There are a ton of jobs out there. And each one is like special snowflake: they vary widely in skill set and experience level. So you might be skeptical when I tell you there are certain skill sets that, pretty much no matter where you end up, will be useful — thick-furry-coat-on-a-blistering-cold-day kind of useful.
Whether you’re searching for your first real gig or making a career change, qualifications are key. The skills below are ones that will help you get a job and, in smaller companies, help make you indispensable when co-workers need to borrow your expertise. Hedge your bets with these practical, yet noteworthy skills:
1 / HTML/CSS
Sure, you might not be a hacking genius and you might think that your plan of going into marketing has nothing to do with computer programming, but you’d be wrong. HTML and CSS are the languages of modernity. There are so many entry-level jobs that ostensibly have nothing to do with programming and that want proficiency with one of those languages, because whatever work you end up doing, it’ll probably have something to do with the Internet. Even if it’s never required for a job you want, it’s one of those skills that just comes in handy. If you want to start a blog, for instance, knowing HTML makes your life easier. Check out Codecademy for free, easy-to-follow lessons.
2 / Graphic Design
Knowing how to make a graphic, edit a picture, layout a brochure and use Photoshop or Adobe Creative Suite are skills that come in handy all the time. Making a presentation to the boss? Having some really polished graphics in that PowerPoint will make it pop (and not having to get someone else to make that graphic for you will save time and money). Admin positions use this skill in particular all the time.
3 / Public Speaking
The ability to come off polished in an interpersonal atmosphere is essential to job searching and career advancement. Whether you’re in a one-on-one interview or speaking to 40 people at a conference, fluent public speaking is one of the most immediate things you can do to make people walk away thinking, “Wow, she’s smart!” If you can, take a public speaking class in college. It’s a class that’s hard to replicate outside of college for the value that you’ll get from it. However, if you’re already out in the career world, Toastmasters is an affordable way to gain skill and experience.
4 / Writing
I mentioned above that speaking well is one of the quickest ways to impress. The other is with good writing. However, this skill is even more essential, because your cover letter and resume are like targeted writing samples that you send to every job you want. If you can’t impress with those, you’ll never get a chance to wow them with your speaking skills. Unfortunately, this one is also the hardest skill to develop if you don’t already have it. Reading good writing and practicing writing are pretty much the only ways to grow here. Start a blog on a topic you love and post at least once a week. Start a belated New Year’s resolution to read at least one book a month. Read posts by bloggers and articles written by trade journal professionals in your career niche to get a feel for what good writing looks like.
5 / Advanced Excel
Sure, you can probably write a row of numbers in Excel and add them up. That’s great. You might even know how to automatically fill a column with a year’s worth of dates and how to write formulas in cells. But all of that’s pretty basic. Excel is a powerhouse that can take tasks that normally require hours of grinding data entry and turn them into five minute quickies that do all the work for you. I’m told that pivot tables are an indispensable tool for business, yet I have no idea how to create one. But if you do, not only are you much better qualified for basic admin jobs, you can create your own data solutions that save you time and frustration as you advance. There are paid classes you can take, as well as tons of free resources online.
All of this said, none of these skills can substitute for the real qualifications of a job. If you’re lacking in a skill that is essential to your chosen field, you should definitely pursue that immediately. But if you’re simply looking for general ways to qualify for more jobs, make yourself more useful or become more effective at your job, these skills help you build an incredible foundation.