Earn Job Hunting

The Skills You Need Most In 2021 To Land Your Next Job 

Lindsay Mott  |  March 15, 2021

Job hunting? These hard and soft skills will help set you apart from the pack and land you that new job you've been working toward.

Finding a job is tough, full-time work. You spend hours just looking and browsing job listings. You decide on a few to apply to, perfect your resume and tailor your cover letter, then fill out the application and then… you wait. Sometimes it works out. Other times, you hear nothing. Literally crickets. Other times, you might get a “nibble,” only to have it lead nowhere.  Landing a job is a mess, and it’s exhausting. We get it. 

If you’re looking for a job, there are certain skills that are more important in 2021 than ever before — skills that can truly set you apart, given the vast amount of resumes that employers get these days. We’ve compiled a list of these most-desired, most-important skills with some resources on how you can improve, and how you can set yourself up for success once you’re on the hunt. 

Adapting to our brave new world 

“The pandemic underscored what a great tool learning can be to adapt to our new normal,” says Jolie Miller, director of content management with LinkedIn Learning. “The pandemic changed how we work, live, socialize — everything — and a lot of the top courses we’re seeing people take are teaching them how to be more productive remotely, how to create work/life balance, and how to communicate better with virtual teams.” 

LinkedIn recently put out a study that shows the jobs on the rise during this era, and the corresponding hard and soft skills needed to improve your chances at getting hired. 

“Both hard and soft skills are important in finding a job because both will illustrate to an employer what your strengths are and help them to visualize you in the role you are applying for,” says Toni Frana, career coach and team lead at FlexJobs and Remote.co.

FlexJobs also recently released a list of hard and soft skills that are important for this year and beyond. 

So, what’s the difference between a hard and soft skill?

Hard skills tend to be more technical in nature and are usually industry-specific and focus more on your ability to perform a specific task (writing, creating spreadsheets, marketing, etc.). 

Soft skills are more about the way you perform tasks (teamwork, communication, leadership, etc.) and traits you possess that can give you an edge when you are applying for a job and the rest of your application (years of experience, etc.)  is equal to that of a competing candidate. 

Soft skills can help show an employer how you approach situations at work, how you manage your time and tasks, how you communicate, how you problem solve and collaborate with others, and what type of team member you’d be. 

Top hard skills

The top five hard skills from the LinkedIn study that correspond with the in-demand jobs right now are:

  • Software development
  • Project management
  • Data analysis
  • Digital marketing
  • Product management

Additional skills from the FlexJobs list include:

  • Computer software and application knowledge
  • Design
  • Negotiation
  • Mathematics
  • Administrative
  • Writing
  • Foreign languages

Not surprisingly, digital skills seem to be more important than ever in landing new jobs given today’s economy and the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also very important when it comes to getting remote jobs. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated how critical digital platforms have become to our everyday life,” Miller says. “With the demand for digital skills increasing, our data shows that in the next five years we’ll see 15M more technology-related jobs across industries globally.” 

Top soft skills

Soft skills can be harder to pinpoint, but the study released by LinkedIn shows their top five are centered around getting hired: 

  • Improving a resume
  • Creating a great first impression
  • Nailing the interview
  • Communicating with confidence
  • Complex negotiation

Beyond that, the following are also important:

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Empathetic and human-centered leadership
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Effective listening
  • Proactive communication
  • Problem solving 
  • Critical thinking
  • Organization
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • Responsibility

The pandemic has also created more remote work, and working remotely successfully is its own soft skill in this current environment. 

“The pandemic increased remote work dramatically, and employers realize they need to pay attention to soft skills to hire people who will not just be skilled in their specific role, but who will be skilled remote workers,” Frana says. 

Where should I start?

Digital skills are increasing in importance, so if you feel like you lack in some basic areas – like understanding how to use a smartphone, communicating digitally, or operating basic digital tools like Excel and social media – this is a good place to start.

If you’re more advanced, Miller says a foundational knowledge of digital marketing, data analysis and project management can be important next steps.

LinkedIn is offering courses directly related to the skills mentioned above.

Frana recommends taking some time to brainstorm what your strongest skills are and where you could use a little help. Then, it can be helpful to compare your list with the skills most often required in the type of job that you are looking for and prioritize the mostly commonly mentioned skills as a place to start learning. There are free and inexpensive courses online and you may even initiate a project in your current role to help get some real-life experience. 

With the ever-changing world we’re in right now, it can be helpful to add more high-demand hard and soft skills to your repertoire, whether you are job hunting or not, just to be prepared for whatever comes next. (Because if 2020 taught us one thing…) 

“As our world becomes increasingly digital, I don’t think it ever hurts to spend your free time gaining foundational knowledge of stuff like digital marketing, data analysis or project management,” Miller says. “We are in the midst of a rapid acceleration of automation and economic uncertainty due to the pandemic, and WEF reports up to 85 million jobs will be displaced and 97 million new ones created by 2025.” 

Our favorite resources for job hunters

If you’re looking right now, we got you. And you got this.

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