Job Search

Are Your Skills Sharp Enough
To Win You The Job?

job skills

With the rate of unemployment going down, this may be the best time to find a job since the Great Recession.

But if you haven’t looked for a new gig for a while, you may wonder if employers will consider your skills to be up to snuff.

Alas, there’s no one-size-fits all test to evaluate your skills. However, looking at them from several vantage points can give you a reasonably accurate picture. Try these approaches.

Monitor trends. Want to know if your skills make you sought after? One good place to start is LinkedIn’s list of the most in-demand skills on the platform that helped people get jobs.

For 2014, the top 10 skills in the U.S. were:

  1. Cloud and distributed computing
  2. Statistical analysis and data mining
  3. Middleware and integration software
  4. Network and information security
  5. Mobile development
  6. Foreign language translation
  7. Storage systems and management
  8. Mac, Linux and Unix systems
  9. Java development
  10. Perl/Python/Ruby

Clearly, skills that let you play ball in a more digital and global economy are very valuable. But even non-engineers are in demand. Deeper into the top 25 were skills including digital and online marketing (number 12), economics (number 18) and business intelligence (number 21).

Ivy Exec’s survey of hiring managers across industries found that demand, while strongest in technology, was also high for those in manufacturing and management consulting. Demand was weakest in media, law, and pharmaceuticals.

Create a focus group. Before you spring for a new degree or class, ask trusted friends in your field what single skill you could add to make yourself more marketable—and the best way to acquire it. It could be that upgrading your skills is easier than you think. Find a mentor in the industry who can fill you in on what companies are looking for right now, or line up some informational interviews with managers at various companies and discuss trends and skills. Just remember, informational interviews are not the place to ask for a job.

Evaluate your “skill portfolio.” Many seasoned professionals are so fearful their most prized skills are losing value that they never notice that some of their other abilities have gained importance. For ideas on skills you are undervaluing and could be developing more, use LinkedIn to look at what past colleagues with similar skills are doing now and the skills they are leveraging. That may give you some creative ideas on how to market yourself differently to potential employers. For instance, if you once were an actor and now work in HR, you might be able to help a new employer create better training videos—even if you’re not doing that now. By being willing to mine some of your untapped talents, you’ll be surprised at the added value you can bring to a future employer.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money, Forbes.com, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.