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Essential Skills for Modern Living: More Google, Less Knitting - But You Still Need to Know Where th

Put down those knitting needles. Stop darning. Reading a paper map? Forget about it.

Those are just three of the skills you no longer need to survive or thrive in the twenty-first century.

That’s according to the Daily Mail in Great Britain, which conducted a poll to determine what are—and are not—the essential skills for living. Turns out typing, Googling, and being able to navigate every manner of online services are pretty much all you’ll need.

Even though I write about workplace issues, I found this article interesting. These are the skills for living successfully and productively right now, and they apply in many ways to the workplace as well. I’m not sure I agree with all of them, but it’s an interesting exercise to look through them. Are you up-to-date?

The top 20 essential skills to know:

  1. Googling
  2. Operating a mobile device
  3. Connecting to the Wi-Fi
  4. Online banking
  5. Learning to cook
  6. Being able to turn off the water at the mains
  7. Knowing what goes in which recycling bin
  8. Knowing about privacy settings online
  9. Using a calculator
  10. Using a self-service checkout
  11. Searching and applying for jobs online
  12. Using Google maps
  13. Updating/installing computer programs
  14. Being able to use satellite navigation
  15. Touch typing
  16. Reheating food in the microwave
  17. Online airport check-in
  18. Uploading photos
  19. Communicating via Facebook
  20. Changing settings on the thermostat

And the 20 skills deemed no longer essential:

  1. Darning
  2. Knitting
  3. Polishing brass and silverware
  4. Baking fresh bread
  5. Putting up a tent
  6. Writing postcards
  7. Sewing
  8. Knowing the phone numbers of friends
  9. Servicing the car yourself
  10. Understanding pounds and ounces
  11. Dinner party etiquette
  12. Writing letters
  13. Speaking a foreign language
  14. Knowing capital cities
  15. Understanding feet and inches
  16. Putting up a shelf
  17. Learning car journeys in advance
  18. Being able to change a tire
  19. Neat handwriting
  20. Knowing how to spell long words.

Of the top 20 essential skills, three are decidedly low-tech and old-fashioned: #5, learning how to cook; #6 being able to turn off the water at the mains; and #7 knowing what goes in which recycling bin. There is something comforting that in the digital age, you still need to know how to shut off your water and make dinner (and no, I don’t think reheating in the microwave, #16, counts).

I was surprised to see navigating your own thermostat as a new essential skill, until it occurred to me that gone are the old-fashioned, super simple dial thermostats, where with the simple turn of your wrist or flip of a little switch you could adjust the temperature. If your thermostat is like mine, you need a PhD to operate it. In fact, I must admit I have no idea how to work it.

On balance, I think the essential skills are spot on. Typing is more important than ever; being able to do things online instead of in person or making a special trip is smart (banking, checking in at the airport, paying bills, etc.); using the Internet to network and find work is essential; etc.

But some of skills the Daily Mail deemed non-essential still seem absolutely critical to me, especially in the world of work. For example, dinner table etiquette. The ability to converse intelligently, politely, and congenially with others—whether you are around a dinner table, conference table, or at an event—is absolutely essential. Not everything is digital; we still have to get along in person, and etiquette should always be an essential skill.

Writing, too, is an essential skill, and that goes for actually putting pen to paper as well as electronic missives. Whether it’s a postcard, a letter, or a short note, the ability to write a good note is essential. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of well-crafted handwritten thank-you note, you know what I’m talking about. And until there is no more ink or paper on the planet, I expect every smart working person to send a handwritten note whenever appropriate.

And come on. If you drive your own car you MUST know how to change your own tire!

But, all in all, the list is pretty accurate, and it speaks volumes about the way we live today. Our lives are online. We stream and synch and digitize and download. And I am all for doing as much online as possible and availing yourself of as much technology as you can. But call me old-fashioned; I still think you should be able to write a decent thank-you note and change your own tire.

Here’s a link to the article: 


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