Which 13 in-demand skills will land your next role?

July 30, 2021 - 18 min read

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What are in-demand skills?

Why it’s important to know which job skills are in demand

The 13 most in-demand skills in 2021

In-demand skills give you a competitive edge

The world is rapidly evolving. Automation and artificial intelligence have been driving the changes in the most in-demand skills for a while now.

The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this process by changing the way we work, consume, and live.

Companies have had to introduce changes to the way they work in order to survive. This has meant reskilling large portions of their workforce to equip them with new skills. This helps them meet the demands of their new jobs. Whether taking a similar position at a different company or completely changing careers

Both employers and candidates need to know what the most in-demand skills will be in the post-pandemic world. Read on to discover the top 13 most in-demand skills.

What are in-demand skills?

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In-demand skills are the most sought-after skills in a particular sector or industry of the job market. When skills are in high demand, the candidates who possess these skills are more likely to succeed in the application process. 

This is particularly true if the demand for that skill is higher than the supply — in other words, there are more jobs than suitable candidates.

Organizations that hire candidates with skills that are in high demand are stronger against their competitors.

In-demand skills include both technical (or hard) skills and soft (or human) skills. Let’s take a look at the difference between the two.

Technical skills

Technical skills are skills that you acquire through education, training, and hands-on experience. They are what make you an expert in your field. 

When hiring, HR managers should look for candidates whose hard skills align with the technical requirements of the role. For example, a digital marketer would be expected to have technical skills in SEO marketing and social media management. At the same time, the tools for a technical role are always changing. Candidates with great technical skills and experience can quickly learn relevant tools on the job.

As a candidate, your best strategy is to apply for jobs in which the requirements closely match your technical skills and experience.

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Soft skills

Soft skills are also known as interpersonal or human skills. The term refers to a person’s ability to interact and communicate with others effectively. 

Soft skills are high-demand skills because they are the foundation of all work. Without them, collaboration is impossible. When you have strong human skills (and emotional intelligence), working with others is easier. 

When you treat other people with kindness, empathy, and respect, they are more likely to cooperate with you and will be more productive.

Some people naturally possess more soft skills than others, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be learned or developed.

Recruiters should look for candidates with well-developed soft skills since they make the best leaders. Candidates should be aware of the soft skills employers look for and work on developing them.

Why it’s important to know which job skills are in demand

The job skills in demand are ever-changing to reflect the rapid shifts in the way the world works. As new skills become more relevant, others become obsolete. 

According to a survey by McKinsey, 87% of executives report experiencing skills gaps. The faster companies can fill these gaps, the more competitive they will be in the post-pandemic world.

For candidates, identifying and developing the most in-demand skills can give them an advantage over others in the job market.

Let’s take a look at why it’s so important for both employers and candidates to be aware of the latest job market trends.

Importance for employers

Employers need to know which skills are most in-demand so they can hire the most suitable candidates for the role.

Organizations should prepare for the future by identifying the skills that will be most in-demand in the coming years. They can do so by analyzing market trends. 

For example, many traditional advertising agencies have had to change the way they work to stay competitive. Technological advances have created software that automates the process of buying advertising space.

Previously, employees were responsible for the process of selling the advertising space and managing client relations. These team members must learn new skills in order to take on new roles within the company.

As well as reskilling parts of their workforce, they will want to hire employees who possess the skills that will be important in the future. 

Importance for candidates

To be successful in your chosen career path, you need to know the top skills employers are looking for now and which are likely to be in demand in the future.

For example, many people are still unaware of the importance of soft skills. Yet soft skills are increasingly in demand among employers. This is a trend that is likely to continue. 

Therefore, candidates who develop and can demonstrate excellent soft skills have a better chance of being hired.

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The 13 most in-demand skills in 2021

So, now you know why it’s so important to be aware of the most in-demand skills. 

Let’s take a look at nine technical skills and four soft skills that both employers and candidates need to know about in 2021.

Top in-demand technical skills

First, let’s take a look at the top nine technical skills in the workplace:

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning

Skills in developing, testing, and implementing AI and machine learning are in high demand. This is because many organizations are now automating workflows and data analysis to minimize costs. 

Roles in AI and machine learning include: 

  • Machine learning research scientists
  • Machine learning data scientists
  • Machine learning engineers

Candidates for these roles should have a background in:

  • Calculus
  • Probability
  • Algebra
  • Statistics

You can improve your chances of success by developing your skills in data modeling. You should also be familiar with the programming language Python — you can take an online course to brush up on your skills.

  1. Cloud computing

Cloud computing includes a variety of services offered by the global network of remote storage known as the cloud. These skills are growing in demand as more companies turn to cloud storage for its efficiency and security.

Roles in cloud computing include:

  • Software engineers
  • Software architects
  • Full-stack developers
  • Java developers
  • Cloud engineers
  • Data engineers

Candidates should develop their skills in:

  • Programming languages such as SQL, Python, XML, and R
  • Networks
  • Web services and API

To stand out from the crowd, consider getting advanced training in topics such as:

  • Load balancing and cloud scalability
  • Cloud cryptography
  • Edge computing
  1. UX design

User experience (UX) design is one of the most in demand skills in the field of design right now. It involves designing app and web interfaces that are intuitive and easy to navigate.

Roles in UX design include:

  • UX researchers
  • UX designers
  • Visual designers
  • Product designers

A successful UX design professional will have skills in different areas, including engineering and graphic design. Knowledge of psychology and marketing is also an advantage in this field.

Developing skills in the latter two areas can make a candidate stand out for the extra value they bring to the role.

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  1. Project management

Project management continues to be a highly in demand skill in every industry. 

To have a successful career in project management, consider getting a certification, such as the one from PMI. Technical project management skills include:

  • Methodologies such as Agile or Waterfall
  • Frameworks such as Scrum
  • Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Monitoring and reporting
  • HR management

Soft skills an aspiring project manager should develop include:

  1. Social media management

Social media management is the process of planning, creating, publishing, and analyzing content on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok.

Companies use social media to find new clients through digital marketing. They also use it to manage customer service and their brand image.

Roles in social media management include:

  • Account manager
  • Social media strategist
  • Community manager
  • Social media analyst
  • Brand manager
  • Digital marketing specialist

To pursue a career in social media management, consider developing the following skills:

  • Strong social and communication skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Customer relations
  1. Mobile app development

The mobile app development market shows no signs of slowing down. Smartphone use continues to grow worldwide. That’s why mobile app development skills are in high demand. 

Roles in app development include:

  • Frontend developer
  • Backend developer
  • Game developer
  • Full-stack developer
  • Mobile developer

If you want to be an app developer, you need strong tech skills in:

  • Math
  • Programming languages, such as C#, Java, or Objective-C

You also need to have good organizational skills and should be up-to-date with the latest advances in tech.

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  1. Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased global demand for healthcare professionals. The most sought-after are nurses and mental health specialists.

Some of the most in-demand healthcare skills include:

  • Basic life support (first response skills such as CPR)
  • Psychiatry
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Psychology
  • Medical and health technology

If you’re a trained nurse or doctor, consider specializing in one of these areas. Soft skills such as good listening skills and empathy are also essential for a career in healthcare.

  1. Software development

The ever-changing work environment requires the constant development of new software. These help companies meet their needs in management and automation.

Software developers are in high demand in every sector. There is a wide range of jobs available, including:

  • Software developer
  • Web developer
  • Computer programmer
  • Database administrator

A career in software development requires skills in a variety of programming languages. You should also develop soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

  1. Video production and audio production

Video and audio production skills are in high demand in every sector — from social media and advertising to TV, cinema, and radio.

You can develop your video editing or audio production skills at home with the right equipment and software. But if you’re serious about a career, you might want to consider taking an online course.

Aspiring video or audio producers should also develop the following soft skills:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Attention to technical detail
  • Patience

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Top in-demand soft skills

Let’s take a look at four of the top in-demand soft skills in the workplace:

  1. Leadership

Leadership is an essential skill in every sector and business. It requires a combination of supporting, leading, coordinating, and assuming responsibilities.

To develop your leadership skills, work on strengthening the following soft skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Influencing
  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Teaching
  • Integrity
  • Decisiveness 
  • Relationship-building 
  1. Communication and listening skills

Strong communication and listening skills, such as active listening, are in high demand in every sector of the job market. 

Effective communication reduces misunderstandings and errors. It also saves time and money.

Active and empathic listening skills are essential for understanding problems and finding the best solutions. 

Candidates for any job might want to consider taking a course in effective communication.

  1. Adaptability and resilience

The only constant in the world of business is change. From technological evolution to the pandemic, disruption and shock lie around every corner.

People and organizations that learn to be flexible and resilient in the face of these changes are the ones that will survive — and even thrive

To be more resilient, candidates should develop an optimistic outlook and growth mindset.

  1. Empathy

According to research by Business Solver, 90% of employees, HR professionals, and executives agree that empathy increases employee engagement and motivation. Yet most believe their company’s empathy is decreasing, not increasing.

Since the pandemic, empathy has become more important than ever before as people struggle with the loss of health, income, and loved ones.

Develop your empathy by asking questions and using active listening. This is especially important in leadership roles.

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In-demand skills give you a competitive edge

Whether you’re a hiring manager overseeing an HR strategy or a candidate looking for a new role, knowing the top in-demand skills for your industry can give you a competitive advantage.

For hiring organizations, anticipating market changes can help you foresee which skills will be most in demand. This will make your company more resilient to disruptions. 

For candidates, knowing which skills companies are looking for can help you align your skills to the roles that you’re the best fit for. This can make you a strong candidate and improve your chances of success.

If you need help developing your skills — whether technical or soft — why not get some support from one of BetterUp’s expert coaches?

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Published July 30, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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