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IDing Your Marketable Skills in 2024

marketable skills

Are marketable skills changing? Rumor has it that technology is making hard skills like coding and data analysis obsolete. That’s not entirely true, but employers are eying the value of soft skills more than ever. Let’s take a deeper dive:

Are Hard Skills Obsolete?

According to Indeed, some marketable skills to focus on this year include coding, graphic design, content writing, and data analysis. But what about AI? Is it making these technical skills obsolete? After all, as we reported last fall, a June 2023 McKinsey report stated that generative AI is set to automate 60% to 70% of employee workloads. And AI is the scapegoat for nearly 4,000 job cuts made in May 2023, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. data.

But we also brought you opinions from folks like Tech Target’s Ben Lutkevich, who states that data isn’t as cut-and-dry as it seems. “AI is more likely to enhance the workplace, allowing workers to do more important (and perhaps higher paying) jobs. It needs human feedback and maintenance to work. And as it stands today, AI is imperfect. It can cost workers productivity time by generating low-quality data that needs to be sifted through and making mistakes,” we wrote.

The bottom line is that AI can pick up much of the work on the fringes, including the more mundane tasks and high-level computing. But we will always need talent who understands the work being done and can step in where AI falls short. For this reason, hard skills are still very marketable skills. IT certifications, in particular, are critical for tech job seekers this year.

Soft Skills Are Vital to Highlight

You may roll your eyes at the mere mention of soft skills (we often do, too) because the category is so abstract. As The Balance describes them, soft skills are non-technical skills that impact your performance in the workplace. They include strengths in interpersonal communication, listening, time management, problem-solving, leadership, and empathy. The other problem with “hanging your hat” on your soft skills is that they’re subjective. Your high propensity for empathy and adaptability may be great for one job role or culture but undesirable for another.

So, how do you know when to highlight these traits as marketable skills? Find clues in the job description and the employer’s value statement (if available). For ideas on how to do this and more, check out our post Can I Be a Culture Fit If I’m Different?

Smart recruiters and employers will also look for indications of matching soft skills throughout the interview process. You may be asked to take a personality or behavioral assessment, or you may be asked behavioral questions, including the classic “Tell me about a time you failed,” to assess how you reacted to and handled certain situations.

Transferable Skills Are the Sweet Spot

Hard or soft, the most marketable skills these days are ones that can be transferable across industries or job functions. A Pearson study on the future of work found that roughly seven in ten people are currently in jobs where “we simply cannot know for certain what will happen.” It’s frustrating but valid for both employers and workers. Ten years (or even five years) ago, we couldn’t have predicted today’s workforce skill changes.

When most experts talk about transferable skills, they’re referencing soft skills. Indeed lists out a few here, including communication, teamwork, dependability, time management, and initiative. But hard skills are certainly necessary to accomplish daily tasks and to demonstrate one’s ability to learn, understand, organize, etc. Those additional attributes are transferable. With technical skills, it’s important to highlight not just your specific “brand” of expertise but also your general technical literacy and ability to learn new skills as needed.

By honing and highlighting a diverse set of transferable skills, you can position yourself for success in the ever-changing job market. Whether mastering a new programming language or enhancing your communication abilities, investing in your marketable skills is a strategic move for the future.

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