Marketable Skills for the Future
By Lori Jazvac.
CPC Mastermind Lori Jazvac shares some Canadian trends and marketable skills that will be required in the future. This article brings together provincial, national, and international recommendations with tangible steps for career professionals and their clients.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, data and analysis of trends in the labour market can provide valuable insights. By forecasting future labour market trends, people can detect certain patterns. Knowing these patterns enables them to make better choices about the direction, growth, and development of their careers.
Staying up to date on market trends helps individuals determine how to position themselves a valuable resource for years to come. By identifying relevant and changing trends, professionals can pinpoint locally, nationally and globally relevant data that aligns with their interests and abilities, the type of education and training required, and the steps needed to maintain a competitive edge.
Understanding marketable skills is important because in today’s fast-moving world, the demand for various skills rapidly shifts over time. New occupations often appear while older occupations disappear. Understanding these patterns promotes more educated and informed career choices.
How does this really impact someone?
The labour market offers a wide variety of career choices spanning full-time or part-time employment or self-employment. By analyzing the labour market, those looking for opportunities can make better career development decisions. For example, Ontario’s unemployment rate hovers at approximately 7.0%. Almost 7 million Ontarians work in different occupations – as health care professionals, web designers, engineers, financial analysts, technicians, plumbers, machinists or chefs, just to name a few. By understanding where the jobs are, a person is more likely to find the right opportunity.
The number and types of jobs available to workers can change due to economic growth, technology changes, demographics, and consumer behaviour:
- An aging baby boomer population has increased the need for health care workers in the nursing and medical field.
- ‘Ecotourism’ is a relatively recent development due to growth in tourist attractions which has produced many jobs such as hotel clerks, managers, tour guides, and recreation consultants.
- The real estate market is also significantly developing throughout Canada. Therefore, professionals in real estate, debt management, investment, finance, and property management are more in demand than ever.
Knowing trends can help determine skills requirements. For example, according to The Financial Post’s article from Randstad Canada, technical fields will be in high demand. In the future, “Blue collar” jobs of the past will be gone and new “white collar” jobs will emerge. Employers’ expectations will change. At the same time, Generation Z is arriving into the workforce. This will require employers to shift their thinking to accommodate younger workers. All this information implies that young graduates may need to evaluate their skills gap and adopt more in-demand skills that may be outside of their comfort zone. Older workers may need to become more comfortable working in environments that require new soft skills and hard competencies.
What skills are marketable?
“Marketable skills” are abilities that are in demand in the job market; they are useful for tasks that are valuable to employers. As labour market trends constantly evolve, marketable skills also change and evolve. However, marketable skills are always changing in conjunction with the changes in demand in the job market. Determining marketable skills is an important first step in the job search cycle.
In order to manage a career long term and leverage a competitive edge in the workplace, developing and maintaining a set of marketable skills is essential for success. Here are ten marketable skills that are deemed important in the workplace today.
- Continued Learning
- Work Ethic
- Problem Solving
These traits are all inherently dependent upon one another. For instance, without a passion for your work, you will less likely engage in continued learning and creative problem solving. This will then clearly be reflected in your attitude and your ability to effectively network with other professionals. However, these days exhibiting passion is not enough, as the platform for maintaining a competitive edge increases when positioning yourself against other candidates. Further, one characteristic common to many of history’s greatest minds is a great desire for continuous learning, which entails independently developing skills outside the traditional classroom setting.
Why are marketable skills so important?
People who lack marketable skills will have difficulty making an impact in the workplace. They will also find it challenging to adapt to the myriad of changes that they encounter, thus, enforcing them to utilize a delicate balance of hard and soft skills. Those who have difficulty to adapt to changes in the workplace will experience a challenge in enhancing their growth.
For example, an IT professional who has been downsized and has spent the last 15 years programming in a certain software language possesses skills. However, because he/she has worked with a language that may soon become obsolete, the programmer will need some additional training to acquire the marketable software skills necessary in today’s marketplace.
Employers are always more likely to hire candidates that have marketable skills than those that do not. What is required is knowing what is the best fit for an employer and having the courage to make personal changes when necessary.
Unfortunately, many people have difficulty identifying the skills they possess, and as a result, miss opportunities to display these abilities during job interviews. Others may choose jobs, or are stuck in jobs that do not allow them to improve their marketable skills, which stagnates their personal career brand.
What skills do employers want?
What tasks are valued in today’s marketplace and what skills are necessary to perform them? The U.S. Secretary of Labor and the Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) identified foundation skills and basic workplace competencies that are critical for employment:
- Basic Skills – Reading, writing, arithmetic, mathematics, speaking, and listening
- Thinking Skills – Abilities to learn, reason, think creatively, make decisions, and solve problems
- Personal Qualities – Individual responsibility, verbal and written skills, self-esteem, self-management, and integrity
- Resourcing Skills – Allocate time, money, materials, space, and staffing.
- Interpersonal Skills – Participate in teams, teach others, serve customers, lead, negotiate, and work well with people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
- Information Skills – Acquire and evaluate data, organize and maintain files, interpret and communicate, and use computers to process information.
- Systems Skills – Understand social, organizational, and technological systems; monitor and correct performance; and design or improve systems.
- Technology Skills – Select equipment and tools; maintain and troubleshoot equipment; and apply technology to specific tasks.
- Transferable Skills – Basic skills that transfer from one job to another, which include communication and interpersonal skills of managing, organizing, coordinating, and writing.
- Adaptive Skills – Personal characteristics that develop through life experiences. Although these skills may not be specific to any one job or career, they are extremely important to employers and to sustaining employability; therefore, they are very marketable. Examples: flexibility, leadership, patience, responsibility, maturity, decisiveness, commitment, and enthusiasm.
Skills that need assessment
Every occupation requires a set of crucial, “job-related” skills that all workers must possess to complete the work. Job seekers and workers should review their experiences to determine skills developed throughout their career and then determine which of these skills help them perform market-value tasks. Quintcareers.com breaks down job related marketable skills into 5 main categories:
- Research & Planning
- Human Relations Skills
- Organization, Management and Leadership skills
- Work Survival Skills
Implications for career practitioners
Due to the changing landscape of technology, the rapidly shifting nature of work, and constant flux in the economy, marketable skills are continuously evolving, enforcing jobseekers to continually develop themselves especially in the areas of social media and technology and to learn new competencies.
Skills are not only developed in the classroom, but at work and through real life experience. Performing one’s job requires more than just basic skills; to shine, one must have a wide spectrum of marketable skills that allows capitalizing on career opportunities and advancement while developing strong professional relationships.
As career practitioners, we must be able to identify the latest labour market trends and coach clients on the marketable skills they will need to enhance their career growth. Marketable skills that are becoming critical for survival in the 21st century are:
- Socially intelligent – your ability to engage in conversation, get to know someone personally, and develop meaningful relationships will provide a competitive edge
- Adaptable –coping and managing change in the face of adversity
- Able to work on a virtual team – effective project management via technology.
- Bilingual or multilingual – knowing how to speak a second language- e.g. French or Spanish
- Cross-culturally adept – adapting to different cultural norms; embracing diversity
- Multidisciplinary – possessing knowledge in more than one subject area
- Analytical – sorting through and assessing research and its implications from different perspectives; quantitatively and qualitatively
Strategies for job seekers and workers
The best way to empower yourself is to continuously set goals and develop and build your toolbox of skills, talents, interests, and experiences. Whether this means becoming bilingual or multilingual in a diverse job market or improving a challenging skill, the unique intersection of various skills will enhance career success and personal growth. The key is to keep developing marketable skills and personalizing your brand.
- Identify what skills would bring you an advantage. This refers not only to hard skills (technical skills), but also to soft skills (e.g. communication and time management). Explore what skills are valued in your desired field, both today and in the future. Network with other professionals in higher level positions about what skills would be beneficial to you, your organization, as well as career.
- Conduct an honest self-assessment of your current skills. Look critically at your strengths and weaknesses. Identify the gap in relation to your skills that require development.
- Decide whether to focus on solidifying your strengths or improving your weaknesses. Look clearly at a weakness that could potentially limit your career and find ways to resolve that weakness.
- Dedicate the time and commitment to develop your skills. There are plenty of resources that can help you develop new skills or solidify existing ones, from online education courses to conferences and webinars. Start from your core skills and develop adjacent ones.
- Showcase your newly-developed skill set. This applies to both pursuing new opportunities as well as building and maintaining your personal brand. For those early in their careers, this helps to establish an effective professional online presence with a work portfolio and positive testimonials from colleagues.