For years, people were taught that the main thing you needed to succeed in life was to go to college and get a degree. Now, sadly, we have a country full of young people who are overeducated and underpaid. With so few high-salary jobs to go around, it takes so much more than a college degree to get hired. Nowadays, employers are looking to hire people with certain skills. They could care less about where you went to school or your grade point average.
Here at Self-Made, we’ve combed the Internet for interviews with top business leaders to see what they had to say about the types of skills they look for in their future employees. First, we’ll talk about “soft skills,” which have to do with your personality. These are attributes that will apply to any job. Later in the list, we’ll also get into some of the most in-demand “hard skills,” or specific knowledge that most employers were looking for in 2019. For each of these skills, we will also give examples of what not to do and attributes that are the polar opposite of what employers are looking for.
40. Time Management
One of the top skills that business leaders are looking for is time management. Employers want to hire someone who can show up to work early or at least on time. They should be able to get their work done in a reasonable amount of time. This may go hand-in-hand with organization. If you make a schedule and get everything done in the most efficient way possible, any boss in the world would like to hire you.
Bad time management would be showing up late, even if it’s just five minutes every day. Some may also take too long on their lunch break. These people get distracted by their cell phones or talking to co-workers around the water cooler. They often drag their feet on every assignment, sometimes on purpose. A job that should have taken one day gets dragged out for an entire week. This costs a company more money than necessary. If they can find someone willing to work more efficiently within the given amount of time, the job will almost always go to that person.
Nearly every job in the world requires you to communicate with other people. Whether it’s customer service or simply speaking to your coworkers, it is necessary to speak and write clearly so that people can understand you. When you first apply to a job, make sure your cover letter, resume, and e-mails are free of all spelling and grammar errors. Always be professional and eloquent on the phone as well.
An example of poor communication would be using slang in your emails, texts, or phone calls. Cursing is absolutely unacceptable. And if you have an issue making eye contact or finding the right words to say during an interview, they may not feel you are the right fit for the job.
38. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is the ability to think carefully about a situation before reacting. Many times, an employer might give you a pre-interview quiz online with personality questions or ask questions about certain scenarios during a job interview. A lot of these questions are meant to measure your critical thinking abilities.
The opposite of someone who uses critical thinking would be someone who reacts irrationally and out of emotion. They are easily offended and don’t stop to think about problem-solving. If you are in an interview, and you answer faster than you can process the question, this is a sign you are not fully listening and thinking critically.
Employers love it when their employees take the initiative to get something done without being asked. You may also hear people describe themselves as a “self-starter” during interviews. This basically means the same thing. You are so motivated to work, you are going to get the job done right away.
The opposite of someone who takes initiative would be a lazy employee who will sit around and wait for instructions from their boss. Time drags on and an hour can go by without anything being done, even though logic would tell you that the next step for the day should be obvious. Or, they could have found their manager and asked what to do next.
36. A Positive Attitude
It is always good to have a positive attitude about life in general. When you are in the workplace, your employer will expect you to be positive even if times are difficult. People with an abundance mindset typically have a better ability to move past problems and get the work done no matter what.
If you go into an interview saying things that sound self-deprecating or pessimistic, it can often rub people the wrong way. You may be trying to act humble during the interview, but it can easily be misunderstood as you being a “Debbie Downer.” Always try to look on the bright side and be cheerful when you are trying to make a good impression.
How competent are you to do the job you are applying for? Always apply for jobs that actually align with your past experiences. For example, if you have worked retail all your life and you majored in art history, you should not apply for a job as a computer programmer. This may sound ridiculously obvious to some people. Sure, it’s an extreme example. But after talking to hiring managers, they throw away hundreds of resumes because they were from people who were clearly not qualified to apply in the first place.
You should never lie on your resume about your level of competency. People can usually see through it. And if you actually did get hired, you would probably struggle to complete the work and may get fired without a good reference. If you want a job you are not qualified for, figure out what steps need to be taken in order to make you competent enough to deserve it.
Are you good at solving problems? When something goes wrong, do you panic, or almost immediately know how to fix it? Employers want to hire someone who will be able to handle an issue with a clear head. In the real world, problems happen all the time in every single industry.
Sometimes, a hiring manager might ask you during an interview to tell a story about a time you solved a difficult problem at a previous job. Try to think about your past experiences in school or work and have a story ready to go, just in case.
33. Professional Credibility
The term “professional credibility” goes hand-in-hand with having a good reputation. It means that you hold yourself to the utmost standards of professionalism. Before you apply for a job, look through your social media accounts, and make sure you look like a professional. Pictures of you partying or posing suggestively may be a sign to employers that you are not going to be taken seriously in a high-paying position.
Professional people usually build a positive reputation for themselves with past employers, professors, and club leaders. Burning bridges is never good for professional credibility unless you were escaping a truly toxic work environment. Always be prepared to provide references for your character.
32. Emotional Intelligence
The definition of emotional intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Sounds pretty deep, right? Your level of emotional intelligence is not something that can be changed overnight, and some people actually go to therapy to work on it.
However, you can show at least a base level of emotional intelligence by making sure that you show empathy towards other people, and make it clear that you are reflecting on yourself. More often than not, this is an attribute that you cannot properly express through a single interview. Over time, your boss will pick up on your level of emotional intelligence, and it may help you get a promotion later on.
Employers love people who are organized. One of the first ways you can prove that you are organized is through the formatting of your resume. When you show up for your interview, you may want to bring your resume printed in a folder, and bring multiple copies just in case there will be a group of people there.
Once you are hired, always keep your desk clean and tidy. If it is clear that you are a sloppy person who leaves out trash and paperwork, it is likely that you won’t be taken seriously for a leadership position later on.
Almost everyone has to work well with others at their job. Even if you work remotely from home, you still often have to collaborate with people over Skype, email, and phone calls. It is very important for you to convey on your resume that you have worked on some sort of team.
So, how do you prove you are good at teamwork before even working for a company? Maybe you were a part of a fraternity, a community event planning committee, or intramural sports league. You should always include those facts on your resume. Even if these are considered extracurricular activities, it still conveys that you are good at teamwork.
29. Digital Literacy
It seems like every day now there’s new technology coming out to change the way we do things. Every single business has now transitioned to using the Internet. If you are someone who has been laid off from their job, and you are looking to find a new career, you need to make sure you are up-to-date with digital literacy.
Learn how to use Microsoft Office Suite and the equivalent programs on Google Docs. Make sure you are proficient with using computers and smartphones. Nowadays, even retail jobs expect employees to submit their hours on apps. If you do not catch up with technology, you may fall behind in the job market.
Even if you have never been a manager before, you can still exude leadership qualities. Leaders are people who inspire others to be the best they can be. They have a lot of integrity and know how to delegate work to others. Natural-born leaders are very logical and make great decisions under pressure.
Depending on the position you are applying for, leadership may not be on the top of the list for you to worry about. However, you may be applying for an entry-level position to get your foot in the door, and you eventually want to be promoted to a management position. If this is the case, you need to be showing your leadership qualities right away. If you always act like a “follower,” you may never be considered for a higher role.
27. People Skills
You could have been a straight-A student, but if your people skills are terrible, no one will want to work with you. Maybe you have heard stories from history like Archimedes, who barely spoke to other people because he was too busy with geometry. But the eccentric genius isn’t really acceptable in today’s world unless you are working in a level of computer science where you are one of few people who have your specific skill set.
When it comes to improving your people skills, it’s much easier said than done. How well do you get along with people? Are you empathetic, patient, and understanding? Do you make friends easily? If you know that people skills are a problem for you, consider looking on YouTube for some free videos with advice on how to get along with others. Ask your friends and family how you can improve your conversational skills because they know you the best.
26. Social Media
Along with digital literacy, social media is now a very important thing to consider in your career. You should think about your social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as like building a “personal brand”. Pretend that you are a stranger looking at your profiles for the very first time. What would a prospective employer think about you? If that is too difficult to figure out on your own, ask your friends to analyze your accounts for you. You may have to delete some of your posts if you want to build a personal brand that matches the job you are looking for.
Aside from worrying about your reputation, there are plenty of companies who are now hiring social media managers. This is an entire career within itself and is, therefore, a great skill to have. Of course, you need to know more than just the base level of how to use the accounts and post. This goes hand-in-hand with marketing strategies that can help grow a business’s outreach.
If you are working in sales, you will need to learn the power of persuasion. Are you good at getting a customer to want to buy something? This skill may also come into play if you are planning to be a lawyer who is persuading a judge to give the verdict you desire. Or, if you are giving a speech in a board meeting, you may want to convince investors to go with your idea.
Even though this is listed as being a quality a lot of employers look for, it’s not the number one thing you need to worry about. In all honesty, most entry-level jobs are not going to require you to be a master at convincing others to follow your lead. However, if you have this ability, it is a huge plus no matter what job you are looking for. Chances are if you know how to persuade people, you will eventually move up the ladder of success.
In most work situations, you will have to be willing to pivot at some point. There may be a new manager, coworker, or other change in the people you work with. Corporate might send down a memo that a huge policy needs to change immediately. They may also ask you to change your desk or any other list of possibilities. Some people have no issues with that, but other people seriously struggle with change.
In today’s world, businesses are constantly changing to keep up with the competition. It’s the only way to survive. Remember that you cannot control what happens in the company you work for, and it’s best to just go with the flow.
One of the biggest qualities hiring managers are looking for in employees is creativity. You don’t have to be an artist or musician to be considered “creative,” but it’s a huge plus if you have some kind of background in the arts. Creativity means that you think outside of the box and it’s easy for you to come up with new ideas.
Employers want creative employees because they can usually come up with an idea that will make the business better. They are also great with problem-solving and often come up with solutions to an issue that no one else would have thought of.
22. Working Knowledge of All Operating Systems
Earlier in this list, we already talked about technological literacy. In some higher-level fields like computer science and media, it is important for you to know how to use both PC and Mac OS, as well as both Apple and Android phones. You may be thinking, “Who in the world can afford to own and learn to use all of this technology?” But you would be surprised to see how often these skills are needed in the modern workplace. Most college students have access to technology when they are in school, and it has now become second-nature.
You never know if this will make or break you getting the job. For example, if you used cheap PCs all your life and the place you are applying to only uses Mac, the job will go to someone else. If you are not proficient in any of these operating systems, you can go to your local library to see if they have Mac computers available for you to use, or ask friends and family if they can help. You can also watch tutorials on YouTube on how to use the operating systems. Once you get the hang of it, put this information on your resume so that prospective employees know you’ll be able to get the job done.
21. People Management
We have all worked with bad managers in the past. Years ago, with fewer people obtaining college degrees, those jobs were given to a lot of ruthless jerks. In this new generation, company owners are looking for people with real management skills before they hire them to lead others.
If you are planning to apply to higher-paying management positions, you need to know how to work well with others. You will also need to be good at delegating tasks to people, giving feedback, and guiding employees with empathy.
The definition of integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness”. Even before they meet you, prospective employers can tell if you have integrity. If you were a part of community service teams, this means that you care about other people. And if you have absolutely no criminal history, this means you’re a good citizen.
Sometimes, prospective employers will require you to get fingerprinted and go through an FBI background check before you get the job. This is common for banks, schools, research facilities, and government jobs. If you do have something in your past, always be honest with your new boss. It is best to be open and honest instead of lying about something foolish you did in your past.
Employers love to see people who are passionate about their job. If you can convey that you would be truly excited and happy to work in that position, it can really put you ahead of the competition. Sometimes, it can be difficult to be passionate about a low-level job. However, these are the people who get chosen over others. (Think about Spongebob Squarepants and his love of flipping burgers. Sure, it’s silly, but some people are passionate about strange things.)
People who are passionate about their careers tend to work harder than other people. They also are more willing to improve themselves and are always working on their skills. Obviously, this is great for an employer, because they will get better results compared to someone who really doesn’t care about the job at all.
While it may seem obvious to some people, you should always act like a professional when you are in the workplace. This is especially important in the beginning when you are trying to make a good impression. Remember to dress and groom yourself very well. Don’t curse, and never joke about anything vulgar.
Professionalism can also be a sense of being the opposite of an amateur. Instead of stumbling and constantly making mistakes, you will be able to confidently get through your tasks quickly and efficiently. Of course, it is hard to be considered a “pro” in a field that you are still learning. Always strive to get to the level of mastery if you want to succeed.
17. Willingness to Learn
Learning does not end when you graduate from school. No matter what field you enter, you’ll still need to learn the ropes. Some people are so set in their ways at their job that as soon as they are told to learn something new, they complain. If you have a bad attitude, your boss will take note of that and remember it later.
If you ever want to get in a high-up position that pays a lot of money, you will have to learn new skills on a regular basis. There will never be a point where you have attained all of the necessary knowledge because most businesses are constantly evolving. Instead of complaining, try to embrace it with a sense of excitement that you don’t have to do the same monotonous things every day.
16. Good Business Sense
Even if you don’t plan to run your own business someday, it can help your career to have some good business sense. Your boss hired you to do a specific job that will eventually help the company turn a profit. Some people are so focused on what they want to do, that they don’t take the company’s goals into consideration. This can get them into trouble.
For example, they may complain and say, “Why does this company force us to wear uniforms?” A business-minded person would never ask that question. Uniforms help customers distinguish who the employees are. It is also a form of branding and gives the impression that employees are well put-together. So if you are trying to skip on wearing your uniform, it’s a sign that you just don’t get it. Without knowing what employers want and need, it’s hard to provide that service to them, and will, therefore, be harder for you to get a great job.
15. Culture and Global Literacy
With the dawn of the Internet, our world is getting smaller. It is now more common than ever for companies to work together with foreign countries. If you know for a fact that the company you work for (or are applying to) works with other countries, you should do some research beforehand.
At the moment, one of the biggest players in retail is China. If you took Mandarin courses in college, this is a huge plus. However, it’s not usually necessary unless you are planning to get in the executive positions of a company. If you are interested to know more about international politics, check out the YouTube channel called Visual Politik.
14. Work Ethic
Saying that employers like someone with a good work ethic is kind of like saying the sky is blue. Of course, they love it. But think about this for a second. Do you consider yourself to be a hard worker? If yes, that’s great. But if the answer is “no,” ask yourself why not.
If you have never had a great work ethic, it may be that you are not in the right professional field. What hobbies do you find yourself gravitating towards in your spare time? If you can make money from that, your passion for that hobby could potentially blossom into a profitable career.
13. Career Management
If you go through your resume, does it give off the impression that you are someone who is managing their career well? Is your work history scattered in various areas, or does it seem like a logical progression that you are moving up the ladder? If it seems clear to the person reading your resume that you are set in this career, they are going to be far more likely to hire you for that job.
Sometimes, it’s possible to rearrange your resume to look like you have better career management. Try to eliminate older jobs that no longer have anything to do with your chosen path. For example, maybe you were a cashier at Starbucks a few years ago, but then you start working your way up in the banking industry. Once you have your career trajectory started, eliminate your older work history that’s no longer relevant.
Earlier in this article, we talked about not being overly self-deprecating because it shows a lack of confidence. However, you should still be humble and never boast or brag about your accomplishments. Believe it or not, it actually is possible to be both confident and humble at the same time.
One of the key features to humble confidence is knowing that you are good at your job, but also expressing that you are always willing to learn. Admit when you are wrong. It can be a delicate balance, and it may take some practice. But once you have mastered the art of humble-confidence, you will find that it helps a lot in your success.
11. Ethical Character
Employers are looking with someone who has good ethics, or at least they should be. Getting sales is one thing, but if you are going above and beyond to get the sales by any means necessary, it could get the company into some serious legal trouble.
The same goes for you too. Remember that a job interview is just as much a test to see if you want the job as it is for the employer to figure out if they want you. If you get the vibe that these people are morally corrupt, you should stay away. An example of that is a multi-level marketing company, better known as a “pyramid scheme.” They are all over job boards and social media, and you may have already been tricked into talking to a recruiter. If you don’t know how to spot a pyramid scheme, please do yourself a favor and read about it on the FTC’s website.
10. Good Grooming
If you want to make a good impression with a future employer, get in the habit of grooming yourself. Always take a shower, get a haircut, or use products to show that you are keeping your body under control. Wear clothes that are clean and work-appropriate.
Some people mistake “good grooming” with a demand to be fashionable. This is not true at all. You can be completely out of the loop as to what is going on in the fashion world and still manage to look good. The key is to pick something that looks acceptable, like a classic button-down shirt, and wear that every day. Don’t forget to iron out the wrinkles and make it look presentable.
The importance of having confidence has been mentioned several times in this article because it truly is one of the biggest things employers look for. Confidence does not have to be the same as cockiness. It is actually much better to feel confident in your abilities, but be humble enough to know that you still have so much more to learn.
Think about it – would you want a surgeon to operate on your body if he was not totally confident that he knew what he was doing? Of course not! You want the doctor who has done this surgery many times before with a 100% success rate.
8. Ability to Work Under Pressure
Every job on the planet is going to have its good and bad days. There will inevitably be a day when there is a crisis or a last-minute deadline you are forced to meet. Some people hate working under pressure, and it makes them freeze like a deer in the headlights. Others thrive under pressure because it feels like a challenge.
If you struggle working under pressure, don’t worry. Almost no one does. Instead of worrying about failure, try to see it as a challenge instead. In a way, it can be fun. Prepare yourself for the worse-case scenario just in case. But focus on the task in front of you without letting the pressure cloud your judgment too much.
7. Managing Ambiguity
Sometimes, higher-level employees will be dealing with an issue that is totally out of your control. They may not want to tell the lower-level employees about the problem because they do not want to cause a panic, or they feel that it’s not necessarily for you to know. Yes, you might feel curious to know about what the big “secret” is. But you need to be comfortable with ambiguity.
Your boss probably has a very good reason for keeping certain information private, and you should respect that. Remember that 99% of the time, this issue has nothing to do with you and is frankly none of your business. So it’s best to stick to what you are being paid to do and don’t ask questions. More often than not, you may learn the truth eventually when your boss is ready to share it with the group.
6. Executive Decision Making
Some people are indecisive, especially when it comes to a high-pressure situation. They panic and look for a manager to solve the problem and make a decision in the middle of a difficult situation. People with real leadership skills know how to make an executive decision. This is when someone has the confidence that they are good enough at their job to make the right call, even if it is considered a risk.
Employees who are good at executive decision making are considered to be more trustworthy with their boss, and they are often given a promotion or leadership position in the company. Unfortunately, you cannot really prove that you are successful at executive decision-making unless you have been confronted with a crisis and came out on the other end successfully.
5. Artificial Intelligence
The first example of a “hard skill” that is in-demand in 2019 is artificial intelligence. As time goes on, there is only going to be a growing demand for computer programmers who know who to create AI. Before you get scared of a future like Terminator, remember that AI exists in plenty of things that cannot possibly be sentient, like the self-driving cars made by Tesla. According to Indeed, AI coders easily make six-figure salaries.
Usually, in order to get this skill, you will need to have completed a computer science program that specializes in AI. If you are very good with math, you may want to consider entering this field, because there are ample opportunities there for you. However, you will probably need to move to a location where there are facilities that need those services.
4. Diversity & Inclusion
More and more companies are finally realizing just how important diversity is for company culture. Far more minorities and women are being given jobs that were once only given to white men. However, there is still some pushback from certain communities to include all races and religions in the workplace.
If you personally struggle with accepting cultures other than your own, this will probably hold you back in the workplace. There are very few companies left that are ultra-conservative. Nowadays, if you write anything racist on social media, a hiring manager is likely to see it and never call you in for an interview. Try to put your personal feelings aside and look outside of yourself if you want to get a good job.
3. UX Design
Yet another hard skill that is in-demand in computer science is UX. This is short for “user experience”. According to Interaction-Design, it is “the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function.”
Nowadays, people use apps to do almost everything. But there is a team of people who is behind designing that customer experience to make it better and better. In a capitalist society, money is what makes the world go round. So companies are only going to want more and more experts to help them bring their brand up to speed. According to Glassdoor, the average pay for a UX designer is just over $90,000 a year.
2. Cloud Computing
Nearly all of us have used “the cloud,” whether you knew it or not. According to Wikipedia, “Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user. The term is generally used to describe data centers available to many users over the Internet.”
It is most commonly used by people in Google Docs. Those documents are accessible from any device, and they exist in “the cloud,” instead of physical hard drive space in your home. Cloud computing is a complicated subject, and it takes advanced-level coding knowledge. According to Payscale, the average Cloud Computing job pays $122,000 per year.
1. Data Analytics
Last but not least, one of the most valuable skills in 2019 is data analytics. This is defined as “a process of inspecting, cleansing, transforming and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, informing conclusions and supporting decision-making.”
Many STEM programs at universities will teach Data Analytics courses, and it can be applied to a variety of fields. The skill can be useful in a lot of different financial and technical fields and is not necessarily the only thing you do for your job. But a specified Analytics Specialist makes an average of $60,000 a year.