5 Key Skills Employers Want Right Now
5 Key Skills Employers Want Right Now

Trying to kickstart a new career or take your current role to the next level, but not sure what skills you need to succeed? We sat down with Matt Youngquist, a veteran career coach and the founder and president of the Seattle-based Career Horizons, to identify the five key skills employers want right now. Read on to discover how these skills can raise your game and the University of Washington programs that’ll help you get them.

1. Communication

Employees who can communicate clearly, efficiently and effectively have long topped the employer’s dream hire list. “Ultimately, while talent gets you in the door for opportunities, your actual success and failure on the job – and potential for advancement – will depend heavily on your ability to communicate well,” says Youngquist. “Whether this involves being able to present data in a clear and compelling fashion to executives, explain your department's needs to cross-functional peers, companies continually cite good communications skills as one of the essential ingredients to advancement.”

With many organizations using Slack messages or email reporting to collaborate, the need to strike the right tone in written communication has intensified. Want to improve your writing, but not sure where to begin? Learn how to forge powerful introductions, eliminate weak language and produce clean prose with the UW the Art of Writing course.

If honing your long-form writing and discovering how to craft proposals, reports or research papers is your goal, explore the UW Business Writing course. You’ll leave armed with the ability to communicate your ideas and plans, an important leadership skill.

2. Adaptability

In our ever-changing world, technologies and situations are continually emerging and adapting to them is key. “As we've all seen this past year, the marketplace today is rife with unpredictable events and unforeseen challenges. Employees who resist change are going to have a tougher time building a stable career for themselves,” explains Youngquist.

Strong adaptability skills allow you to remain competitive by finding new solutions to problems. These skills differentiate you from other employees by showing your willingness to accommodate the needs of your workplace, colleagues or industry. “With business needs changing overnight in some cases, managers place a premium on employees who are flexible, roll with the punches and can pivot rapidly to new tasks, tools and ways of getting things done,” Youngquist says.

If you want to be an adept change-maker, check out the UW Change Management course. You’ll learn how to adopt strategies, procedures and technologies to handle change and gain the confidence to implement new processes while minimizing risk.

3. Analytical Skills

From facts to figures, we rely heavily on data in our working lives. As such, analyzing and thinking critically about data have become essential professional skills. With many strategic data-based decisions required — from budgeting to staffing — businesses are looking for sharp problem-solvers to see gaps, improve products and drive the best decisions for the company.

“No matter what you do for a living, consider strengthening your analytical skills and potentially learning to use some of the amazing tools – from Excel to Tableau software to R programming – that exist to measure key aspects of your workload and identify areas for improvement,” says Youngquist.

If you want to learn how to understand, present and display data, you can help further your career with the UW’s variety of data analysis programs.

4. Organizational Skills

Email communications. Status reports. Team presentations. Most workplaces require juggling multiple tasks at a time. To keep your projects on track, you’ll need to plan carefully to maintain an orderly approach for managing your time and goals.

“A highly structured work approach will not only improve your productivity each day but also allows your colleagues to pick up your responsibilities when you're absent,” says Youngquist. Another benefit? “It’ll endear you to your supervisor in terms of being able to review and reprioritize your workload when necessary,” he adds.

If you aspire to manage details big and small for your company, check out the UW Certificate in Project Management. Or, if crafting one unified program is what you’re after, explore the UW Certificate in Program Management. And the UW Certificate in Lean Six Sigma Management: Green Belt is the perfect match for an agile worker.

5. Leadership

“Lead, follow or get out of the way. This is one of my favorite quotes of all time and speaks to the fact that companies today must constantly keep pushing forward to stay ahead of the competition,” says Youngquist. Thus, no matter your field or level you’re at in your career, the ability to form a list of clear priorities, ensure tasks are completed promptly and empower others to do their best work is highly sought-after.

“To stay innovative, companies not only need employees who can think strategically and come up with big ideas, but also those who have the leadership skills, drive and charisma to motivate the people around them,” Youngquist says. He explains in some cases leading is rallying staff members and getting the best out of them as their direct supervisor. Other times, it might mean leading through influence, example or ideas (such as thought leadership).

“There's no question that companies are looking for people who can mobilize those around them to accomplish great things,” he says. Luckily, whether you want to open your own business or become a leader in the nonprofit, engineering or tech sector, the UW has numerous programs that can help.

Keep Learning

Want to get more of the skills employers are looking for? Check out other programs in communication, analytics, and leadership and management, or browse all  programs.


For more career tips and industry trends, visit the News & Features section of our website, and subscribe to our email list. To learn more about UW Professional & Continuing Education certificates, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.


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