Whether you're fresh out of college, re-entering the job market as a seasoned professional, or building a diverse team, it's important to have a handle on the current talent landscape to ensure you have the necessary skills to be competitive and effective. 

In the past, figuring out what was in demand was painful. It usually sounded like this: "Thank you for your interest, but unfortunately, we found someone more qualified." Or, it was a sudden realization that your team lacks the skills necessary to deliver on its goals and objectives.   

Every year, LinkedIn tries to shortcut the process and save you from finding out the hard way. In its 2018 U.S. Emerging Jobs Report released last Thursday, the company analyzed open roles, the skills associated with those roles, and the jobs that have emerged over the last five years, and discovered 10 skills that will get you hired faster than anyone else:

  1. Oral communication--Public speaking, communication, and presentation skills. 
  2. People management--Teamwork, supervisory, and personnel management skills. 
  3. Development tools--Java, C++, Linux 
  4. Social media--Digital media and social media measurement.  
  5. Business management--Management, strategic planning, and business process improvement. 
  6. Time management--Organization skills and multitasking.  
  7. Leadership--Team leadership and team building. 
  8. Graphic design--Adobe Photoshop, web design, and illustration. 
  9. Data science--Data analysis, forecasting, and statistics. 
  10. Web development--HTML, JavaScript, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). 

All of the hard skills listed were to be expected: Development tools, design, and data are an essential part of the digital world we live in. I was surprised to see all the soft skills that made the list.

The term "soft skills" is thrown around quite a bit. In a nutshell, soft skills are a person's ability to effectively interact and connect with other people. Although difficult to pinpoint, you'll know it when someone possesses them. Because they are difficult to articulate, you may hear soft skills described as empathy, the ability to connect and understand people, charisma, or intuition.

Soft skills may seem simple in theory, but they are some of the most difficult and complex abilities to develop -- they can't be acquired through textbooks. Rather, it takes years of practice, experience, experimentation, and feedback from others.  

In my experience, the easiest way to start the process of honing soft skills is to be observant and mindful of those who are naturally gifted in this area. Pay attention to their mannerisms, style, and approach. Mirror the traits and qualities you like, add your personal twist to the others.

It takes practice. You can read as much as you want about soft skills, but without authenticity and confidence, your efforts will come across as awkward and disingenuous.  

It's a great reminder that hard skills can get you only so far. Without the ability to interact with others and clearly communicate and connect the significance of your work to the bigger picture, there will be limitations placed on your effectiveness.

Published on: Dec 20, 2018