5 Timeless Roles For the 21st Century

What skills should you develop in the 21st Century? That’s not an easy question to answer. But one way to think about it is to focus on types of skills least likely to be automated.

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” ― Mark Twain

Map Out The 21st Century Skills You Need to Prosper

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” – Elbert Hubbard

A Few Timeless Roles

The following are roles that that will likely prosper in the first half of the 21st Century.

Source: Artgate Fondazione Cariplo: Pope Urban II (Papa Urbano II) The story goes, that this Pope was the one that started the crusades. He did with a speech that fired up the nobility and the masses. . . And you thought you were good with language.
Source: Artgate Fondazione Cariplo: Pope Urban II (Papa Urbano II)  It is said that this Pope called the creme de la creme of European nobility together and made a speech—one that catalyzed many to go on a crusade to the Holy Land.

The Entrepreneur

You can’t fire the big boss — well that not quite true. Since most entrepreneurs are wise enough not to go public and have a board of directors they have lifetime employment as long as they have a strong balance and they’re not stupid enough to let others control 51% of the stock.

The c-Level (CEO, CIO, CTO, CFO, CLO)

Honestly, sometimes I think a public corporation would if it could maximize profits by downsizing to one employee. Actually, a cynic would say that in a corporation of one, the poor CEO would likely keep a small group of sycophants to boss around. Remember, c-level executives rarely fire themselves for incompetence or to improve the bottom line.

The Project Manager

Stay away from jobs where you do the same thing the same way. If you’re doing the same thing the same way, a machine can likely do it faster with fewer mistakes. Since projects have more variation than process, expert systems will have a tougher time doing it. That’s why one should consider developing project management skills.


I know, no self-respecting business major wants a job in sales. Huge mistake. Sales are the launch pad that rockets you into really understanding people (and why they buy no less).


It was hard to imagine that a machine will be able to run a sports team. It’s also possible that people might perfect a human to coach them to learn skills.

A man working on a machine in the early part of the mid-20th century. Source: U.S. Gov’t. War Department. Office of Indian Affairs.

A Final Word. The World is Changing — Stay Current in Your Skills.

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Work Skills For the 21st Century