Work Skills Employers Want (And You May Not Have)

by Murray Johannsen. Feel to connect via Linkedin.

The best employers find employees with the right work skills. Some are new. Others are timeless — having been in demand for a long time. Best you KNOW what skill sets employers want so you can stay employed or get employed.

Work skills are important because they are the skills that employers are looking for in today’s workforce. They are also the skills that will help people to be successful in their personal and professional lives.

“Some things change, some things don’t. “ — Morpheus, The Matrix Reloaded

The classic method of delivery of learning in the university. Symbolized by the lecture hall. Image by Yinan Chen

What are Work Skills?

21st century skills are the skills that people need to succeed in a an economy the includes interacting with different types of Ais. These include both hard skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, and soft skills, such as communication and collaboration.

Any system tends to teach what worked in the past not necessarily what worked in the future. This is especially true of educational systems which are very slow to adapt.

Seven Examples of 21st Century Expertise and Skills

Here are some examples of skills:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Digital literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Global awareness
  • Entrepreneurship
There is no doubt that automation will end jobs. The big question is whether new jobs will be created. Also, what expertise and skills one needs to develop.

What are the challenges of developing 21st century skills?

There are some challenges to developing 21st century skills. Some of the most notable challenges include:

  • The pace of change in the 21st century economy is rapid, which can make it difficult to keep up with the latest skills.
  • The cost of developing 21st century skills can be high, especially for those who do not have access to resources such as classes, workshops, or extracurricular activities.
  • Some people may not be motivated to develop 21st century skills, especially if they do not see the immediate benefits.

Skill Mapping the Work Skills You Need to Prosper

Productivity software

14 General Resources

Asian Correspondence: Are Southeast Asia’s education systems preparing workers for the future?

Smart employers understand what schools and universities neglect to teach. This seems to be a problem in many countries such as India

Most employers will train in the technical area since software applications are not commonly taught. And the specifics such as how to run industrial machinery are clearly out of bounds of the university. But they just don’t train in soft skills. 

Discussion on Survey. The survey says employers want: teamwork. communication skills, leadership, work ethic (four out of the top five). Not all of these soft skills. So these types of skills are important despite the fact they are neglected in most degree programs. I suppose you could make an argument saying it is imported because it is not covered.

Berdan, Stacie (2011). Top Skills MBA Graduates Need for Success. Huffington Post.

A list of eight here, not all of which are taught in MBA programs. December 5.

Calvin, Mike (2014). Essentials for Hiring: Soft Skills Clearly, a liberal arts degree has its strengths, but one of them is not developing “desk ready” skills and competencies wanted by employers. After all, critical thinking is not a competency employers routinely use in a job posting.

Inc: Three Things Apple Believes It Can’t Train Employees.

As the article states, “Apple says it can teach you about technology. What they can’t teach you are the needed soft skills to represent the company well.” So, even when you are a company sitting a pile of cash, there are some skills you best have that companies won’t train in.

Kuther, Tara (2013). What Employers Seek in Job Applicants

American Psychological Association. A closer look at some of the work skills valued by employers, especially if you have a psychology degree.

Michigan State University, (ND). The Twelve Essentials for Success, Competencies Employers Seek in College Graduates.

Schrage, Michael (2010), “Higher Education Is Overrated: Skills Aren’t,” Harvard Business Review. July 30.

As mentioned in the article, “Knowledge may be power, but knowledge from college is neither a predictor nor guarantor of success.”

Straus, Kristen (2016). Nine Skills Bosses See Lacking In New Graduates in 2016. May, 17.  Like previous years, college graduates in 2016 entered the job market not having many skills employers want. And 2017 promises to be no different. Here’s how you can shine when others are in the dark.

National Association of Colleges and Employers

Lots of good information. This link tracks a survey on job-search resources students use and find (or don’t find) helpful

There is some evidence that 21st-century job skills are not being taught in many university degree programs. It used to be that getting a degree was enough. But maybe good grades aren’t enough to get meaningful work that pays well? There’s evidence that it’s not.

// Find Out More About the Hot Skills You Need to Prosper This Century

Linkedin — The 10 most in-demand skills of 2019

LinkedIn analyzed hundreds of thousands of job postings to determine which skills companies need most in 2019. They found that employers are looking for workers with both soft skills and hard technical skills.

Slide Share: 8 Marketing Skills You Need (if you want to be rich).

You can’t run any organization if you don’t understand marketing. And if you have to put the marketing competencies into just three categories, these are good ones to focus on. Forbes, Feb. 7.

Umoh, Ruth (2018). What Linkedin Says American Employees are Lacking.

This is actually something I would not have flagged as a prosperous skill for the 21st Century. Still, it is thought that interpersonal skills of various types are not being developed by Millennials and Gen Z individuals. The most important one? Verbal communication skills. One probable cause — the heavy use of text. 

University of Kent, ND. What are the Top Ten Skills Employers Want?

  This page summarizes, a set of “Surveys on the skills required by graduates undertaken by Microsoft, Target Jobs, the BBC, Prospects, NACE and AGR and other organizations.”

Wikijobs: 10 Soft Skills:  What They Are — Why They are Important

Nice article here about what we should have learned from Mom, Dad, and our schools but we probably didn’t cause we weren’t paying attention.

What The Best Employer’s Want

Some employers figure out, that finding talent in the 21st Century is more than just checking off that a candidate has a degree and the resume was spell-checked and grammar proofed.

Maybe not the best paying, but there are quite a few of them. Many of them are in tech and business.

Chief Learning Officer: The Digital Future is Human.

What are the most important skills you need to develop in the 21st Century? Fortunately, it’s not coding and math. Sure, for a small number of people these are helpful. But clearly, few will ever use calculus or geometry in business. This study says better learn leadership, communication, and collaboration.

How To Get Hired at Google. The Ideal Mindset of a New Hire.

I doubt whether many of us will go to work for Google, but one has to admit they do have their act together when it comes to hiring. If you are in the hiring game, you might sort on this characteristic as well.

Google: The Ideal Mindset of a New Hire

I doubt whether many of us will go to work for Google, but one has to admit they do have their act together when it comes to hiring. If you are in the hiring game, you might sort on this characteristic as well.

Washington Post: Would you believe U.S. employers are facing a shortage of marketers?

Per the article, “Given the number of email promotions, pop-up ads, and commercials that inundate our daily lives, would you believe that American companies are struggling to fill marketing positions? It’s true.” 

Updated June 21, 2023.

Work Skills For the 21st Century