We are now half-way through 2019 (or just about) and with summer just around the bend and a new school season starting soon after that, it’s never too late to upgrade and hone your employability skills. After all, “stop learning, start dying” (paraphrased and attributed to Albert Einstein). So, what are/were the top skills of 2019 and how many of them will move into 2020?
Employers today argue that soft skills (things that are easily transferable and are often partly based on personality and experience, not just being taught) are the most important set of skills to have. After all, they are good in any industry, they never ‘switch editions’ and they just make people easier to work with and for. However, the types of soft skills that are most in demand do change up, depending on exterior factors such as changing technology and the needs of customers. It’s also worth noting that businesses today are getting more flexible, more fluid, and must be more responsive to challenges we never thought of in the past, such as climate change, instant connectivity, social media influence, and more. So, what are the top 2019 soft skills?
At the head of the pack (and finally I might add) is creativity. Creativity in the past, has never really been seen as a skill that can be trained or utilized. It was often shunted aside to the realm of artists, writers, and entertainers. That has changed today because of computers and Artificial Intelligence. Sure, computers can fix a lot of problems, but they can’t easily predict problems that could come out of left field, nor can they come up with creative solutions for problems that haven’t even arisen yet. Creativity has finally been pulled out of belonging solely to artists and been thrust into the top of the heap for soft skills. So, don’t be afraid of thinking outside the box because your boss probably needs it!
- Working Well With Other
This skill has always been important, but it takes on a new cast and importance in the new millennium. Businesses now bring in people from all walks of life and employees for large companies can come from all over the world. It is imperative to be willing to work well with people who have a huge range of experiences because they will help push the business forward and you don’t want to have a toxic work environment. The younger generation also values things like multiculturalism, anti-sexism, and support the LGBT+ community in greater numbers than ever before, so a company that also embraces these things stands a much better chance of getting top talent.
- Adaptable/Change Management
Being able to handle change well has always been important, but it’s even more important today with businesses that are changing their focus, coming up with new ideas, and battling problems such as climate change, tariffs, and poverty. Businesses that want to do well not only have to sell products or services, but they also have to be community minded and the community is always evolving! An adaptable mind is also necessary to be creative and start solving problems in a new way rather than ‘how it’s always been done’ because how it’s always been done, isn’t working anymore.
- Time Management
The ability to manage several demands all competing for your energy has always been important and continues to be today. More employees report having to wear ‘multiple hats’; they may be doing customer service and working with social media and trouble shooting all at the same time (especially in small businesses). It’s critically important to be able to prioritize what needs to be done, give things the time they need to be done, and still be able to set your boundaries and respect your need for self-care. (It’s only a slightly Herculean task!) In any event, the ability to set times to work on a project and then be able to switch gears to other projects smoothly is a great skill to have.
- Communication Skills
Communication skills are another set of skills that will never go out of style. These include the ability to speak, write, listen, and understand what you are reading and listening to. Communication skills can also cover learning other languages, understanding and doing sign language, and being able to read body language. All of these things are important because humans are social animals who require a certain amount of communication in order to get through their lives. It’s also important because you can’t solve problems, sell products, or give services if you don’t know what people need! Most people are better at one set of communication skills than others (writing over speaking for example), but anyone can improve these skills and they will never go out of style.
Hard skills are skills which are defined as skills which are ‘teachable and easy to quantify’. They are the skills you learn through textbooks, online courses, or on the job and they often come with certificates, diplomas, degrees, or other tangible ‘proof of understanding’ or ‘proof of mastery’. While soft skills are universally in demand, hard skills tend to be tied more firmly to an industry. Still, there are some hard skills which are always useful to have and are in demand.
- Cloud Computing
Everything is being stored, pulled, and worked on through ‘the cloud’ or through remote access. As a result, most businesses nowadays need at least one person who understands how to make the cloud work: setting it up, trouble shooting, teaching others, security, and upgrading it as needed. It’s not necessarily easy to learn, but it is in demand.
- Artificial Intelligence
The age of AI is upon us and people need to be able to make their computers work. There is more integration between devices and people, more work being done on ‘smart’ systems, and more businesses that want to take advantage of these tools. As a result, those who understand and can teach computers how to do things stand to find plenty of work.
- Analytical Reasoning
Businesses today (and many individuals) are ‘data driven’; that is, they want to know everything they can about how they are doing, how they stack up with others, what the future holds, how close they are to achieving goals, and so on. All of this creates a ton of data and creates a demand for people who can make sense of it and be able to advise, consult, and make decisions based off of it. Pattern recognition and analysis are still very much human ventures, even in the age of the computer.
- People Management
Yes, it could be argued that this is leadership and leadership is a soft skill; however, in this case, we are talking about the ability to manage teams, dictate where and how people should be used in a business. People management is a new skill added to the wish list of businesses because of the fluid nature of many employees-it’s more likely that employees will leave jobs and move on to other opportunities, and the number one reason to quit is management. Therefore, it is in the company’s best interest to ensure the best management teams and train them properly.
- UX Design
The last of the top five hard skills is UX Design. UX means ‘user experience’ and it refers to the ability to create products and services (such as websites) that provide the best user experience possible. Customers and clients today want things to be smooth, easy to use and intuitive, so it takes a well trained and creative mind to meet that demand. UX Design is needed across the board for businesses, particularly to design business websites and social media, as well as products and services. It’s also concerned with branding, design, overall usability, and function of a product. So, it’s definitely in demand as a hard skill!
Some of these skills have been in demand for a long time, while others are new to the field. It’s always important to keep your skill set up to date and be willing to learn more skills in order to be remain employable. As for 2020 it’s likely all these skills will still be important as we enter the third decade of the new millennium, so now is a great time to upgrade.