Frequently, I’ve been reminded that organizations hire employees to solve problems and address business challenges. It’s about their need to make money, save money, or meet other organizational goals, not about your need for adequate compensation or equitable treatment. It is about showing that you can do the job, will do the job, and that you will do the work the way your employer wants it done.
Each person in an organization has specific business problems and opportunities to address. But, generally, employers are hiring teams to address four challenges that open doors for you:
- Employers face labor shortages that open opportunities,
- Organizations are finding soft skills are more important than ever,
- Employees need technical and professional skills to do their job, and
- Education makes a difference.
Labor shortages offer unprecedented opportunities for those who want to find satisfying work that also pays the bills. You will also increase the likelihood of success in the job market when you have the right skills and education.
Labor shortages open opportunities.
Historically, worker shortages have created work for everyone, including those that may not have had an opportunity to enter certain fields under other circumstances. As so well documented in Margot Lee Shetterly’sbook Hidden Figures, African-American women such as Katherine Johnson had a chance to pursue technical careers during World War II. According to the book, thousands of African-American women found jobs at Langley Field, later part of NASA, during the War, and then remained to play an essential role in the subsequent space program. (Read the book—it’s better than the movie!)
Recently, there were reportedly two open jobs for every one applicant. And post-pandemic labor shortage may continue because, according to the US Census, all baby-boomers will be 65 years of age or more by 2030, so many of them could leave the workforce.
The resulting labor shortages may be less dramatic than the shortages during the early 1940s. Nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that shortages can create opportunities for you to try a new career.
Additionally, revolutionary technologies tend to create jobs rather than eliminate them. We saw this happen with the computer revolution, space race, PC revolution of the 1980s, and the internet revolution that started in the 1990s. So, while we’ve seen scary headlines about the potential employment impact of the AI revolution, it’s not hard to imagine a net positive impact on employment opportunities.
Demographic trends and technological change will work in your favor, but you still need the skills to do the job.
Soft skills are more important than ever.
As discussed in our Guide to the Post-pandemic Job Market, every employee must have soft skills, also referred to as leadership and people skills. People skills could be more important than ever because workforces are becoming more diverse. That means employees will interact with co-workers, customers, and suppliers who come from different cultural and economic backgrounds.
In July 2020, I spoke with Dr. Elnora Tena Webb, a leadership coach, and Tomoko Ha, a certified career management coach, about soft skills and hard skills during a webinar you can watch on LinkedIn. Dr. Webb suggested a list of leadership skills she believes all employees should demonstrate. A few skills on her list included:
- Effective communications,
- Work ethic,
- Problem solving, and
- Continuous learning ability.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) considers soft skills, such as teamwork and communications essential for new graduates entering the workforce. Students, NACE says, should also recognize the value of equity and inclusion in the workplace.
While employers value soft skills, they also hire candidates with the specific technical or professional skills needed on the job, HR people call these “hard skills.”
You need technical and professional skills.
Each employee also needs the technical skills, or “hard skills” to do their specific job. These are skills you may want to list on your resume and LinkedIn profile. They are also skills employers will test you on to verify your competency. For example, a few of the skills a client and I agreed to include on her resume targeting business analyst positions included:
- Business process improvement,
- Functional documentation,
- Requirements elicitation,
- Solutions design, and
- System implementation.
Both technical skills and people skills can be acquired on the job and in school. While employers place a high value on professional experience, there is strong evidence employers also recognize the role education plays in developing technical skills.
Education makes a difference.
Education pays, according to the Department of Labor. You can improve your competitive position in two ways—long term college and graduate schooling, and short-term professional training.
Department of Labor statistics we reported on in our August 13. 2023 blog post demonstrate the value of formal education.
Those with bachelor’s degrees earned 168% more than workers with high school diplomas. Those with high school diplomas achieved a median income of $853 per week, while those with four-year college degrees earned a median income of $1,432 per week.
While a college degree is still the “gold standard” for the education we tout to employers, this could be changing. Last year, a recruiter told me he has found that the college degree is not the only credential which makes a difference. This is true for at least two reasons. First, industry certifications have increased in importance. Second, short-term courses indicate you have gained additional skills and can add valuable keywords to your career marketing materials, especially your LinkedIn profile.
Concluding Comments Your goal as a jobseeker, in our view, is to meet the needs of an employer. The “hidden figures” of World War II and the space race did not get their history-making jobs because someone decided to create a more equitable workplace. They had essential skills that their organization and their country needed at the time. You, too, will be hired when you demonstrate skills, education, and experience that matches a prospective employer’s business requirements.