The skills you need to land an in-demand job right now might not be so different from the ones that will keep you employable in the future.
As ZipRecruiter cofounder and CEO Ian Siegel points out, there’s a huge demand for traditional jobs–ranging from construction work to data science–right now, but there’s also a growing need to fill futuristic-sounding jobs like these:
- Ethical self-driving car hacker
- Robotic medicine
- 3D hologram producer
- Drone pilot instructor
- 3D-printed footwear designer
- Private spaceflight mission manager
For job seekers, it’s hard enough to know how to position yourself for the existing positions, let alone plan for emerging ones. But what seems pretty clear across the board is that employers value so-called “soft skills” today and are likely to do so tomorrow.
While nearly half of U.S. jobs could be affected by automation in the coming years, nearly a third of workers think it will actually make their jobs better, according to new Randstad research. That means it’s worth thinking strategically about what robots can’t do well–like interpersonal communication– which a full 89% of executives say is difficult to find when hiring. Heck, even astronauts need emotional intelligence.
With that in mind, Fast Company talked to job experts about which skills you need to develop right now in order to grow your career in the future–even if most job postings never actually say so.
This skill has applications in a variety of industries, according to Scott Dobroski at Glassdoor. While a job description for a creative manager, for instance, will specifically call for a person who can tell “compelling stories across [social] channels” and appeal to customers through emotion and reason, most others won’t.
However, Dobroski points out that in jobs like IT, where “you’ve got to service every department in your organization,” it’s essential to know how to figure out what everyone needs, then build all that into a solid argument that gets leaders to invest in crucial tech updates. In data science, too, says Dobroski, data visualization requires a certain amount of storytelling–for instance, in converting the analysis to a presentation for that execs and non-technical employees can grasp.
Jim Curtis, president of Remedy Health Media, says you can showcase storytelling skills right on your resume. Maybe you’d ordinarily write how you achieved “20x customer acquisition and “75% year-over-year customer retention.” While that’s impressive, why not add bit of drama? Curtis suggests mentioning you did this while a competitor was on your heels, or at a time when you were one of the company’s first hires. “Take the prospective employer on the journey with you,” he advises, “to create a multidimensional portrait ahead of meeting with the interviewer.”
Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) found that job growth last month was led by the addition of nearly 5,000 positions in IT, software services, and computer system design.
CEO Todd Thibodeaux says CompTIA’s analysis of job-posting data finds that despite demand for technical expertise, employers are looking for good verbal and written communication, problem solving, business intelligence, project management, and teamwork skills. He says that’s because tech professionals are no longer relegated to the back office or the server room.
But that can create some challenges. The more IT managers earn front-row seats in decision-making means they’ll also need to tap soft skills like teamwork, he says. They, like other workers, “are a part of a bigger project involving cross-functional teams that must interact and work together for the project to succeed,” Thibodeaux explains. So on the next resume or cover letter you write, make sure you pair those technical talents of yours with examples of ways you’ve deployed them collaboratively.
3. Project Management
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners, agrees. You’ll definitely see “project management” listed in jobs for (you guessed it) project managers, but it may be absent from many other openings where it’s crucial. Varelas says this skill goes hand in hand with collaboration; in her view, they top the list of soft skills that Keystone researchers have found workers need most–across industries, both now and in the future.
“Team-based projects need team leaders who can keep the project moving, track the components, keep everyone on task,” she observes. Workers with project-management skills bring multiple initiatives in line with each other while planning for every contingency. Beyond just juggling all those elements, Varelas says, “Motivating participants to excel in order to achieve the best possible outcomes is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.”
4. Conflict Resolution
Varelas’s colleague, Jayne Mattson, senior vice president at Keystone Associates, has encountered some candidates who lack conflict-resolution skills. This typically happens in face-to-face interactions where emotional intelligence is required to pick up on what somebody else’s body language and other nonverbal cues might be saying.
But this plays out in other, sometimes preemptive ways, she says, like “the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of emails or other forms of communication.” Here, too, Mattson adds, it’s important to be able to “articulate thoughts and feelings about a situation in a respectful way versus ‘telling it like it is.'” If you can’t do that well–whether in person or digitally–you’re likely to stir up confrontations.
5. Managing People
This is a more nuanced skill than you might think, and while many job postings are flagged as managerial roles, they might not always emphasize how essential good people management really is. What’s more, this job skill isn’t just crucial when you’re moving up the ranks in a corporation–it’s also useful if you decide to strike out on your own. As ZipRecruiter’s Siegel notes, thanks to the gig economy, the rapid rise of independent workers, and the ease of starting their own businesses, “We’re experiencing a wave of entrepreneurship the likes of which society has never seen.”
So hard skills, like learning to read a balance sheet and profit and loss statements, won’t always cut it; you’ll also need to direct your own employees or work effectively with clients and customers. “I don’t know that there’s a class you can take to learn empathy, perspective, and patience,” says Siegel–it just takes practice. “If you haven’t worked for others, it is hard to be good at managing,” he points out–adding that he believes it takes at least three years’ reporting to somebody else before most employees should even be considered for management roles themselves.
Just because employers focus largely on technical skills and industry expertise in job postings doesn’t mean that’s all that’s required. “The reality is that employers are terrible at saying what is important to success on the job,” says Siegel, “Few people say you must be a good listener,” he says, or be able to help your coworkers collaborate. But those skills have never been more important–not just to your current career but to your future one, too.