The Complete Worker’s Guide to Professional Skills

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

professional skills worker's guide

As with just about every other aspect of life, the job market undergoes consistent change. 

Jobs, businesses and even entire industries can disappear over time, leaving employees searching for new careers to pursue. 

Naturally, as the job market changes, as do the types of skills that employers seek within their workforce. So, if you are wondering which personal qualities and skills you should be focussing on and developing to land a job, you’ve come to the right place!

We have compiled a guide that will walk you through the most in-demand professional skills for the present and the future workplace.

Most in-demand skills in the workplace

As an employment counsellor for an adult education programme, I am consistently reaching out to local employers to help our students find potential work opportunities. To better prepare them for the job market, I always make it a point to ask these employers: ‘What skills are you are looking for in an employee?’ 

Although these employers represent a diverse range of industries, there are certain skills that all of them indicated to be the most important. This list of the top 10 most in-demand skills is based on their responses and are a mixture of soft, practical and technical skills. 

1. Leadership 

This is a skill required across all industries and disciplines. And as the business world evolves, the need for natural leaders is steadily increasing. Indeed, leadership remains one of the most valuable and sought-after skills in today’s job market.

2. Cloud computing 

Companies use cloud computing to deliver various computing services, including storage, databases, networking, analytics over the Internet. It is an important tool that offers speed and flexibility to teams across an organisation. So, having the ability to use this resource effectively is a skill that employers appreciate.

3. Artificial intelligence 

If you have Siri, Alexa or any other such computerised personal assistant in your home, then you are familiar with artificial intelligence, which is the field of designing and building smart machines capable of performing tasks that would normally require human intelligence. As artificial intelligence applications continue to expand across multiple industries and disciplines, the demand for this particular skill will only continue to grow.

4. Strategic analysis 

Businesses continually analyse and re-evaluate their existing operations to develop new strategies and to forge ahead. Therefore, having the skill to analyse an organisation’s problems, find solutions and facilitate those solutions will be an invaluable asset to you.

5. Adaptability 

In many professional environments, it’s essential to have the ability to adapt to change, as the business world is an ever-evolving environment. Those with adaptability will have a chance to survive and perhaps thrive, while those without will not.

6. Time management 

As the old saying goes, time is money. Time management has always been an extremely valuable skill to employers. Employees nowadays often need to handle a diverse range of responsibilities, and the ability to do successfully requires effective time management skills.

7. Customer service 

Being able to offer excellent service and support to customers is essential in any business with front-facing positions. No matter the industry, whether product or service-based, a business cannot survive without its customers. Therefore, knowing how to keep said customers happy is one of the most vital skills an employee can possess.

8. Collaboration

Another word for collaboration is teamwork, an essential skill that has always been in demand. Moreover, individuals who can collaborate successfully with their fellow employees while working remotely are valuable to employers these days.

9. Cybersecurity 

As the business world continues to become more digitalised, the need to protect valuable information has become a prerequisite for every business. For that reason, cybersecurity is a skill that is strongly sought after by employers. The demand for this skill has grown even more over the last few years, given the fact that there is a serious shortage of talent within this field

10. Problem-solving 

In an ever-changing world, businesses often scramble to find solutions to problems that had never existed before. These challenges have made problem-solving, the ability to analyse and solve a range of issues in conventional and creative ways, a vital skill in every sector. 

Soft skills

Soft skills are consist of the personality traits, behaviours and attitudes which help you succeed within your role. It goes without saying that soft skills are important across all disciplines and within all job levels within an organisation. 

It’s important to note that soft skills do not change or evolve as rapidly as hard or technical skills. They cannot be easily taught, measured or even defined, and so an employee who already possesses these is a valuable one.  

Your soft skills are demonstrated through your actions and performance and the ways you approach your work, and any challenges you may come across.

Here are the top soft skills which employers seek:

  • Accountability
  • Adaptability
  • Analytical thinking
  • Assertiveness
  • Collaboration 
  • Communication
  • Compliance
  • Conflict management
  • Cooperation
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Discipline
  • Dynamism
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Influence
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Mentoring
  • Mindfulness
  • Originality
  • Perspective
  • Persuasion
  • Practicality
  • Problem-solving
  • Productivity
  • Relationship management
  • Self-assessment
  • Social awareness
  • Stress tolerance
  • Supportiveness
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Work ethic

Hard skills

Hard skills are the general business skills that every employee should possess, such as writing or research. These skills are a blend of appropriate personality traits and technical aptitude. 

With that in mind, here are the top hard skills:

  • Brand management
  • Business analysis
  • Customer retention
  • Customer service
  • Data analysis
  • Data presentation
  • Design
  • Digital strategy
  • Editing
  • Forecasting
  • Infrastructure
  • Investigation
  • Logistics
  • Metrics interpretation
  • Negotiating
  • Nursing
  • Onboarding
  • Organisational development
  • Patient education
  • Product marketing
  • Project management
  • Proofreading 
  • Public speaking
  • Reporting
  • Research
  • Resource management
  • Risk management
  • Sales
  • Sales management
  • Scalability
  • Translating
  • Workflow development
  • Writing

Technical skills

Technical skills encompass knowledge and abilities which are specific to an industry or role. 

The demand for technical skills tends to change rapidly as technology continues to advance at a breakneck pace. Therefore, staying current and mastering these technical skills is vital in today’s job market:

  • Accounting/bookkeeping software
  • Amazon web services (AWS)
  • Automated billing systems
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Blockchain
  • CAD
  • Cloud computing
  • Context management
  • Credit analysis
  • CRM platforms
  • Data engineering
  • Data mining
  • Data visualisation
  • Database management
  • Diagnostics
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Digital strategy
  • Distributed systems
  • Healthcare technology
  • Lean manufacturing
  • Linear regression
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Payment processing
  • Programming languages (Python, SQL, R, Java)
  • Prototyping
  • Scientific computing
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Site reliability engineering
  • Social media management
  • Statistical modelling
  • TensorFlow
  • UX design
  • Video production
  • Website design (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)

How to test your skills

If you’re not quite sure if you have certain skills or if those skills are refined enough to seize the recruiter’s attention, then you might need to take the time to assess your skills. Here are just a few ideas on how to do that:

1. Take a skills assessment test 

There are numerous skills assessment tests available online. You can use these tools to assess your capabilities and knowledge and identify areas that may need further development or improvement.  

CareerAddict’s very own career testing platform, called CareerHunter, is among the best options available to you. Among its other assessments, which test your career interests, personality and motivators, CareerHunter allows you to test your abstract, numerical and vertical reasoning skills. 

In addition to assessing your skills, these tests will also indicate how you match up to over 250 popular career paths, which a great way to identify which professions are the right fit for you. This information could inform your job searching and enhance your career growth. 

2. Seek feedback 

A good way to start assessing your skills is to seek feedback from your co-workers. After all, they work with you on a day-to-day basis and know first-hand what your strengths and weaknesses are. 

You can also ask your supervisors to assess your skills. This can be a little risky, of course, as you don’t necessarily want to draw their attention to any deficits in your skillset. Nevertheless, as someone whose job it is to evaluate your performance, your supervisor is the person who can give you the best feedback on your capabilities.

3. Review your reviews

Performance evaluations, or reviews, are an excellent resource for assessing your skills. An effective evaluation will list your performance goals for the year (or whatever time period it covers) and your progress towards achieving those goals. 

The progress you make will indicate the skills that you have developed. For example, one of your performance goals may have been to develop your leadership skills. As you moved toward that goal, you trained several new employees and provided technical support for your department’s new software. These initiatives could demonstrate the progress and development of your leadership skills.

How to develop your skills

Once you have determined which workplace skills you need to acquire or improve upon, you can begin to work on them. Here are a few ideas on how to go about that:

1. Establish goals 

As with any task you set out to accomplish, the best way to approach developing your skills is to set goals for yourself. Of course, the goals you set have to be quantifiable and attainable. 

For example, if you have determined that you need to improve your Excel skills, your goal should not be to master Excel in a week! There is no tangible way to measure that, and it is completely unrealistic. A better goal would be to create a new Excel spreadsheet for a different task at least once a week.

2. Talk to the experts 

If you know what skills you want to develop, speak to people who already possess those skills. For example, if you want to improve your attention to detail and know someone who is extremely detail-oriented, seek that person’s guidance and find out how they mastered this skill. From there on, use their tips to follow a similar path.

3. Take courses and training programmes 

The amount of educational resources that are available to you online is almost limitless. From training programmes to videos to blogs to business seminars and online courses, you have numerous options available at your fingertips. 

Create a list of the areas you want to improve in and start finding the resources to help you achieve your goals. 

A good place to start is your current employer; check to see if the company offers any in-house training opportunities. Many companies are also willing to compensate you for taking an external course. After all, the sharper your skillset is, the more value you have as an employee.

So, there you have it! The top in-demand skills in the workplace.

Are there any other skills that you believe are essential for today’s workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 14 October 2016.