While fluctuations in the labor market come and go, one challenge has remained constant for employers over the past several years: finding workers with the right skills. A 2020 report by management consulting company McKinsey & Company found that 87 percent of companies were either experiencing skills gaps now or expecting to face them within the next few years.
Those skills gaps represent an opportunity for more experienced workers, says Loretta Barr, senior consultant and career coach with consulting firm Korn Ferry. “Re-skilling is just basically determining what your skills are right now, where they can fit in, and then [matching them with] the kind of opportunities you can look for,” she says. By pinpointing and acquiring the skills companies are seeking, you become a more valuable employee for them, she adds.
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
In addition, the pandemic saw a move to more skills-based hiring, says LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitmann. “Some industries and companies had trouble filling all of the jobs they were adding to keep up with demand, and they realized that hiring based on skills rather than industry experience opened up their talent pools significantly,” she says.
The shift to skills-based hiring means that while qualified candidates with the skills needed for a particular role previously might have been overlooked because of traditional criteria like degrees, now the focus is more on whether a person can do the job, she adds. Re-skilling can help employers see you as right for a particular role.
But how can you understand which skills are in demand and then acquire or brush up on those abilities? This three-step process will help guide you.
1. Identify the skills you need for the job you want
The skill sets needed for specific jobs change regularly, Heitmann notes, so re-skilling should be an ongoing process for every worker who wants to stay marketable. “Skills that might have been required years ago could now be obsolete. With this in mind, it’s so important to keep up with the evolving skills for your industry and role,” she says.
Clues that can help you understand the skills hiring managers are seeking are all around you, says career coach Dawid Wiacek. Job advertisements and descriptions often give you a laundry list of the skills companies are seeking for specific roles, so closely examine the postings for jobs you want. Staying informed about your industry or type of position is also important, he adds.
“Read the news. Follow the statistics. Every few weeks there’s another report on job trends and marketplace insights,” Wiacek says. “Often, these articles talk about hot job roles, top-paying job titles, coveted skills, etc.” You can even set up news alerts, like Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts, that will deliver links to articles to your email inbox.
Employers typically value soft skills most of all, which are the interpersonal skills that help people succeed in the workplace. Job website Monster recently published its “Future of Work 2022” report and found that the top three soft skills employers are seeking include teamwork/collaboration, communication, and problem-solving/critical thinking. The “hard skills” — technical ability and training necessary to do a job — most in demand were information technology, strategic skills, and operations and computer skills (tied for third).
On the professional skills development site LinkedIn Learning, the most in-demand courses have focused on goal setting, and speaking and communicating with confidence. Popular courses for technical skills have included those on web application security and data visualization for business intelligence.
Looking For a Job?
SEARCH THE AARP JOB BOARD