Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest unemployment numbers. And the news is good. Again.
In October, the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent, the lowest it’s been in nearly 50 years, as 250,000 new jobs were added. Wages were up as well by 3.1 percent, the largest year-over-year gain for hourly wages in over a decade according to the Wall Street Journal. With so many job openings, as well as job-seekers, now is the time to think about your skills and how to stand out in a crowd.
More and more, employers are looking to fill open jobs with skilled workers. Specifically, they are looking for a combination of hard, technical skills and soft, interpersonal skills. According to a recent survey by SkillSurvey, 77 percent of employers think soft skills are just as important as hard skills, and 67 percent would hire someone with strong soft skills even if they were lacking some hard skills.
What are hard skills and soft skills?
Think of hard skills as the skills or expertise you need to have in order to perform a job or the basic qualifications you need to get hired in the first place. They include skills like mechanical knowledge, computer programming, web analytics, accounting, and writing. They are measurable, and easy to demonstrate.
Soft skills–or people skills as they are sometimes called—have to do with how you relate to, and work with others. They include communication, leadership, collaboration and problem-solving. They are less easy to quantify and so, while they may not get you hired, they can make all the difference in your success over the long run, as well as your chances for career advancement.
How do you develop these skills?
- Go to school. Many hard skills can be learned in a short-term program, like a certificate, or as part of a larger degree program. And many soft skills, while they are more experiential, can be developed in a program that is practical and hands-on. And with the advent of a number of part-time and online programs, you can advance your career while you work.
- Get to work. Apprenticing, or interning, with an organization in your chosen field is a great way to learn new skills and how to apply them. Not only will you gain valuable skills, you could also make some important connections with others in your field.
- Find a mentor. Look for someone around you, a supervisor, or colleague, who has the skills you need. Ask questions, get advice, and learn from them. Don’t have a mentor nearby? Join a professional organization and look for opportunities to get connected to others who are further along in their career and eager to share their knowledge.
With so much good news on the job front, now is the time to think about your skills, and to develop the knowledge and experience you need for the future you deserve.