the new normal

Marcus Bowles from the Institute for Working Futures. (Photo: Supplied)

Freelance workers, once considered less preferable to fulltime employees, now hold all the cards in the rapidly evolving modern workplace, according to a leading academic on employment.

Dr Marcus Bowles, chairman of the Institute for Working Futures and an adjunct professor at the University of Tasmania, said soft skills and flexible work hours were becoming the new normal.

“Our coming future will bring ‘new collar jobs’ in the job environment,” he told the Launceston Freelance Festival today.

“These are jobs that require both technical and human capability into our emerging digital industries. These are jobs that will specifically depend on a worker’s knowledge gained from non-traditional education paths.”

He added only 67 per cent of employed Australians are working more than two days a week during the lockdown, while over 1.4 million workers had lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

Speaking in a group Zoom to delegates Dr Bowles said future employability would not depend primarily on a person’s current technical skills but on their future potential and ability to adapt “soft skills” to accomplish tasks.

“Soft skills are gained from gathering experience in the culture and environment that the employers themselves are already familiar with,” he said. “These are human skills and qualities displayed through knowledge, ability, mindset and cognition.”

He said skill sets currently required to survive in the rapidly changing world won’t be enough in the near future. And knowledge of your own skills is important but the ability to display them accurately and clearly in a resume is far more crucial.

“Know yourself, your strengths, your profile and your ability to work in different teams, different cultures,” he said. “Have the ability to work together in a dynamic environment… you need a blend of both technical and human skills.”

Typically, these roles will involve a vocational/vendor certificate, experience and “micro-credentials”.

Dr Bowles said micro-credentials in a resume showed employers confirmation of what you did with interactive and clear use of metadata, progression, analytics and clickable links. These links must distinctly verify what company you worked for and what skills you have that can accomplish more jobs like that.

“Make sure that you can express the particular skills you have, validate your micro-credentials and if you can’t, then you can just get testimonies from reliable third parties,” he told the conference.

Dr Bowles also said the future of work will be to differentiate yourself from others in the masses.

“You should spread your net as far as you can as long as you have a targeted message,” he said.

To ensure clients choose you, your online portfolio must be clear and concise and it must outline you as an expert in a very precise area of expertise.

“If you accommodate too much you can’t be recognised as an expert in your field,” he added.