You’ve heard this familiar career advice: Network your butt off and volunteer for new projects. As helpful as both actions can be, whether you’re looking for a new job or to level up at your current company, identifying and developing in-demand career skills can be the extra push you need to get there.
Since we shared in-demand skills in 2020, the workforce has changed, and with it, we’re seeing new skill trends valued by employers—and we’re glad about it. Even better: The job market is red hot. So based on labor trend reports and an expert interview with Mikal C. Harden, talent acquisition executive and cofounder of Juno Search Partners in Philadelphia, we’ve found the top skills to consider as you develop your career this year.
In a recent pulse survey conducted by HFS, companies identified the need to improve digital fluency as the #1 change required. It’s also increasingly becoming a measure of performance. This includes everything from understanding how to use Microsoft Office Suite to advanced artificial intelligence. So what should you do? Show off. Find out the technology skills required to level up, like how to create an enhanced meeting experience in your next team meeting. If your company uses Microsoft Teams, learn how breakout rooms function or about different presentation sharing options. If you’re job searching, try to find out what technology the position works with and begin to learn how to effectively use it.
You’ve seen this one before, but we’re breaking it down for any type of career goal—so no business intelligence or data analyst title required. Data literacy has become the current language of business, but only 21% of employees are confident in their data skills. Another quick stat: In the last year, Udemy has seen consumption of courses related to data visualization software increase significantly. Here’s your chance to get ahead of the curve.
Think of it as an opportunity to tell a story. “Data drives growth, and there’s no shortage of it in today’s digital world, so understanding the best data to analyze based on your role and breaking it down into an easily digestible story is an extremely valuable skill,” Harden said. Where in your role can you measure your work? What’s your data story? Consider these questions for your role specifically. When you’re ready, here are our top three free tools to get started:
- Datawrapper: Known to be useful for journalists and communications professionals to bring campaigns to life, the site hosts their blog titled CHARTABLE, where they regularly write about the best practices in data visualization.
- Canva Graph Maker: This versatile tool lets you create beautiful data visualizations instantly and hassle-free. Unlike other online graph makers, Canva isn’t complicated or time consuming. There’s no learning curve—you’ll get a beautiful graph or diagram in minutes, turning raw data into something that’s both visual and easy to understand.
- RAWGraphs: RAWGraphs is more advanced, but it’s a free site for your data needs. It works with tabular data (spreadsheets and comma-separated values) as well as with copied-and-pasted texts from other applications (e.g. Microsoft Excel) to break down data into more digestible graphs.
Do you go back to a website just for its awesome look and feel? You can thank the company’s UX design team. UX focuses on customer interaction with products to ensure apps, websites, etc. are designed for the best user experience. This includes accessibility as well. It’s worth noting that web accessibility saw the biggest surge in consumption over the last four years.
User experience designers are in demand, but if you’re not interested in being a designer, don’t worry. UX is versatile and the skills required are highly transferable. For example, for any writers out there, UX requires copywriting. Other soft skills include communication and empathy. Think about all of the departments that could use an effective and empathetic communicator! If you are interested in becoming a designer, skills get more technical, including information architecture, wireframing, and prototyping. Career Foundry offers a course on UX Design.
Problem solving is both a leadership skill and a required part of effective communication. Needless to say, this skill is simply timeless. Plus, problem solving in a virtual work environment where communication and collaboration can feel fragmented has become essential. It’s easy to feel frustrated with clients or internal teams. It’s easy to complain when things aren’t getting done. But being a problem solver shows your leadership capability. “Not only is it vital to have a solid decision-making process for solving complex business problems, but it’s also a great skill for making important life decisions—for example, making a career switch or moving to a new city,” Harden said. And her pro tip: Break the situation down. Here’s an example:
- Define the situation: Differentiate fact from opinion and assess the situation in your own words. Feel free to write it down to get your thoughts together.
- Generate solutions: This is a great opportunity to use a flowchart to tell yourself, “If this happens … this will be the result.” Take your time on this step and really think about what would serve you, your team, and the company involved. Also consider who you need to talk to to gain buy-in for your idea and minimize resistance to change.
- Consider alternatives: Even if you are the final decision maker (YGG), this is the step to ask for feedback. Depending on the situation, can you talk to your manager about your solution? How about a colleague? Receiving feedback can help you decide what to do next. It’s always helpful to prepare a “backup plan.” Skilled problem solvers use a series of considerations when selecting the best alternative.
- Implement: We know, this step probably requires approval from “higher-ups,” so we’ll need patience. Once you are able to implement, celebrate your accomplishments and don’t forget to ask for feedback along the way.
Active listening is another timeless skill, but it’s being seen as increasingly more important. It’s the act of keeping engaged while talking with someone so you truly absorb what they have to say. More recently, studies find active listening is a driver for an inclusive work environment and a requirement for success. “Active listening supports employees in letting them bring their own brand of thought to the table,” Harden said. Practice before your next team meeting or, better yet, company event. Here’s how to start:
- Maintain eye contact
- Don’t multitask on your phone
- No interrupting
- Consider your non-verbal cues like posture and facial expressions—show interest
- Restate and clarify the speaker’s points