We all learn a ton of subjects at school... and then forget most of them when we hit the job markets. Knowing how to figure out the circumference of a circle, for example, might have got us through our SATs but it doesn't help too much when we're building a business and doing competitor research.

Whether you need to understand what your staff are doing or whether you want to show your boss that you know what you're doing (and can do a whole lot more), here are four skills that will get you where you want to go.

1. Cloud Computing

This is a big topic, but learn coding and you'll always come out on top. On UpWork, PHP development was the skill most sought from freelancers in 2015. On LinkedIn, of the 25 most demanded skills in 2015, seventeen of them required some form of coding knowledge.

And Top of the list was cloud computing.

Know your Hadoop from your Hive, and you'll never have to worry about looking for a job again. And you'll also be able to judge the work of the highest paid employee in your company.

Clearly, learning something as complex as cloud computing will take time and it might take some cash, but if you don't need the certificate, this is the kind of skill you can teach yourself, and even for free. TutorialsPoint.com offers free lessons in Hive... though you'll first need knowledge of Java, SQL, Hadoop and Linux. Start with Java and give it a little time every day. If John Grisham can write a bestseller while working as a lawyer you can learn a computer language while building a business or a career!

2. Marketing Campaign Management

This is a bit easier. Of eight skills that weren't related to coding on LinkedIn's list, three were about marketing. Marketing campaign management came in third.
Unlike other skills though, LinkedIn didn't provide a link to a course on the topic which suggests that campaign management is a skill you learn by experience. If you're running your own business, you'll have learned the hard way how complex it can be to run a campaign over multiple channels, track the results and make adjustments.

And if you'd like to be paid to run those campaigns by an employer start by selling an affiliate product. Even if you don't make a profit with your first sale, you will have bought yourself a valuable education.

3. Marketing Communications

In a 2016 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, written and verbal communication skills took up two of the five skills most demanded by employers. They even beat out a "strong work ethic" and "computer skills." Learning how to communicate more effectively isn't something you can learn in class. You can improve your written skills by reading more and by remembering to run everything you write through a spellcheck before hitting "Send." And you can improve your verbal communication by understanding that different settings use different codes. Understanding that you can't speak to a customer in the same way that you speak to a friend is a good place to start!

4. Networking Skills

Career and business success depend on what you know. Then they rely on who you know. If you're going to get on in life, you need to be able to get on with people.
Again, there aren't really any classes in improving your networking abilities (although some training centers do run them). But you can learn how to make small talk by asking questions and listening to the answers. Pay attention to your own body language as well as theirs. Remember to contact people after you've met them for the first time. And have confidence in yourself! Think of networking as a chance to meet people who are likely to be feeling as uncomfortable as you, open up and confide, and you'll soon be making new friends.

It's those friends you'll need to know when you need a new job... or a new cloud computing developer.

Published on: Aug 30, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.