8 Critical Skills for Today’s Workplace

From economic downturns to increasing automation, the job market seems to change from month to month. But even during this economic uncertainty, the fact of the matter is, there are a number of necessary skills one should have for our digital workplace.

1. Microsoft Office

It may seem basic, but don’t scorn the sacred triumvirate of Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. As simple as they may seem, these three are also universal, vital programs for day-to-day business operations–no matter what industry you may be in.

Take Excel, for instance: even if your first thought is of finance, where analysts constantly crunch data in endless rows of formatted cells and special formulas, its versatility lends itself to many fields, including basic accounting, product sales, and even scheduling and booking.

Along the same lines, be sure to understand Google Drive, which offers a cloud-based, free-to-use version of Excel, Word, and Powerpoint. Not only is Drive a close match for the functionality of Microsoft Office, it is also superior to other, comparable tools (such as Dropbox). The key to Drive’s success is its ability to collaborate, allowing different users to come together to work on projects across different time zones and locations.

2. Public Speaking

Though it’s often labeled as a soft skill, public speaking is arguably one of the hardest to learn (yet most important) tools in your repertoire. After all, it’s an ability, that, unlike more nebulous qualities like loyalty or adaptability, can be easily assessed: either you can speak in a logical, eloquent, and engaging manner–or you can’t.

Best of all, public speaking is a transferable, desirable skill across a variety of sectors, such as law, television and film, marketing, and government, to name a few. Quite frankly, given the existence of public speaking organizations like Toastmasters International or the National Speakers Association, there’s really no excuse not to learn public speaking. Doing so, after all, will jump start your career and fast-track your life.

3. Foreign Languages

In an age of increasing globalization, being able to speak multiple languages fluently is incredibly valuable. If you, a proficient, multilingual speaker, work at an international corporation, you are likely to be first in line for a number of perks, from business trips to dynamic, emerging markets to spearheading your company’s expansion into a new country.

Basically, your employer will know that you can create and maintain professional relationships across many countries and cultures–without the embarrassing, potentially expensive mistakes that another, less fluent newcomer might make. Furthermore, people who speak multiple languages are usually more observant, have good memory, and are better at resolutions.

4. Social Media Management

You’ve probably seen it in your own life, but social media is the future of advertising, marketing, and branding–as well as the primary method for businesses to instantly interact with consumers. True, everyone and their mother might have a social media account, but to really create a clever, engaging online presence is half-science, half-art, and all skill. An effective social media manager will be creative, up-to-date on the latest news and trends, and most importantly, have eyes and ears for the perfect, pithy copy and the ideal image.

And it’s clear that social media will only grow, especially as consumers do the bulk of their reading and shopping online. So read up on the art of social media, get familiar with management tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, and you’ll have a job in no time.

5. Graphic Design

Though it’s true that graphic design is outsourced more and more for cost reasons, you’ll still be able to make a living from freelancing. If you choose to do so, it’s critical to be fluent with Adobe Creative Cloud, the gold standard of graphic design programs, which encompasses Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign, among others.

Just remember: especially in our world, where average attention spans are shorter than goldfish, every industry uses some form of visual media to pull in returning customers, new users, and cold prospects alike. Learning graphic design will open plenty of doors and jobs, and thanks to the power of the Internet, can even allow you to become a digital nomad, working full-time while traveling from one country to the next.

6. Content Writing and Blogging

Yet another skill that is particularly notable for being location-independent, content writing and blogging is a growth industry: in the last quarter of 2015 alone, it grew by 20%, or as much in two months as it did in the past two years.

The reason for this? In a nutshell, content marketing gives customers value, and sells your brand indirectly. The proof is in the numbers: even though content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates three times as many leads.

Clearly, content marketing isn’t going away anytime soon, and freelancing jobs will continue to increase. It’s in your best interest then, to write on a wide variety of topics, and do it well.

7. Web Development

Creating and running a website is a common and sought-after task for all industries–not to mention an ideal skillset for someone interested in working remotely.

After all, a well-made, engaging website will provide potential consumers a great first impression in today’s online world, serving as a critical marketing tool for online businesses. From a website, consumers can learn about a company’s history, products, and brand narrative, browsing product displays, promotions, and even team histories.

8. SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which consists of strategies and tips to boost a site’s search rankings, is a bit mysterious. After all, the algorithms of search giants are notoriously opaque, and the subject of endless speculation among marketers.

Still, in a country where 51% of the population shops online (totaling $22 trillion internationally), SEO is incredibly important. Since it often seems that there’s an infinite volume of information on the web, it’s in any organization’s best interest to stay current and high on search rankings, in order to pull in business (or for nonprofits, donors), generate buzz, and stay current. Clearly, any job seeker that can demonstrate this proficiency will be much in demand with employers.

Whether you’re a first-time applicant or seasoned worker seeking to change your company (or industry), creating or modifying a resume can be challenging. However, these skills can help elevate your resume, pushing it out of the slush pile and directly into the hiring manager’s hands. And in a world where thousands of job seekers compete for a small number of openings, that may be all you need.


Originally published at nslsfacts.org on February 28, 2017.

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