The Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout has made questions about our lives and work feel even more pressing: Is this my dream job? What kind of career do I want? Do I even have the right skills to succeed in this constantly changing environment?
Earlier this summer the economy showed promising signs of growth, however, the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant threatens to slow the fragile recovery. As a result, workers continue to be anxious about losing their job and finding new opportunities. A new report from Edelman found that 78% of workers worry about losing their job due to a lack of training or job skills.
In August, Monster polled workers throughout the United States to determine which skills workers felt they needed the most to bolster their resume. About 86% of respondents said their professional growth has stalled due to the pandemic.
Training in technology skills such as coding, AI and machine learning topped the list, with computer skills such as Microsoft Excel, Word and Google Analytics coming in a close second. Occupation specific-training such as credentialing and licenses ranked third for the most-needed hard skills training among workers.
"People are gravitating to these skills because these fields carry less risk, and are generally very popular and stable to build a long-term career off of, which people want after all the risk and ambiguity that's happened in this pandemic job market," Joshua Daniel, a career coach and senior consultant at Korn Ferry, tells CNBC Make It. "Tech and computer skills are also a very easy differentiator on a resume."
Workers also have a strong, shared desire to improve their "soft skills," interpersonal skills that focus on communication, leadership and teamwork. Managerial leadership, communication and problem solving/critical thinking ranked as the most in-demand soft skills among workers, according to Monster's poll.
"These skills are timeless and always in demand among hiring managers," Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster, says. "If anything, it's a skill that's going to be more in demand, because during this pandemic, people have become more empathetic toward each other, we're experiencing this collective trauma and, in turn, our work and personal lives blend … companies are looking for someone who understands that, who possesses the empathy, communication and leadership skills to navigate that challenge."
Daniel adds that it's important to master both these hard and soft skills as they tend to overlap in a remote work environment. "We're all communicating through technology, so the question becomes, 'How can I be a leader in this virtual work environment, using my computer skills?' Daniel says. "Working from home requires leaders to stay agile and incorporate new technology into their practices to maintain performance."
Workers eager to update their resumes should first approach their boss or a mentor about internal training opportunities, Salemi suggests. "Tell them: 'I'm looking to improve on these specific skills, what would be the most beneficial program to tap into? What resources do you recommend?'" she says. "Other helpful questions include 'Where do you think our industry is heading in three, or five years from now?' and 'What's the one skill you would identify for me to really further my career?'"
Other resources Salemi and Daniel recommend include free courses on YouTube, TED Talks or industry-specific organizations that offer free virtual lectures and workshops. Workers can also identify which skills to focus on by reviewing a company's core values on their website and checking out the LinkedIn profiles of colleagues in similar or interesting jobs.
Even spending 20 minutes once a week can help workers narrow their skills gap, Salemi says. "Sometimes it helps to create your syllabus, or block out time in your calendar, to identify your skills gap and sharpen your expertise," she adds. "Learning can inspire us at work when we're in a rut and can really help us advance in our careers."
Mastering technical skills may help job seekers secure an interview, but Daniel says one special skill will really help a candidate stand out from the rest. "In this remote environment, hiring managers really want to see your learning agility and adaptability," he explains. "Managers want to know, 'How do you stay engaged with your team remotely?' and 'How quickly can you get up to speed [on our work]?' … the people who are most adaptable are going to be the most successful in today's job market."